Sesame seeds have been used for years, particularly in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. Their nutty taste adds a wonderful flavor to many dishes, including hummus (tahini “sesame seed” paste), and even sweets. They are especially valued for their oil. Both the seeds themselves and the oil produced from them have many health benefits.
1. Sesame Seeds Add Protein to a Well-Balanced Diet
Protein is essential for just about every one of our bodies’ functions. It is used to make bone, hair, nails, and skin, as well as cells and muscle. Dietary protein consumption sends signals to our bodies, telling them to produce protein, which then improves body composition, and can help you feel full longer which can lead to fat loss. Regular consumption of protein can also help prevent many common ailments and diseases, including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer. (1, 2)
Everyone can benefit from adding some protein to their regular diet, and the daily requirements vary depending on weight and age. The average person, however, should aim to receive about 50-64 grams per day, in a 2,000-calorie diet, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Seeds, like sesame, are a good source of protein when added to a well-balanced diet that includes other plant proteins.
Bottom Line: You can keep your body lean and functioning properly by adding sesame seeds to your diet.
2. Sesame Seeds Are Rich in Magnesium, Which Can Prevent Diabetes
Magnesium is a highly underrated, but ultimately essential, mineral needed for many of the body’s cellular and molecular functions. It works as a regulator of metabolism and electrolyte balance, as well as plays a vital role in DNA stability. (3)
Signs of a magnesium deficiency can come in many forms. Symptoms can range from a weakened immune system and insomnia to muscle aches and behavioral disorders. Insufficient magnesium intake can also lead to an increased risk for serious health issues, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney and liver damage. (4)
Another disease directly related to low magnesium intake is diabetes. Studies show, however, that sesame seeds (particularly their oil) can lower your blood sugar as a result of their magnesium content (which is 350 milligrams per 100 grams, about 63% of your daily recommended intake). (5, 6)
Bottom Line: Keep your blood sugar regulated and prevent adult onset diabetes by eating more sesame seeds.
3. Sesame Seeds Can Also Lower Blood Pressure with Magnesium
Hypertension affects about 1 out of every 3 people, and high blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart disease or suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Many do not seek treatment, or they resolve to taking blood pressure medication for the remainder of their lives. A simple change of diet and lifestyle (adding an exercise routine), however, can greatly reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of more serious health problems.
Magnesium plays a huge role in cardiovascular function. It helps to dissolve blood clots, dilates blood vessels, and prevents arrhythmia. Studies even show that an increase in magnesium can lower the risk for stroke by about 8%. (7, 8)
Bottom Line: Reduce your risk of high blood pressure and related health issues by getting your recommended intake of magnesium with sesame seeds.
4. Sesame Seeds Improve Respiratory Health and Prevent Asthma
Asthma is becoming increasingly common amongst the American population, with about 1 out of every 12 people suffering. Particularly, there was a 1% rise between 2001 and 2009, which was about an additional 5 million people. The good news is that increased magnesium intake can help to combat attacks and improve lung function.
It is a fact that the majority of asthma attacks are triggered by dust, pollen, and other common allergens that we come into contact with every day. Magnesium has the ability to regulate and suppress histamine production. This reduces the body’s release of antibodies that attack the affected area (the lungs) which can lead to an attack. (9)
Magnesium also plays in important role in bronchial muscle contraction, which is the result of healthy respiratory structure and lung function. Many asthmatic patients have been found to be magnesium deficient, and studies have shown that treatment with magnesium supplementation have had a positive result, successfully treating asthma and other respiratory problems. (10, 11)
Bottom Line: Magnesium in sesame seeds can prevent asthma and promote a healthy respiratory system.
5. Sesame Seeds Can Lower Bad Cholesterol Levels with Phytosterols
Similar in structure to cholesterol, phytosterols are substances found in plants that can lower bad cholesterol levels in the body. They compete with cholesterol for absorption without being easily absorbed themselves, which means less bad cholesterol is absorbed, which lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol level by up to 14%. Lower cholesterol also means a decreased risk for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. (12, 13)
There are known to be over 200 varieties of phytosterols found in plant-based foods. They are most prevalent in seeds and nuts, with the highest concentrations found in sesame seeds and wheat germ (about 400 mg per 100 g). (14)
Bottom Line: Sesame seeds are high in phytosterols, which combat cholesterol absorption.
