Should You Eat Sesame Seeds? Here Are the Benefits, Nutrition, and How to Eat Them

These seeds are small but loaded with fiber, healthy fat, and protein. Here are the benefits of sesame seeds, plus the best way to eat them.

A small seed packed with nutrients

If you’re looking for a food with health benefits that may also help with weight loss, you may want to consider adding sesame seeds to your diet.

These small seeds, similar to poppy seeds, pack a lot of fiber, healthy fat, and protein. And they have many other nutrients like calcium and magnesium, as well as natural antioxidants, which have multiple health benefits.

Here’s everything you need to know about these small, but nutrient-rich seeds, including their health benefits, risks, and the best way to eat them.

What are sesame seeds and where do they come from?

Sesame seeds are the edible seeds that grow in pods on a plant called Sesamum indicum, says Cynthia Sass, RD, a plant-based diet specialist based in Los Angeles.

Seeds with the husk intact are called unhulled seeds and are golden in color, while those with the husk removed are considered hulled and are off-white. These seeds also come in black varieties, which are commonly found in Asia.
Similar to their golden counterparts, black sesame seeds are unhulled. This contributes to their flavor profile and texture, causing black sesame seeds to have a more nutty flavor and crunch.

“Sesame seeds can be consumed raw, toasted, or ground into things like tahini,” explains Sass. “Sesame oil extracted from the seeds has a higher smoke point, between 350 and 450 degrees depending on whether it’s refined or unrefined, making it a good option for cooking.”

India and China are the largest producers of sesame seeds. The seeds came to the United States in the 1930s, but because of harvesting difficulties, the seeds are primarily imported. There are two types of sesame seeds: shattering varieties, which are for consuming; and nonshattering varieties, which are used solely for sesame oil production.

Whether you sprinkle them onto dishes or mash them into a paste, “the small seed can be enjoyed in many ways,” says Lauren Manaker, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sesame seeds full framealuxum/Getty Images

Nutrition facts

Sesame seeds are an extremely nutritious seed, loaded with healthy fat, fiber, protein, and calcium. According to the USDA, one tablespoon of sesame seeds contains the following nutrients:

  • Fat: 14 g
  • Sodium: 3 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7 g
  • Fiber: 3.3 g
  • Sugar: 0.1 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Calcium: 276 mg
  • Iron: 4 mg
  • Potassium: 133 mg
  • Magnesium: 100 mg
  • Manganese: 0.7 mg
  • Zinc: 2 mg

Health benefits of sesame seeds

Sesame seeds have been used in diets and medicine for years because of their many health benefits.

“They contain natural antioxidants, and because of this they can help combat oxidative stress and possibly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Manaker.

The seeds also have a good amount of both calcium and magnesium, which can help lower blood pressure, according to a study published in 2018 in Advances in Chronic Kidney Disease.

What’s more, they’re rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which may help improve cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fat, according to the American Heart Association. And they contain the plant compounds lignans and phytosterols, which may also help to lower cholesterol levels, suggests a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.

And according to a review of studies in The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the phytosterols may also help counteract menopause symptoms like hot flashes.

Sesame seeds and weight loss

Because of their high fiber, protein, and healthy fat content, sesame seeds can help fill you up, as well as keep you satiated longer, which can aid in weight loss. And since they have only a few carbs, they also support blood sugar control.

“Including foods that contain healthy fats, protein, and fiber can help you feel full longer and therefore may assist with weight loss goals,” says Manaker. “Since sesame seeds naturally contain all three, they’re the perfect addition to salads, soups, and other dishes if weight loss is the goal, as long as proper portion sizes are being monitored.”

Risks and side effects of sesame seeds

While sesame seeds have numerous health benefits, there are a few risks factors you should be aware of. If you have a seed allergy, it’s best to avoid eating the seeds or using sesame oil.

Also, since sesame seeds may have a potential effect on blood pressure, those with low blood pressure should consult a doctor to determine if consumption is okay.

Best way to eat sesame seeds

It’s easy to incorporate sesame seeds into your diet. Sass recommends adding them to salads (here are three salad dressing recipes), sprinkling them onto cooked veggies, or throwing some into a stir fry or slaw.

Tahini can be seasoned and used as a salad dressing, or drizzled over cooked potatoes or vegetables, or used as a dip for raw veggies,” she says. “Unseasoned tahini can be blended into smoothies, or used in energy balls with cocoa powder and other add-ins.”

Try making these delicious energy balls with this recipe from Sass that features the super sesame seed.

Cocoa Tahini Balls

Makes 8 balls

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. tahini (ground sesame seeds)

1 tbsp. pure maple syrup

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tbsp. almond flour

1/4 tsp. fresh grated ginger root

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl to create a uniform mixture. Pinch off small spoonfuls, and then use your palms to roll into round balls. Enjoy the balls as is, or roll in sesame seeds.

Sources

Amy Schlinger
Amy Schlinger is a skilled reporter, writer, and editor who regularly interviews world-renowned doctors and medical professionals, elite trainers, nutrition experts, professional athletes, and celebrities. She has 11 years of experience covering health, fitness, wellness, nutrition, and lifestyle topics. She has held staff positions at Shape Magazine, DailyBurn, Self Magazine, and PopSugar. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, The New York Post, Women’s Health, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Health Magazine, Outside Magazine, Livestrong, Map My Fitness, MSN, Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, and more. She has been featured in DailyBurn’s Live to Fail workout video series (five total), is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), and is certified in Kettlebell Training. Amy is extremely passionate about healthy living, and can often be found researching and testing out new wellness trends and fitness programs or strength training at the gym. She has run six half marathons, completed one triathlon, biked two century rides, finished two Tough Mudder races, and four Spartan races, including a beast at the Spartan World Championships at Squaw Mountain in North Lake Tahoe.