10 Nutritional Benefits of Sesame Seeds

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

Sesame seeds are one of the oldest and indispensable condiments ever known to mankind. They are versatile, fragrant, and are nutty variants. The seeds add a crunch to a variety of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Moreover, it is also used as a cooking oil and to make sauces and dressings. Sesame seeds are known for their food flavor-enhancing abilities too.

The potent nutritional benefits of sesame seeds include their ability to improve heart health, lower blood pressure, build strong bones, improve male fertility, and manage diabetes. They also help cure sleep disorders, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, boost respiratory health, aid in dental care, and treat depression and chronic stress.

What are Sesame Seeds?

Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) are tiny edible seeds of a plant of the Sesamum genus, native to both India and Africa. They are considered the oldest oilseed crop in the world and have been cultivated for more than 3,500 years. These seeds have a nutty flavor and they can be purchased either shelled or unshelled. [1]

They are commonly added to salads as a topping for bread and grain products, crackers, sushi, cakes, soups, or as breading for fish and meat. Also, sesame oil, derived from the seeds, is a rich source of nutrients with both laxative and emollient properties.

The seeds themselves are very small, only 3-4mm long and 2mm wide, yet 3.85 million metric tons are produced every year. The seeds are initially found in a black hull inside a pod. Once they are removed, they must be stripped of their shells. They come in a wide variety of colors, depending on the variety or strain of the sesame plant.

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Nutrition Facts

Seeds, sesame seeds, whole, dried
Serving Size :
Water [g]4.69
Energy 573
Energy [kJ]2397
Protein [g]17.73
Total lipid (fat) [g]49.67
Ash [g]4.45
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]23.45
Fiber, total dietary [g]11.8
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.3
Calcium, Ca [mg]975
Iron, Fe [mg]14.55
Magnesium, Mg [mg]351
Phosphorus, P [mg]629
Potassium, K [mg]468
Sodium, Na [mg]11
Zinc, Zn [mg]7.75
Copper, Cu [mg]4.08
Manganese, Mn [mg]2.46
Selenium, Se [µg]34.4
Thiamin [mg]0.79
Riboflavin [mg]0.25
Niacin [mg]4.52
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.05
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.79
Folate, total [µg]97
Folate, food [µg]97
Folate, DFE [µg]97
Choline, total [mg]25.6
Carotene, beta [µg]5
Vitamin A, IU [IU]9
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.25
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]6.96
14:0 [g]0.12
16:0 [g]4.44
18:0 [g]2.09
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]18.76
16:1 [g]0.15
18:1 [g]18.52
20:1 [g]0.07
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]21.77
18:2 [g]21.38
18:3 [g]0.38
Phytosterols [mg]714
Tryptophan [g]0.39
Threonine [g]0.74
Isoleucine [g]0.76
Leucine [g]1.36
Lysine [g]0.57
Methionine [g]0.59
Cystine [g]0.36
Phenylalanine [g]0.94
Tyrosine [g]0.74
Valine [g]0.99
Arginine [g]2.63
Histidine [g]0.52
Alanine [g]0.93
Aspartic acid [g]1.65
Glutamic acid [g]3.96
Glycine [g]1.22
Proline [g]0.81
Serine [g]0.97
Sources include : USDA [3]

Nutrition Value of Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are a rich source of natural oils, lignans, antioxidants, protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, B-vitamins, and vitamin E according to the USDA. [4]

Additionally, these tiny seeds are packed with potent amino acids like tryptophan and fat-burning polyphenols like sesamin and sesamol. Researcher Dr. Fereidoon Shahidi with over 600 published research papers, demonstrated the considerable antioxidant activity of sesame products in one of his studies in the journal Food Chemistry. [5] [6]

Benefits of Sesame Seeds

The wide range of health benefits of these seeds is explained in greater detail below.

Skin Care

Sesame seeds contain zinc, a vital component in the formation of collagen, which strengthens the muscle tissue, hair, and skin. Also, sesame oil contains vitamin E, which reduces the appearance of burns and marks on the skin, as well as helps avoid signs of premature aging. [7]

Hair Health

Sesame seeds are rich in plant polyphenols, which help promote hair health. Sesame seed oil is often massaged into the scalp to reduce premature greying and boost hair growth because of the presence of vitamins and minerals. The amino acids and antioxidants in this oil help return the shine in dull hair. [8]

Organic white sesame seeds on the wooden spoon

Sprinkle sesame seeds on your salads and sandwiches. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Elevates Heart Health