6. Sesame Seeds Aid Digestion with Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber, or roughage, is found in plants. It is the part that your body cannot digest or absorb, and, therefore, moves intact through your digestive tract, taking your food along with it. A healthy digestive system, with regular bowel movements, can decrease your risk for developing hemorrhoids and, possibly, colon cancer. (15)
Fiber also helps to balance the bacterial makeup of your gut. Too much bad bacteria can weaken the bowel wall, and allow bacteria and toxins to find their way in. Good bacteria, however, is essential for the healthy function of the immune system and the absorption of many vitamins and nutrients. (16)
Sesame seeds, in addition to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, provide your body with the fiber it needs to keep your digestive system in proper working order.
Bottom Line: Sesame seeds deliver about 12 g of fiber per 100 g, which, when combined with other high-fiber foods, can keep your digestive in proper working order.
7. Sesame Seeds Promote Young, Healthy Skin with Zinc
Zinc, a mineral found in most meats, dairy, nuts, and whole grains, is needed for proper growth and maintenance of many of the body’s functions. It is necessary for thyroid function, healing and blood clotting, and a strong immune system. (17)
The average recommended daily intake for children is 3-5 mg, and adults should get between 9 and 11 mg. Sesame seeds can provide up to 8 mg, almost your entire daily requirement, in just 100 g. (18)
Zinc is also an important factor when it comes to skincare. In fact, there have been studies that show a direction correlation between zinc treatments and a decrease in acne spots. The results from one group in particular were extraordinary, with an overall drop from 100% of subjects who suffered from acne to only 15%. Sesame oil is even commonly used as a main ingredient in many skin care products. (19, 20)
Bottom Line: The zinc content in sesame oil can help to clear acne and keep your skin looking young and healthy.
8. Sesame Seed Oil (Sesamol) Can Prevent Heart Disease.
Sesamol is a compound found in sesame seeds and their oil. It has been highly praised for its antioxidant properties, and, while found in raw sesame seeds, its potency is increased through the seed roasting process. (21) This particular compound boasts many health benefits, including the prevention of heart disease, by lowering blood pressure and promoting weight loss.
In one particular study, hypertensive patients were asked to substitute sesame oil, in the place of all other edible oils, in their diets for a period of 45 days. During this time, their blood pressure dropped to a normal level, at which point they were instructed to withdraw the sesame oil from their diets, and their blood pressure returned to what it was previously. (22)
Bottom Line: With its ability to decrease blood pressure, sesame oil can be an effective way to reduce your risk for heart related issues.
9. Sesame Seed Oil Can Also Reduce Radiation Damage
In addition to its benefits for heart health, sesamol has also shown to reduce damage resulting from radiation. This is believed to be the result of sesamol’s antioxidant properties. There was a decrease in DNA damage percentage in lab mice in a recent study. (23) This could be good news for patients undergoing radiation treatments for cancer.
Bottom Line: Sesamol found in sesame oil can significantly reduce DNA damage cause by radiation.
10. Sesame Seeds Can Help Prevent Common Cancers
Cancer is on the rise, and everyone is always looking for ways to keep it at bay. Diet is a great way to start. Sesame seeds offer some essential nutrients that have been proven to help reduce the risk of some common cancers.
Colorectal cancer is arguably the most commonly seen amongst cancer patients. It affects the colon and digestive tract, producing symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and rectal bleeding. (24) Studies have shown that an increase in dietary magnesium can help prevent colorectal cancer. By increasing your magnesium intake by 100 mg per day, you can lower your risk for colorectal cancer by up to 12%. (25)
There has also been evidence to show that phytosterols play a role in the prevention of common cancers, such as breast, stomach, lung, and ovarian cancers. Because of their high antioxidant levels, phytosterols inhibit the production of new cancer cells, stop the growth and spreading of existing cells, and can even kill cancer cells that are already present in the body. (26)
Bottom Line: Sesame seeds, with their magnesium and phytosterol content, can help prevent many common cancers and stop the growth and spreading of cancer cells that presently exist in the body.
