Look for sesame seeds in the American diet and you’re most likely to find them as an edible decoration sprinkled on a hamburger bun. But the tiny ivory-colored seed may actually be one of the oldest condiments and one of the most nutritious seeds known to man.
A native of Asia, the nutty, slightly sweet seeds were first brought to the United States by African slaves who called them “benne.” Once grown in the South Carolina and the Georgia Low Country, the seed eventually became a popular ingredient in Southern cooking.
Sesame seeds are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, minerals such as copper, manganese and calcium, as well as a host of disease-fighting phytonutrients.
They also contain sesaminol compounds, the precursors to lignans, phytoestrograns that are under study for their possible anti-cancer and cardioprotective powers. They also contain zinc, a mineral that ensures bone health and improves the immune system and reproductive health.
The Star’s recipe for Tangy Sesame-Coated Pork Chops is a tasty way to get more sesame into your diet. An herb chart in “The New Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst also pairs sesame seeds with pork. Versatile and economical, lean pork is rich in B vitamins, niacin, phosphorous and potassium.
Storage tip: Sesame seeds contain plenty of oil so can be stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to three months or refrigerated for up to six months to avoid rancidity.
Pump it up:
u According to “The Family Nutrition Book” by William Sears, sesame seeds are so small they tend to pass through the intestines largely undigested. To release the nutrition inside the seeds, he advises grinding them into a meal. Add the seed meal to the breading mixture. If you like, add whole seeds as a garnish as well.
u A 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating 3 tablespoons of ground sesame seeds a day reduced cholesterol levels in post-menopausal women.
u Make your own bread crumbs using whole-wheat bread instead of white.
TANGY SESAME-COATED PORK CHOPS
Makes 4 servings
4 (6-ounce) lean center-cut loin pork chops, about 1⁄2-inch thick
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1⁄3 cup dry bread crumbs
1⁄3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons dried parsley or 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
Trim away excess fat from pork chops. Spread 1 tablespoon mustard on sides of each pork chop. Combine remaining ingredients in shallow bowl. Coat pork chops and place in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish that has been coated with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until pork chops are tender.
Per serving: 297 calories (39 percent from fat), 13 g total fat (4 g saturated), 82 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 454 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber.
Recipe developed by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.