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We Polled Nutrition Experts & These Are The Top 5 Benefits Of Sesame Seeds

Jillian Kubala, M.S., R.D.
June 30, 2023
Jillian Kubala, M.S., R.D.
Registered Dietitian
By Jillian Kubala, M.S., R.D.
Registered Dietitian
Jillian Kubala, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. She holds a master's degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science.
June 30, 2023
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Sesame seeds are often overlooked in the nutrition world, but these little gems deserve some recognition for their stellar nutrition profile and health-promoting properties. They're packed with nutrients like fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and provide an easy source of plant-based protein. Plus, they add a satisfying crunch to breads, salads, and sushi rolls, and can be made into flavorful products, like tahini.

Here's more about sesame seeds and why they deserve a spot in your diet. 

What are sesame seeds?

Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) belongs to the same plant family as peanuts and soybeans, and is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. In fact, sesame has been grown as a food crop for over 5,000 years1

Today, sesame continues to be an important food source in many areas of the world, including developing countries2, due to its low water requirements and tolerance to poor soil quality.

There are several types of sesame, including black and white sesame, which are the most widely grown species. Sesame is predominantly grown for its edible seeds, which are used to make a number of products, including oil and tahini.

The seeds have a mellow flavor and are highly nutritious, providing healthy fats, protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. 

Depending on where you live in the world, sesame seeds are used in different ways. In the US, sesame seeds are commonly used to make baked goods, like breads, crackers, and cakes. Sesame oil is a popular ingredient in salad dressings and marinades, while tahini—a sesame-based paste—can be found in hummus and other dips.


Sesame seeds come from the widely cultivated sesame plant (Sesamum indicum L.). They are popular around the world and are often used to create baked goods, oils, and dips.

Nutritional information

Sesame seeds are tiny, but they pack a surprising amount of nutrients, including healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and filling protein. 

Here's the nutrition breakdown for a two-tablespoon serving of dried sesame seeds3:

  • Calories: 103.2
  • Fat: 8.94 grams
  • Saturated fat: 1.25 grams 
  • Protein: 3.18 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4.22 grams 
  • Dietary fiber: 2.12 grams
  • Calcium: 175.6 mg or 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Copper: 0.734 mg or 82% of the DV
  • Iron: 2.62 mg or 15% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 63.2 mg or 15% of the DV
  • Manganese: .442 mg or 19% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 113.2 mg or 9% of the DV
  • Selenium: 6.2 mcg or 11% of the DV
  • Zinc: 1.39 mg or 13% of the DV
  • Thiamine: .142 mg or 12% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 1.7 mg or 8% of the DV

As you can see, sesame seeds are surprisingly nutritious and provide a good source of several vitamins and minerals, even when consumed in small amounts. 

In terms of macronutrients, sesame seeds are highest in fat. In fact, these tiny seeds contain up to 60 percent oil, which is mainly composed of the unsaturated fats oleic acid and linoleic acid. Saturated fats make up less than 15 percent of the total fats found in sesame seeds.

They're also a good source of fiber and plant-based protein, containing up to 21.9 percent protein1 by weight. 

But where sesame seeds really shine is in the vitamin and mineral department. Just two tablespoons of these tiny seeds cover over 10 percent of your daily needs for a number of nutrients, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. 

Minerals play a number of critical roles in the body, from supporting healthy immune function to promoting bone health. 

They're also a good source of several B vitamins, including thiamine4 and B65, both of which play important roles in metabolism.

Benefits of sesame seeds

Sesame seeds provide a variety of nutrients involved with bone health, satiety, and other important functions. Plus, some of the nutrients and plant compounds found in sesame seeds may help support the body's antioxidant defenses and improve the health of the heart and bones.

Here are a few health benefits related to eating sesame seeds and sesame products like tahini.


They are rich in minerals.

Sesame seeds contain a surprising amount of minerals, which are involved in important processes in the body, including building and maintaining healthy bones and supporting a healthy cardiovascular and immune system.

"Sesame seeds contain key nutrients that support bone health, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc," registered dietitian Lauren Manaker M.S., RDN, L.D., tells mindbodygreen.

According to a 2023 review, sesame seeds make a smart choice for postmenopausal women, as they may have a positive effect on bone-related conditions, like osteoporosis6, which are more common in older adults.

People following plant-based diets7 are more likely to under-consume nutrients necessary for bone health, like calcium and magnesium, so adding a few tablespoons of sesame seeds to plant-based meals can help boost your intake of bone-supportive nutrients.

Sesame seeds also contain a good amount of selenium, a mineral that's needed for thyroid function and also acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body.


They provide disease-fighting antioxidants.

Sesame seeds are a concentrated source of protective plant compounds that support and protect overall health. Studies show eating sesame seeds boosts the body's antioxidant defenses, which could help protect against cellular damage that may otherwise lead to disease.