11. Sesame Seeds Help to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
About 18% of the United States’ population suffer from anxiety disorders, and the number continues to grow. Out of these 40 million people, only about a third of these are seeking treatment, choosing to live with their condition and accepting it as an unchangeable reality. Changing your diet, in addition to medical treatment, can have a positive effect on reducing your stress and anxiety levels. Vitamins and nutrients that may be lacking in your diet have been linked to anxiety. (27, 28)
There are direct links between low magnesium and increased anxiety levels. Magnesium plays a major role in many of the body’s metabolic functions. It regulates the nervous system, which can lead to you feeling more relaxed and calm, effectively reducing stress and anxiety. (29)
Bottom Line: Sesame seeds are rich in magnesium which has been known to help reduce stress and anxiety.
12. Sesame Seeds Prevent Iron-Deficient Anemia
There are many metals present in your body, and one that is highly essential is iron. It helps to metabolize proteins and aids in the production of red blood cells, both of which are vital to proper growth and function of the body. It also plays a role in the nervous system, which helps build concentration and treat insomnia, and strengthens the immune system. (30)
While iron is readily available in most plant-based foods, iron deficiency is amongst the most common of nutritional deficiencies. The most common symptom of iron-deficient anemia is fatigue, and can be made worse due to inadequate levels of iron in the blood, poor iron absorption, or blood loss due to injury or menstruation.
It is recommended that the average adult obtain about 8 mg of dietary iron per day (18 mg for women during childbearing years due to menstruation). In 100 g of sesame seeds, you can receive almost 200% of you recommended daily intake. (31)
Bottom Line: The iron in sesame seeds can keep your immune system functioning properly and prevent iron-deficient anemia.
13. Sesame Seeds Can Reduce Inflammation and Arthritis Symptoms
Another important metal in the body is copper. It is found in many of the body’s major organs, including the liver, heart, brain, and kidneys, as well as the muscles. While it has many health benefits overall, one that is especially important is the role it plays in helping the body reduce inflammation. (32)
Inflammation is the primary contributor to all diseases that can occur within the body, but arguably the most popular is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA affects over 1.3 million Americans, and it is the result of the body’s immune system attacking tissues in the body, causing swelling and pain. (33)
Copper cannot be produced within the body, so it needs to come from food sources. It is recommended that the average adult intake about 900 mcg of copper per day. Sesame seeds, while not high in copper (about 4 mcg in 100 g), can be a good addition to your diet to help increase your copper intake. (34)
While dietary ingestion or vitamin supplementation is the most ideal way to increase your copper intake, there have also been studies of the effect of copper bracelets and insoles on common ailments, including RA. (35, 36)
Bottom Line: Sesame seeds can be a good addition to your diet to receive more copper, which can help reduce inflammation and decrease your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
14. Sesame Seeds Improve the Health of Your Bones
Calcium is essential for healthy bone growth and maintenance. Our bodies continually take calcium out of our bones and replace it with new calcium, a process of bone “remodeling”. We need to continuously intake calcium to prevent the body from taking out more calcium than it can replace.
Low calcium levels can cause many health issues. Children can suffer from stunted growth without proper calcium intake. Low calcium levels can also lead to low bone mass (weak bones) and osteoporosis, leaving you more at risk for fractures. (37, 38)
It is recommended that the average adult intake about 2,000 mg per day. Milk and dairy products are the most ideal source of calcium, but there are other dietary sources that you can consider. Sesame seeds can provide almost half (975 mg) of your daily recommended intake in 100 g. (39)
Bottom Line: Sesame seeds can help prevent osteoporosis by providing your body with much needed calcium.
15. Sesame Seed Oil Massages Can Aid Baby’s Growth
When it comes to your child’s health, you are likely to do a lot of research to make sure you are providing her with the best. Many parents often look for natural options to common baby products due to the number of harmful chemicals found in popular items on the market. Sesame can be a great natural substitute for some common baby products.
