Calcium and sesame seeds

Making sure there is enough calcium in your child’s diet can be a daunting task, especially when they are on a casein-free diet. The option of calcium supplementation is always available, but the body’s ability to absorb these nutrients from supplements is not nearly as good as when the calcium is contained in the food you eat.

So in my quest to add natural food sources of calcium, I turned to a very wise doctor we all know. He informed me that the sesame seed is an excellent source of calcium. So off I went to Whole Foods Market in search of sesame seeds, and it is there that I discovered a very important piece of information about sesame seeds. All of the bottled tahini (sesame seed paste), the sesame seeds in the spice aisle, and even the shiny white ones in the bulk bins, contained very little calcium.

I was a bit confused, had I been led astray? Surely not, so after further inspection I discovered another bulk bin that contained tan or mottled brown sesame seeds. Certainly not the sesame seeds you would choose to eat, let alone take home to your kids. But I felt fairly confident that Whole Foods was not peddling rancid sesame seeds, so I checked the label.

The difference was that this bin contained unhulled sesame seeds, and the majority of calcium is contained in the hull. In fact, just 1/2 cup of these seeds contains 350 mg, 35% of the recommended daily allowance for calcium. By comparison, 1/2 cup of whole milk provides about 75 mg.

The key to unlocking the nutrients for use in the body is grinding them before consumption; otherwise they will just take the quick tour through the body. You should store them in the freezer and grind only the amount you need to prevent rancidity.

Not only are these seeds full of calcium, they are also powerhouses of other nutrients. They are packed with B vitamins in the form of riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, folic acid and vitamin b6. They also contain the minerals iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. To top it all off, the sesame seed makeup is 25% protein.

So pick up a bag of not-so-shiny sesame seeds the next time you are at a health food store, and grind them up to use in cookie and bread recipes, as a crispy coating on your chicken or fish, as a spread for crackers, or as a boost to your smoothie.

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