2017 review8 published in the Journal of Medicinal Food that included seven studies found eating sesame seeds increased blood levels of antioxidants and also helped reduce markers of oxidative stress. Carotenoids, flavonoids, lignans, and polyphenols are just some examples of the wide array of health-promoting bioactive compounds9 found in sesame seeds. 


They may help lower blood pressure.

Sesame seeds contain nutrients that are essential for healthy blood pressure regulation, like calcium and magnesium. They're also rich in protective compounds that help combat oxidative stress, which may help lower blood pressure levels.

Sesamin, a type of lignan concentrated in sesame seeds, has been shown to have cardioprotective properties and may help reduce blood pressure10 by stimulating the production of nitric oxide, which helps relax blood vessels.

A 2017 review of eight studies published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that sesame seed consumption led to significant reductions in systolic blood pressure11 and non-significant reductions in diastolic blood pressure.

Results from a 2022 study suggest eating tahini may also benefit blood pressure12. In the study, 20 healthy men consumed 50 grams of tahini. After four hours, the researchers found the tahini significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate compared to baseline and also had positive effects on flow-mediated dilation, the medical term for blood flow efficiency.


Eating them may support a healthy body weight.

Sesame seeds are high in protein and fiber, which are nutrients that help you feel full. Studies show increasing your intake of protein13 and fiber 14could be a simple and effective way to support weight loss.

And since sesame seeds are versatile and easy to work with, sprinkling a few tablespoons onto salads, oatmeal, chia pudding, and grain dishes is a quick way to boost the satiety factor of your meals and snacks.


They're a source of heart-healthy lignans.

Sesame seeds are rich in compounds called lignans, which are a group of polyphenol substances that have beneficial effects on health.

"Sesame seeds are a source of lignans, which help promote heart health and may decrease cholesterol levels," Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, tells mindbodygreen. The major lignan concentrated in sesame seeds is sesamin, which makes up about 50 percent of the sesame lignans1.

Interestingly, the lignan content of sesame seeds is related to their color. Black sesame seeds have the highest concentration of total lignans, including sesamin, while white sesame seeds have the lowest. Sesamin1 has been shown to have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and blood pressure-lowering properties.

Sesame seed lignans also seem to have weak estrogenic activities, meaning they may help alleviate postmenopausal symptoms15 related to low estrogen levels. However, more research is needed to confirm this potential benefit. 

Pro tip:

Seek out black sesame seeds over white ones for an even more concentrated amount of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds.

In addition to the health benefits listed above, sesame seeds provide a convenient source of nutrient-dense energy. Like all seeds, sesame seeds are calorie-dense and contain a satisfying combination of carbs, protein, and fat, making them a smart choice for on-the-go snacking. 

Allergies and side effects

More than 1 million16 adults and kids in the US are allergic to sesame. Because sesame seeds and sesame-based products are so prevalent in the food supply, it's the most common seed to cause hypersensitivity reactions17 in people with seed allergies. 

Unfortunately, anaphylactic reactions are common in people with sesame allergies, so it's critical to read food labels, avoid all sesame products, and carry an EPIPEN if you're allergic to sesame seeds and sesame products.

Another downside1 of sesame seeds is that they contain antinutrients, which are substances that prevent the digestion and absorption of certain nutrients. Sesame seeds contain oxalic and phytic acids, as well as small amounts of tannins, all of which act as antinutrients. 

These compounds can reduce the bioavailability1 and digestion of minerals like calcium and iron, reducing the nutritional value of the seeds. However, there are ways to reduce antinutrient compounds in sesame seeds. Cooking, soaking, and sprouting are all methods that significantly reduce antinutrient levels and enhance mineral bioavailability. You can purchase sprouted sesame seeds or use methods like soaking and cooking to improve their nutritional value.

Lastly, like all nuts and seeds, sesame seeds are calorie-dense. While this makes them an excellent source of energy, it's important to watch your portion sizes of sesame seeds and sesame products like tahini, as calories can add up quickly.

Sesame seeds vs. other seeds

Here's how sesame seeds stack up to other popular seeds.

Sesame seeds vs. chia seeds:

Like sesame seeds, chia seeds are rich in minerals, healthy fats, and plant-based protein.

Sesame seeds are higher in calories and fat than chia seeds, but both are nutritious. Chia seeds have been linked to more health benefits than sesame seeds, including lowering blood lipid, blood sugar, and blood pressure18 levels.

Chia seeds have a mild and nutty flavor and form a gel when mixed with liquid, which makes them a popular ingredient in dishes like chia pudding and gelatin-free jams.

Sesame seeds vs. flaxseeds:

Flaxseeds and sesame seeds contain a similar amount of calories and both provide important nutrients, like calcium and iron. However, sesame seeds provide greater amounts of both of these nutrients, making sesame seeds a better choice for those looking for a plant-based iron boost.

