5 Core Health and Nutrition Benefits of Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are tiny, oil-rich seeds that grow in pods on the Sesamum indicum plant. Unhulled seeds have the outer, edible husk intact, while hulled seeds come without the husk. The hull gives the seeds a golden-brown hue. Hulled seeds have an off-white color but turn brown when roasted.

Sesame seeds have many potential health benefits and have been used in folk medicine for thousands of years. They may protect against heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. However, you may need to eat significant amounts — a small handful per day — to gain health benefits.

Here are 5 Core health benefits of sesame seeds.

Black sesame seeds can be used for sweet and savory dishes.

Good Source of Fiber

Three tablespoons (30 grams) of unhulled sesame seeds provide 3.5 grams of fiber, which is 12% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI). Since the average fiber intake in the United States is only half of the RDI, eating sesame seeds regularly could help increase your fiber intake. Fiber is well known for supporting digestive health. Additionally, growing evidence suggests that fiber may play a role in reducing your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Nutritious Source of Plant Protein

Sesame seeds supply 5 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon (30-gram) serving.

To maximize protein availability, opt for hulled, roasted sesame seeds. The hulling and roasting processes reduce oxalates and phytates — compounds that hamper your digestion and absorption of protein. Protein is essential for your health, as it helps build everything from muscles to hormones.

Notably, sesame seeds are low in lysine, an essential amino acid more abundant in animal products. However, vegans and vegetarians can compensate by consuming high-lysine plant proteins — particularly legumes, such as kidney beans and chickpeas. On the other hand, sesame seeds are high in methionine and cysteine, two amino acids that legumes don’t provide in large amounts.

May Support Healthy Bones

Sesame seeds — both unhulled and hulled — are rich in several nutrients that boost bone health, though the calcium is mainly in the hull.

Three tablespoons (30 grams) of sesame seeds boast:

Calcium22% of the RDI1% of the RDI
Magnesium25% of the RDI25% of the RDI
Manganese32% of the RDI19% of the RDI
Zinc21% of the RDI18% of the RDI

However, sesame seeds contain natural compounds called oxalates and phytates, antinutrients that reduce the absorption of these minerals.

To limit these compounds’ impact, try soaking, roasting, or sprouting the seeds.

One study found that sprouting reduced phytate and oxalate concentration by about 50% in both hulled and unhulled sesame seeds.

Good Source of B Vitamins

Sesame seeds are a good source of certain B vitamins, which are distributed both in the hull and seed.

Removing the hull may either concentrate or remove some of the B vitamins.

Three tablespoons (30 grams) of unhulled and hulled sesame seeds provide:

Thiamine (B1)17% of the RDI19% of the RDI
Niacin (B3)11% of the RDI8% of the RDI
Vitamin B65% of the RDI14% of the RDI

B vitamins are essential for many bodily processes, including proper cell function and metabolism.

May Aid Blood Sugar Control

Sesame seeds are low in carbs while high in protein and healthy fats — all of which may support blood sugar control. Additionally, these seeds contain pinoresinol, a compound that may help regulate blood sugar by inhibiting the action of the digestive enzyme maltase.

Maltase breaks down the sugar maltose, which is used as a sweetener for some food products. It’s also produced in your gut from the digestion of starchy foods like bread and pasta. If pinoresinol inhibits your digestion of maltose, this may result in lower blood sugar levels. However, human studies are needed.

Rich in Antioxidants

Animal and human studies suggest that consuming sesame seeds may increase the overall amount of antioxidant activity in your blood.

The lignans in sesame seeds function as antioxidants, which help fight oxidative stress — a chemical reaction that may damage your cells and increase your risk of many chronic diseases.

Additionally, sesame seeds contain a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol, an antioxidant that may be especially protective against heart disease.

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