Are Sesame Seeds Good for You? Nutrition, Benefits, Risks and Recipes

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Whether you are a fan of sesame candy such as the creamy halvah and sweet sesame brittle, getting your daily dose of sesame seeds offers many benefits.

Image Credit: DebbiSmirnoff/iStock/GettyImages

Sesame seeds offer many health benefits, yet they’re often limited to hamburger buns or bagels in the average American diet. However, you can use this delicious seed to increase your intake of nutrients.

“In general, seeds are a superfood and Americans need to eat more,” says DJ Blatner, RDN, author of ​The Superfood Swap​. “Seeds contain the trifecta of plant protein, healthy fat and fiber — plus they have many vitamins and minerals.”

Sesame seeds are not only a great source of fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system and heart, but they’re also packed with essential vitamins and minerals and support overall health. Minerals like calcium, copper and magnesium in sesame seeds maintain your immune and nervous systems, strengthen bone health and reduce inflammation.

Plus, the high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids in the seeds helps lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This can prevent heart disease and strokes.

You can find red, white, brown, tan and black sesame seeds. This nutrient-packed seed is a key ingredient in “everything” seasoning or tahini sauce (which you can drizzle on falafel or sweet potato wedges). But they’re not just kind to your taste buds — read on to find out why sesame seeds are so good for you.

Sesame Seed Nutrition Facts

One ounce of sesame seeds (about 3 tablespoons) is equal to a single serving. One ounce of whole, roasted sesame seeds contains:

  • Calories​: 160
  • Total fat​: 14 g
  • Cholesterol​: 0 mg
  • Sodium​: 3.1 mg
  • Total carbs​: 7.3 g
    • Dietary fiber​: 4 g
    • Sugar​: 0 g
  • Protein​: 4.8 g
  • Total fat​: One ounce of whole, roasted sesame seeds has 13.6 grams of total fat, which includes 5.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 5.1 grams of monounsaturated fat, 1.9 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
  • Carbohydrates​: One ounce of whole, roasted sesame seeds has 7.3 grams of carbs, which includes 4 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugars.
  • Protein​: One ounce of whole, roasted sesame seeds has 4.8 grams of protein.

Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients

  • Copper:​ 78% of your Daily Value (DV)
  • Manganese:​ 31% DV
  • Magnesium:​ 24% DV
  • Iron:​ 23% DV
  • Calcium:​ 22% DV
  • Thiamin (B1):​ 19% DV
  • Selenium:​ 18% DV
  • Zinc:​ 18% DV
  • Phosphorus:​ 14% DV
  • Niacin (B3):​ 8% DV
  • Folate (B9):​ 7% DV
  • Riboflavin (B2):​ 5% DV

Per 1 oz.

Hulled Sesame Seeds

Unhulled Sesame Seeds

Calories

189

160

Total Fat

17 g

13.6 g

Cholesterol

0 mg

0 mg

Sodium

4.8 mg

3.1 mg

Total Carbohydrates

3.8 g

7.3 g

Dietary Fiber

2.8 g

4 g

Sugar

0 g

0 g

Protein

5.7 g

4.8 g

Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds have a high nutritional value and offer multiple health benefits that are tied to helping prevent disease and improve existing health conditions — including high cholesterol, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and arthritis. Here are sesame seeds’ benefits you’ll enjoy from eating them regularly.

1. Sesame Seeds Are a Good Source of Fiber

Whether their hulls have been removed or remain intact, sesame seeds are a good source of dietary fiber. Here’s the difference between hulled and unhulled sesame seeds: Most seeds in the U.S. are sold hulled — meaning their seed coat has been removed — while unhulled sesame seeds are still embedded in a seed coat​.​ Unhulled seeds tend to be crunchier and slightly bitter due to compounds called oxalates in the hull.

Unhulled sesame seeds are a better source of heart-healthy fiber. Whole sesame seeds contain 4 grams of fiber per ounce, while hulled sesame seeds provide 2.8 grams per ounce.