Like sesame seeds, flaxseeds can be sprinkled on dishes like oatmeal and baked goods. Flaxseeds are said to have a nutty flavor and are larger and tougher than sesame seeds.

Sesame seeds vs. hemp seeds:

Sesame seeds are higher in carbs and fiber and lower in protein than hemp seeds but provide a similar amount of calories and fat. Both are good sources of nutrients, like iron, magnesium, and zinc. Hemp seeds are milder tasting than sesame seeds but have a similar texture.


Sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds are all nutritious options that can be used to increase the nutritional value of meals and snacks. Try stocking your kitchen with all of these seeds and using them together in recipes like seed-based crackers, granola, and homemade energy balls.

Raw vs. roasted sesame seeds

Roasting is a process that can help increase the shelf life and enhance the flavor of seeds, like sesame seeds. 

Plus, some research suggests roasting sesame seeds may help increase levels of certain antioxidants, including phenolic compounds. A 2013 study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research found that levels of total phenolic compounds in sesame seeds increased significantly with roasting19 and that the optimum temperature and time roasting to obtain the highest phenolic content was 393℉ for 20 minutes.

However, some research suggests20 roasting may reduce levels of other beneficial compounds found in sesame seeds, like the lignans sesamolin and sesamin.  

Still, raw and roasted sesame seeds provide a number of important nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, and both can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. 

What's the deal with tahini?

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds that's used in a number of recipes, like hummus and baba ganoush. It's also delicious when drizzled over fruit and vegetables. It has a silky texture and a rich, nutty taste that can elevate the flavor of your favorite recipes. 

Since tahini is made from sesame seeds, it's high in the same nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and zinc. One tablespoon provides 88.8 calories, 2.61 grams of protein, and 7.95 grams of fat. 

You can find tahini online and in most grocery stores in the same section as your favorite nut and seed butters. You can also make your own tahini at home.

Sesame seed recipes & cooking ideas

Sesame seeds are delish in both sweet and savory recipes. Here are a few ways to incorporate these nutrient-packed gems into your diet.

  • Add flavor and crunch to veggie dishes: Sprinkle sesame seeds on vegetables like broccoli to create flavorful side dishes like this crispy sesame-ginger broccoli recipe. 
  • Drizzle tahini on everything—yes, everything: Tahini can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Try drizzling it over sweet potato fries or fresh fruit, like papaya. 
  • Use them as a plant-based protein source: Combine sesame seeds with other nuts and seeds, like hemp seeds, almonds, and pistachios, to make homemade, protein-rich snacks, like energy balls, trail mix, and protein bites

Registered dietitian Ella Davar, RD, CND also uses it to make homemade hummus, cookies, and more. "I love using sesame seeds and recommend sprinkling sesame seeds on broccoli and other roasted vegetables, salads, and even avocado toast," she says. 

Shapiro likes to add sesame seeds to her favorite recipes to add a healthy dose of nutrients. "I love to add sesame seeds to my salads and mix them into oatmeal and homemade granola," she says. Shapiro is also a big fan of tahini and often uses it to make her own salad dressings and dips.

Manaker recommends using tahini in smoothie recipes for an unexpected source of healthy fats and plant-based protein as well as sprinkling sesame seeds on top of salmon, chicken, and other proteins for a bit of texture. 

Buying & storage tips

Sesame seeds are high in fat, so it's important to store them properly so they don't go rancid. 

Sesame seeds are best stored in a cool environment away from sources of heat and sunlight. Sesame seeds can be stored in a cool pantry or closet, but the best way to keep them fresh is to store them in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer, which can help them last longer.


Sesame seeds can go rancid, especially when exposed to hot temperatures and sunlight. If sesame seeds smell or taste "off," it's a sign they may have gone rancid and it's best to throw them away. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are sesame seeds good for your gut?

Yes! Sesame seeds are a good source of fiber, which helps create a healthy gut environment by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria, keeping bowel movements comfortable and regular, and more.

How many sesame seeds should I eat per day?

There's no set amount of sesame seeds you should eat in a day. However, keep in mind that, like all nuts and seeds, sesame seeds are high in fat and calories. For this reason, it's recommended to enjoy sesame seeds in smaller portions to keep your calorie intake in check.

Are sesame seeds a superfood?

There's no set definition of a superfood, but sesame seeds are certainly nutritious. Even a small serving of sesame seeds covers a good portion of your daily needs for nutrients like iron, calcium, and zinc.

The takeaway

Sesame seeds may be tiny, but including them in your diet can provide some major health benefits. Not only are they packed with nutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc, but they contain protective plant compounds that may support healthy blood pressure and boost your body's antioxidant defenses. 

For an easy way to boost the nutrient content of your favorite dishes, try stocking your kitchen with these versatile, nutritious, and tasty seeds.

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