Natural oil-soluble plant lignans present in these seeds help in the reduction of hypertension, according to several research studies. This, in turn, helps reduce the strain on your cardiovascular system and prevents various cardiac conditions. A research study published in the journal Nutrition Review states that these bioactive phenolic plant compounds are in the highest concentration in flax seeds and sesame seeds. Furthermore, magnesium has long been known as a vasodilator (an agent that reduces blood pressure) and these seeds are packed with this essential mineral. Sesame seeds contain up to 25% of your daily requirement of magnesium in a single serving. [9] [10]

High in Fiber

Sesame seeds are packed with a significant amount of fiber, an important element in healthy digestion. It can reduce conditions like constipation and diarrhea, while simultaneously protecting the health of your colon and reducing the risk of gastrointestinal diseases. Fiber also works beneficially for your heart, by scraping out dangerous LDL cholesterol from arteries and blood vessels, thereby acting as a protecting agent against atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. [11]

Manages Diabetes

Sesame seeds contain magnesium, an important mineral, that aids in reducing the chances of type-2 diabetes. It also regulates blood pressure and helps improve insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, it has been shown that sesame seed oil positively affects the impact of various medications like glibenclamide in patients suffering from type-2 diabetes. It improves the medication’s functionality and regulates the insulin and glucose levels in the body. This process helps to manage the symptoms of diabetes, as per a research published in the journal Clinical Nutrition. [12] [13]

Boosts Bone Health

Sesame is the richest source of most of the inorganic nutrients, says a report published in the Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society. The impressive levels of essential minerals like zinc, calcium, and phosphorus can be a major boost for your bone health. These minerals are integral parts in creating new bone matter and strengthening and repairing bones weakened by injury or the onset of debilitating bone conditions like osteoporosis. [14] [15]

Improves Oral Health

Perhaps the most notable effects of sesame seeds are its powerful effects on oral health. Oil pulling with sesame seed oil can have a strong antibacterial and astringent effect on all aspects of oral health. It is also closely associated with reducing the presence of the Streptococcus bacteria, a common bacteria that can wreak havoc on your oral cavities and other parts of your body. [16]

Increases Fertility in Men

Sesame seeds, when added to the diet of men, improves sperm quality and increases male fertility. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences showed that 25 infertile men, aged between 27 and 40 years, were given sesame seeds for three months. They showed a significant improvement in their sperm count and motility. [17]

Health benefits of sesame seeds infographic

Sesame seeds contain zinc, a vital component in the formation of collagen.

Reduces Inflammation

The high content of copper in sesame seeds helps in reducing inflammation in joints, bones, and muscles, thereby contributing to preventing the associated pain of arthritis. Furthermore, copper is an essential mineral for strengthening blood vessels, bones, and joints. Finally, copper is necessary for the proper uptake of iron, a key component of hemoglobin. Therefore, proper copper content in the body maximizes circulation and ensures that the organ systems of the entire body receive enough oxygen to function properly. [18] [19]

Boosts Metabolic Function

Sesame seeds contain a high amount of protein, which gets broken down and reassembled from its parts into usable proteins for the human body. This adds to overall strength, healthy cellular growth, mobility, energy levels, and a boosted metabolic function. This is confirmed in research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. [20]

Eating Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds can be used in a variety of ways. They can be consumed in the following ways:

Sesame oil is also very popular and potent for natural health remedies, ranging from topical applications on the body to using the oil as an anti-inflammatory substance. Now, let us have a look at some of the FAQs in detail.

How to roast sesame seeds?

You can toast sesame seeds very easily. Spread the seeds out in a pan (no more than 1 cup at a time) and ensure that they keep moving continuously and don’t burn. You want a nice even brown color on the seeds. If you start to smell an acrid or strong smell, they’ve begun to burn. You can also set them on a baking sheet and cook them at 350 F for about 10-12 minutes.

Where to buy sesame seeds?

You can buy sesame seeds at all major grocery stores and natural health food stores. Basically, sesame seeds are available everywhere, as they are one of the most popular types of seeds in the world. Ranging from GNC and Walmart to the smallest herbalists and natural health practitioners, sesame seeds are easily sourced.

How to eat black sesame seeds?

 You should soak the black sesame seeds in water overnight to make them easily digestible. Then, you can sprinkle them on your salads, in your yogurt, or even blend them into a smoothie.

Side Effects

The side effects of sesame seeds occur only when they are consumed in very large amounts. These include:

  • Allergy: Excessive consumption of sesame seeds can irritate the stomach and colon.
  • Blood sugar levels: People who are diabetic need to be careful, as sesame seeds can increase blood sugar levels. However, more research studies are required to support this claim.

Note: Sesame seeds are not nuts, although many people treat them that way. The reason for this is the presence of similar allergenic chemicals and proteins, which are also found in nuts. Therefore, if you are allergic to some types of nuts, it would be wise to speak to your doctor about sesame seeds.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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