In general, Americans don’t eat enough fiber, averaging only about 15 grams per day rather than the recommended 25 to 30 grams per day, according to UCSF Health.

People who eat the most fiber are 15 to 30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause or due to heart conditions compared to those who eat the least fiber, per a February 2019 meta-analysis of nearly 40 years of research in ​The Lancet​. Eating fiber-rich foods was associated with a 16 to 24 percent lower chance of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body is unable to digest, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It passes through your body, helping to regulate the body’s use of sugars and control hunger along the way. Even tahini sauce retains some of the fiber found in sesame seeds, with 2.6 grams per ounce.

2. Sesame Seeds Are High in Copper and Calcium

These two powerhouse nutrients are essential and they’re packed into sesame seeds. Just one ounce of whole sesame seeds contains 78 percent of the DV for copper and 22 percent of the DV for calcium. Whole sesame seeds are a much better option than hulled if you’re trying to fit in both of these nutrients: Hulled sesame seeds only contain 2 percent of the DV for calcium and no nutritional data is available for their copper content.

Your body needs copper to carry out important functions, including creating energy, connective tissues and blood vessels, per the National Institutes of Health. Copper also helps maintain your immune and nervous systems.

Meanwhile, calcium is important for strong bones and the health of your heart, muscles and nerves, per the Mayo Clinic. Some research also suggests that calcium, along with vitamin D, may help protect against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, but more studies are needed.

What is known: If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, it could lead to low bone mass — a risk factor for osteoporosis.

“The 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines lists calcium as an under-consumed or ‘shortfall’ nutrient that we need to get more of, so increasing any foods with calcium is a great idea,” Blatner says. “In addition to calcium, sesame seeds have other bone-supporting nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and copper.”

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that makes the bones weak and more likely to break, per the National Osteoporosis Foundation. About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million are at increased risk for it due to low bone density. One in two women and up to one in four men break a bone in their lifetime because of osteoporosis.

3. Sesame Seeds Contain Healthy Plant Lignans

With or without the hull, sesame seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants and polyphenols (a family of beneficial plant compounds), including lignans.

“Lignans may decrease inflammation and the risk of heart disease and certain cancers such as breast and colon cancer,” Blatner says. “Lignans have a subtle estrogen-like effect, so they may also help menopause-related symptoms.”

The lignans in sesame seeds are even known to have health-promoting properties including anti-aging and anti-diabetes effects, per a December 2019 review in the journal ​Molecules.

4. Sesame Seeds Are Rich in Healthy Fats

Each ounce of sesame seeds contains 5.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 5.1 grams of monounsaturated fats. But just because they’re rich in healthy fats doesn’t mean sesame seeds are fattening or bad for you.

Unsaturated fats are considered healthy fats because they can reduce inflammation, improve blood cholesterol levels and steady heart rhythms, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They are mainly found in plant foods. Sesame seeds even contain some omega-3 fat, which is a type of polyunsaturated fat that the body cannot produce itself. Omega-3 is associated with a lower risk of premature death among older adults.

Research shows that the type of fat you eat is more important than total fat intake, per a June 2018 article in ​BMJ​​.​ For instance, eating foods high in unsaturated fat (like sesame seeds) instead of saturated fat can help decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Sesame Seeds Protein Content

One ounce of whole toasted sesame seeds offers 4.8 grams of protein (hulled sesame seeds contain 5.7 grams of protein per ounce). You can’t rely on the sesame seeds found in a bagel or piece of bread as a sole source of protein since these bread staples typically contain just a sprinkle of seeds, and may be high in unhealthy, refined carbohydrates. Instead, add one to three tablespoons of sesame seeds to a morning protein smoothie or blend tahini paste (which is made with sesame seeds) into hummus for a high-protein snack or meal.

When it comes to healthy sesame seeds, a little goes a long way. Because more than 70 percent of the calories in sesame seeds come from fat (which is higher in calories than carbohydrates and protein, per the USDA), moderation is key to avoid eating too many calories.

