Importance of Gud and Til seeds: Makar Sankranti celebrations coincide with many harvest festivals celebrated across the country during the same time with unique regional variations. Lohri in Punjab, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, and Bhogali Bihu in Assam, are all harvest festivals that mark the significant shift in season that happens around this time.
Like every festival in India, Makar Sankranti too has a host of signature delicacies prepared exclusively to celebrate the auspicious festival. If Diwali is incomplete without Kaju barfi, then no Makar Sankranti celebrations are ever complete without its round of til (sesame) and gur (jaggery) delicacies.
In fact, til and gur are much more than just festive ingredients as they have a strong cultural and significant link with Sankranti celebrations.
Til and gur are two of the most commonly consumed foods in winters. In the winter-y days preceding Sankranti, families prepare delicacies made of til and gur like, gajak, chikki and til ka laddoo. Their longer shelf life makes it possible to store the snacks for a long period of time.
Since time immemorial, till and gur have played their significant role. Til and gur are also prized in Ayurveda as two of the most winter-perfect foods that helps to keep the body warm and also increases the immunity at the same time.
The oil present in the sesame seeds helps generate body heat and keeps the internal body temperature from dipping. At the same time, jaggery’s iron and vitamin C content has also been used as a traditional remedy for respiratory disorders and throat problems.
According to religious beliefs, sesame seeds were blessed by Lord Yama, the God of Death, and are hence referred to as the seeds of immortality. As per another legend, sesame seeds are nothing but solidified forms of Lord Vishnu’s sweat that fell on the ground. However, the sweat referred to here has a more profound meaning. It is a part of the divine, and hence sacred.
Moreover, til (sesame) finds a mention in several sacred texts. Interestingly, sesame seeds can be used for six different purposes. And they are also believed to be the vehicle or the food of the departed souls.
Hence, black sesame seeds are used while performing Tarpan (a ritual meant to pay ode to dead ancestors).
From til ke ladoo to gajak to til ki chikki and various other sweet preparations, sesame seeds are widely used during Makar Sankranti festivities. And as per rituals, this sweet is shared with friends and family.
Til is also significant because it is known for its myriad health benefits. These are packed with calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B-6, Iron, dietary fiber, protein and several other nutrients.
And most importantly, they keep the body warm during winter months and play a pivotal role during a season change. Makar Sankranti marks the end of the cold weather and the onset of spring.
Sesame Seeds Benefits for Health:
These crunchy, oval-shaped seeds offer a wide range of health benefits. From preventing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases to promoting bone health, sesame seeds provide you a host of health benefits.
1. A good source of protein
These tiny seeds are innately blessed with good protein levels. 100 grams of sesame seeds contain 18 grams of protein which makes up to 32% of RDA requirement. That is one of the key reasons why it could be used as an inevitable nut in your kid’s diet.
2. Prevents diabetes
These seeds are good sources of magnesium as well as various other nutrients. All these together enable sesame to lower the levels of glucose in blood, thereby thwarting the risk of diabetes. People suffering from diabetes can choose sesame seed oil for cooking.
3. Natural cure for anemia
The black sesame seeds are powerhouses of iron. That is why they are one of the most recommended home remedies for anemia as well as other iron-deficient problems. Roast a handful of black sesame seeds and powder it along with a little jaggery. Shape it into small balls and munch. Along with the seeds, jaggery also will help in improving the levels of iron.
4. Prevents cardiovascular disease
Sesame seeds oil can help in preventing atherosclerotic lesions and hence, it is very beneficial for your heart’s health. Sesamol, an antioxidant present in sesame seeds, exhibits anti-atherogenic properties that helps to improve cardiovascular health. Sesame seed is a rich source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that can lower bad cholesterol and boost good cholesterol in your body, thus preventing coronary artery diseases and heart stroke.
5. Innate anti-cancerous properties
Sesame seeds contain magnesium, a mineral that has a rich anti-cancerous reputation. These also contain an anti-cancer compound known as phytate. The synergic actions of these ingredients make sesame seeds reduce the risk of colorectal tumors and even preventing their onset.
6. Good digestive health
Sesame seed aid in a good digestive system and the colon, as they are good sources of fiber. Fiber helps in smoothing the functioning of your intestine, facilitating the flushing out of waste, and thus offering guaranteed relief from constipation.
7. Eases rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
Sesame seed contains copper, the trace mineral which is abundant with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzyme systems. These systems possess the power to reduce swelling and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. This mineral also strengthens the bones, blood vessels, and body joints.
8. Prevents respiratory disorders
The presence of magnesium in sesame seeds can lower the risk of asthma and other respiratory related disorders by reducing airway spasms.
9. Protects DNA from radiation triggered damages
Sesamol, the antioxidant present in sesame seeds and its oil, helps in combating free damage triggered by free radicals, thus safeguarding the DNA from damages triggered by radiation. This can also reduce the damage risk to your spleen.
10. Promotes bone health
Sesame seeds contain zinc in admirable amounts, a mineral that stimulates mineral density of the bone and its health. A deficiency in zinc is linked to onset of osteoporosis. Sesame seeds also contain calcium that is essential for bone health.
11. Maintains oral health
Sesame seed and its oil can help in maintaining oral health by removing dental plaque and teeth whitening. Gargling regularly with sesame seed oil can lower streptococcus mutans present in teeth and mouth saliva.
12. Cure for hangover
Consuming a handful of white sesame seeds will help you with your hangover. Sesame seeds help in overcoming the effects of alcohol by enhancing the functioning of the liver in breaking down and detoxifying alcohol.
13. Natural stress-buster
Bust your stress with these tiny munches. The antispasmodics magnesium and calcium regulate muscle functioning, while improving nerve impulse transmission., Thiamin, a natural calming agent, helps with good nerve functioning. Sesame seeds. also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps in serotonin secretion. Serotonin is essential to lower pain and regulate sleep patterns. In short, munching on sesame seeds regularly could actually help you lead a stress-free life.
14. Lowers cholesterol levels
Black sesame seeds are copious with sesamin and sesamolin-both belonging to the fiber group, lignans. Lignans are well-known for their cholesterol lowering properties. Black sesame seeds also contain the plant compounds, phytosterols, possessing cholesterol-like structures. Hence, including these seeds in your diet could definitely help you do away with high blood cholesterol levels, at the same time shield you from the risk of cancer.
15. Improves eye health
As per traditional Chinese medications, eyes and liver shared a very cordial relationship. It was believed that the liver could store blood, and branches of the liver delivered blood to the eye, enabling its proper functioning. Black sesame seeds is a natural tonic for the liver that enables better flow to blood, which, in turn, is believed to nourish eyes. These therapeutic effects can also treat blurred vision, tired and sore eyes. Regularly massaging your eyelids with sesame seed oil could help in erasing those dark circles and wrinkles.
16. Overall nourishment
Black sesame seeds are known to boost energy levels, nourish the brain, and slow down the aging process. Consuming these seeds regularly can help you combat backache, painful joints, and joint weakness in a better way.