On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Benefits of Sesame Oil

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I enjoy the unique flavor of sesame oil, and was wondering if there are any health benefits. Is it OK to use in salads and also to saute vegetables, chicken, meat and fish? Are there any reasons why I should not use it? I often use extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for my salads. -- J.P., San Jose, California

DEAR J.P.: Sesame oil is a healthful oil that is composed of approximately 40 percent monounsaturated, 42 percent polyunsaturated and 14 percent saturated fatty acids. It is also a source of compounds called tocopherols, such as vitamin E. The naturally occurring antioxidant lignans in sesame seeds act as natural preservatives for the oil, and together with the tocopherols, they lend this oil its healthful attributes.

Pure sesame oil has a mild flavor and a high smoke point, making it ideal for high-heat cooking methods including those you mention. Toasted sesame oil, pressed from the toasted seeds, has a distinctive nutty flavor used to complement many dishes in Asian cuisine.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: You had written about the diuretic effects of alcohol, and I was wondering if there was any way to minimize this effect. On the rare occasion that I have a few drinks with friends, I tend to be up many times during the night to urinate, which takes all the fun out of it! Would it help to eat salty foods while drinking? -- P.O., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

DEAR P.O.: My regrets, but there is no satisfactory solution here. Alcohol affects how much urine the kidneys produce, which then gets sent to the bladder in queue for elimination. It does this through a mild inhibitory effect on the hormone that limits how much urine gets produced (thus resulting in greater production). Interestingly, it is the amount of alcohol, not the total amount of liquid, that determines the effect. So a shot can have a similar diuretic effect as a much larger 20-ounce beer.

Your mention of adding salty foods would add a new wrinkle to the situation. Taking in sodium chloride (salt) tends to increase thirst, as a healthy body is engineered to eliminate excess sodium, but the kidney is limited in the concentration of sodium it can put in the urine. Thirst gets stimulated by salty foods because the body “knows” it will have to dilute the sodium to the tolerable concentration before it can be eliminated. This concept is why thirst cannot be satisfied by drinking seawater: The concentration of salt in that fluid is too high, so drinking seawater sets the body back even further.

You can see where things might lead if you seek to satisfy your salt-bred thirst by consuming more alcoholic beverages.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.