Eating just one to three tablespoons of sesame seeds per day allows you to reap the nutritional benefits without going overboard. Consider the sesame seeds’ nutrition facts for 1 tablespoon (whole, roasted seeds): 80 calories, 6.8 grams of fat, 2.4 grams of protein, 3.7 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber.

Those with food allergies should also exercise caution when eating sesame seeds. If you experience any redness, itching or digestive pains from eating foods made with sesame seeds, see an allergist.

Sesame allergy is the ninth most common food allergy in the United States. Approximately 0.23 percent of American children and adults are allergic to sesame, per the nonprofit Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).

“In April 2021, sesame officially became one of the top nine food allergens, joining tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, milk and wheat,” Blatner says. “By January 2023, all food companies will have to include on the label if their product contains sesame.”

Proteins in sesame bind to specific IgE antibodies made by an allergic person’s immune system, triggering the immune system and leading to symptoms that can be mild or very severe, per FARE.

Sesame can be listed by several names on a label. If you’re allergic to sesame, you should avoid foods that contain sesame or these ingredients:

  • Benne, benne seed, benniseed
  • Gingelly, gingelly oil
  • Gomasio (sesame salt)
  • Halvah
  • Sesame flour
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame paste
  • Sesame salt
  • Sesame seed
  • Sesamol
  • Sesamum indicum
  • Sesemolina
  • Sim sim
  • Tahini, Tahina, Tehina
  • Til

A few examples of foods that may contain sesame include Mediterranean cuisine (which commonly uses sesame oil), baked goods, bread crumbs, granola, chips, crackers, dipping sauces, falafel, hummus, sushi, tempeh and vegetarian burgers.

Sesame seeds have been found to negatively interfere with the drug tamoxifen in reducing tumor size but beneficially interact with tamoxifen on bone health in mice, per a March 2011 study in the ​Oman Medical Journal​.

Tamoxifen is commonly used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body in men and women, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It’s also used to treat early breast cancer in women who have already received radiation, surgery or chemotherapy.

If you’re taking tamoxifen or any other type of medication, talk to your doctor about potential food interactions.

The Best Ways to Eat Sesame Seeds

You don’t have to look far at the bakery to notice sesame seeds. These seeds provide visual appeal and a little extra nutrition to baked goods such as rolls, multi-grain bread and bagels. Buying bulk sesame seeds at the supermarket, however, gives you the freedom to add these tiny seeds to stir-fry, vegetable platters and other dishes.

These nutrient-rich seeds are often used in baking, and are also made into tahini, a dipping sauce that is served with vegetables, falafel or bread.

Sesame seeds are incredibly tiny — it takes about 1,000 of them to make a 1-ounce serving. However, they can add major nutrition to your dish. Follow these tips to include sesame seeds in your diet more frequently.

Try tahini paste:​ Enjoy sesame seeds in the form of tahini, which is a butter-like paste made from sesame seeds. “Tahini is a superfood staple,” Blatner says. “It has all the health benefits of sesame seeds, such as plant protein, healthy fat and fiber, plus it tastes great and is very easy to use. It’s best known as the ingredient added to hummus, but it’s awesome in any dips, dressings, sauces and spreads.” For instance, try adding tahini to your go-to Caesar dressing, Ranch dip, stir-fry sauce or even mayo.

Add seeds to your snacks:​ You can incorporate sesame seeds into smoothies and trail mix. Also try garnishing your favorite salad or vegetables with sesame seeds for a crunchy, nutty taste. Yes, you can eat raw sesame seeds — and to keep your dish as healthy as possible, look for raw or roasted sesame seeds and be cautious of salted seeds, as excess sodium can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Keep fresh sesame cool:​ Store raw sesame seeds in a cool, dry place to prevent them from going rancid, per FoodPrint. You can store sesame seeds in the refrigerator to extend their freshness. To toast sesame seeds, spread them on a small, rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Alternatives to Sesame Seeds

There are several other types of seeds that contribute to a healthy diet with fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

For instance, seeds are generally good sources of iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, per the Cleveland Clinic. All of the following make a healthy addition to your diet:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds

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