Tahini

Tahini is also known as sesame paste or sesame butter. It is prepared from sesame seeds, has a golden color and a sesame-nut aroma. The consistency is more like a thick sauce than a paste that can be spread on something. The best sesame paste does not contain anything other than seeds ground into a smooth cream. Tahini is a typical ingredient in the cuisine of Israel, Iraq, North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece.

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Tahini also appears in Chinese and Indian dishes. The first mention of this product comes from 4,000 years ago from the region located in the Middle East between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, i.e. Mesopotamia at that time.

The similarity of tahini butter to peanut butter is not accidental - the production process is essentially the same in both cases. Even though we associate tahini with the Middle East and cuisines from this region of the world, the raw material itself, i.e. sesame, comes from Africa. As one of the oldest plants cultivated by humans, it was brought to Asia and Europe over time. Nowadays, sesame is cultivated in many places around the world.

Tahini consists of approximately 60% fat and approximately 20% protein. Sesame oil is composed mainly of unsaturated fatty acids - linoleic and oleic acid. Tahini also contains some carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Tahini is a good source of essential amino acids, especially methionine, phenylalanine, lysine and tryptophan.

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Health benefits

Protein digestibility from tahini is high and amounts to 83%. Sesame seeds themselves contain a lot of phytic acid, which hinders the absorption of proteins, but it is mainly found in the shell. For this reason, tahini can be an important element supplementing a vegetarian diet with protein. Tahini is an excellent source of B vitamins, mainly thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and gamma-tocopherol (vitamin E).

Tahini also contains important minerals - iron, manganese, zinc, calcium, phosphorus,potassium and magnesium. Tahini provides substances with antioxidant properties which reduce chronic inflammation in the body. The darker the sesame seeds, the more antioxidants they contain. Tahini contains lignans, mainly sesamin and sesamolin, as well as phytosterols - beta-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol.

In addition, tahini provides a number of unsaturated fatty acids that ensure the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. Tahini (as mentioned before) is also an excellent source of compounds with antioxidant properties that inhibit the development of the harmful effects of free radicals, and thus prevents the development of many diseases: hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, skin diseases (e.g. psoriasis), as well as dementia, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

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Sesame seeds contain zinc, which increases bone mineral density. Deficiency of this mineral may cause osteoporosis. Sesame seeds are also an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, elements essential for bone health. Adding tahini to your food also strengthens your teeth, and rinsing your mouth with sesame oil improves your oral health, removes plaque, and whitens your teeth.

It is worth adding tahini to dishes, especially in the autumn season, when many people notice low mood. It contains thiamine (vitamin B1), which has calming properties and helps in the proper functioning of the nervous system. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to muscle cramps, bad mood and depression.

Thanks to sesame seeds, we provide the body with tryptophan - an essential amino acid that is involved in the production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that reduces pain and regulates sleep and mood). Disturbances in the production and proper functioning of serotonin in the brain can cause anxiety and depression.

Tahini contains various natural compounds that have a positive effect on the body. These include lignans, which have antioxidant and antiproliferative activity, increase the antioxidant activity of vitamin E, lower cholesterol levels, increase the secretion of enzymes that oxidize fatty acids in the liver and have antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. Gamma-tocopherol present in sesame is designed to protect the fats in the seeds against rancidity (oxidation).

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Gamma-tocopherol attenuates the activity of free radicals, which not only increases the durability of oils, but also protects against diseases at the molecular level. Gamma-tocopherol has been shown to prevent platelet aggregation and delay the formation of clots in the arteries. Tocopherols have high antioxidant, anticancer and hypocholesterolemic potential.

Tahini contains phytosterols, which have a significant impact on lowering blood cholesterol levels. Tahini pastes made from dark sesame varieties are richer in phytosterols. Sesamin present in tahini has beneficial effects in Alzheimer's disease. It influences the differentiation activity of neurons and thus improves cognitive abilities and memory. Sesame and its products are known as products that lower blood pressure.

Numerous studies have shown that PUFA fatty acids, sesame and vitamin E from sesame regulate blood pressure and renal pressure. Sesamin administration reduces the thickness of the aorta and superior mesenteric artery. It also reverses changes that damage the kidneys, such as fibrosis of arterial walls.

One small study involving 41 people with type 2 diabetes showed that adding 2 tablespoons of tahini to breakfast every day for 6 weeks resulted in a 21% decrease in the concentration of hsCRP protein (an indicator of inflammation in the body) in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease characterized by chronic low-grade inflammation, which is harmful at the cellular level. Consuming tahini may help reduce the side effects associated with diabetes.

The minerals found in tahini have a positive effect on the condition of bones and have anti-swelling, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Tahini have anti-cancer and hormonal-regulating properties, all thanks to the presence of lignans.

Tahini reduces the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia and melanoma. Tahini contains large amounts of calcium, which is necessary to maintain the proper functioning of the heart and the entire vascular system, and above all, it makes bones and teeth strong and healthy. However, tahini also has other properties that positively affect health - it can relieve pain, has an expectorant effect and is an effective antidote for constipation.

Vitamins and minerals found in tahini ensure the healthy condition of the skin, hair and nails, and also have a rejuvenating effect. They also have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the nervous system, improving cognitive abilities: memory, attention and concentration. The dietary fiber contained in tahini, in turn, regulates digestive processes and lowers the level of "bad" cholesterol, preventing the formation of atherosclerosis.

Tahini paste is a perfect product for vegetarians, primarily because it contains large deposits of trivalent iron. Tahini should also be a staple in every woman's diet because it has a positive effect on menstruation by replenishing iron deficiency. Pregnant women should also consume tahini regularly, as they are particularly vulnerable to the loss of this mineral.

Culinary uses

Tahini sesame paste has a wide range of culinary uses. It is an addition to not only savory but also sweet dishes. It is the basic ingredient of hummus and eggplant-sesame paste, also known as baba ghanoush. Tahini can be used to prepare tasty, healthy and nutritious sandwich spreads, as well as dips served with snacks, salads or fresh vegetables.

Tahini paste also works well in slightly less obvious versions. For example, as an addition to tomato soup (added at the end of cooking) or as a dressing for baked fish, e.g. salmon. Just mix two tablespoons of tahini paste with two tablespoons of maple syrup, olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Tahini paste is also great as an element of sauces, cakes, cookies and ice cream. Tahini is also used as a cream for waffles and cakes, and as an addition to oatmeal with fruit. Tahini paste can be used to make a yogurt sauce, which is served with vegetables and vegetarian burgers. Tahini paste is used as a substitute for traditional butter for spreading on bread.

Contrary to appearances, tahini goes perfectly with desserts, not only in classic halva. For example, you can blend it with previously cooked millet and coconut milk. This paste, sprinkled with raisins and roasted sunflower seeds before serving, will make you float in culinary delight.

On hot summer days, tahini will work as a refreshing cocktail based on plant milk, e.g. almond milk (3/4 cup), a few dates, a frozen banana, two tablespoons of tahini paste and a pinch of cardamom. Just mix all the ingredients in a blender.

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