Baby massage has had many proven benefits, including improved sleep and growth patterns. While just massaging with fingers can produce good results, studies have shown that oil massages can have increased benefits. Sesame oil, in particular, has been shown to have increased benefits in baby sleep and growth when used as a massage agent. (40, 41)
Bottom Line: Sesame seed oil can be used to massage your baby before bed time to promote healthy growth and improved sleep patterns.
Sesame seeds can be added to just about anything. Give these recipes a try to give your body a boost with sesame seeds’ multiple health benefits.
1. Sesame and Honey Cookies
Sesame seeds are great for savory and sweet dishes. These cookies are excellent when paired with a cup of tea.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a bowl, mix together about 1 ½ ounces of softened butter, 2 ounces of honey, and ½ cup of vegetable oil with an electric mixer until smooth.
Beat in one egg, and once combined, stir in about 7 ounces of flour, 2 ½ ounces of sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 ½ ounces of crushed pistachios.
Transfer the dough, in small spoonfuls, to a baking sheet.
Bake for about 9 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. You may also choose to cook for less time if you like your cookies more on the underdone, doughy side.
Serve as a side with a nice cup of coffee or tea.
2. Sesame Roasted Kale
Veggie chips are becoming progressively popular, and these kale chips are sure to satisfy.
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Rinse about 14 ounces of fresh kale and dry them thoroughly. Remove the center stem and cut into smaller, chip-sized pieces.
Lay your kale on a baking sheet, coat with olive oil and sesame oil, and season with sesame seeds, salt, and pepper.
Bake for about 20 minutes, and flip halfway through cooking.
Take them out once they are nice and crispy.
Serve as the perfect snack for a midday lull.
3. Super Protein Loaf
What better way to introduce wholesome ingredients into your diet than baking your own bread?
Preheat your oven to 375°F, and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine 1.5 cups of lukewarm water, a packet of dried yeast, and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring to combine.
Set aside for about 5 minutes to let ingredients activate.
In a separate bowl, pour in about 9 ounces of flour, 3 ½ ounces of chopped almonds, and 3 ½ ounces of mixed seeds (chia, poppy, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, poppy, and/or any other seeds of your choosing).
Make a small well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
Finely chop up leaves of fresh rosemary, and add to the well, as well as 4 cracked eggs.
Beat the mixture together, then add the yeast mixture, whisking and combining all ingredients. It will look almost like lumpy cake batter.
Transfer the batter to your lined loaf pan.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden, making sure a skewer or knife comes out clean, signifying it is thoroughly cooked.
Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
This bread keeps fresh for a couple of days, and is a great addition, toasted and buttered, to a well-balanced breakfast.
4. Homemade Hummus
This hummus recipe is the perfect addition to make your raw veggies more filling without resorting to more fattening dressings.
In a blender, combine all of your ingredients: 2 cans of drained and rinsed chickpeas, ½ cup of olive oil, the juice of ½ a lemon, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley leaves, 2 cloves of peeled garlic, 1 ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of sesame oil, ½ teaspoon of cumin, black pepper, and ¼ cup of water.
Blend on low speed until smooth. Feel free to add more oil if the mixture seems too dry.
Best served fresh, no more than two hours after it is made.
5. Sesame Chicken
Better than Chinese takeout, this sesame chicken is guaranteed to be on your list of go-to recipes for dinner.
In a large bowl, mix together an egg, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and salt and pepper.
This recipe calls for chicken thighs, but feel free to substitute leaner chicken breasts for a healthier alternative. Trim any undesired fat, and cut into small, bite-sized cubes.
Add the chicken to the egg and cornstarch mixture, tossing them together and making sure the chicken is thoroughly coated.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, and once the oil is hot, add the chicken mixture.
Cook until slightly golden brown, which will take only a few minutes.
In the meantime, make your sauce by whisking the ingredients together in a separate bowl: 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of water, ½ tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 ½ tablespoons of rice vinegar, a clove of minced garlic, an inch of freshly grated ginger, 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, and a tablespoon of cornstarch.
After the chicken is cooked thoroughly, pour your sauce over top, turning and stirring the chicken to make sure it is completely coated.
Remove from heat once the chicken is coated and the sauce is thickened.
Serve over a bed of rice or noodles, and garnish with sliced green onions for a fresh-tasting finish.
6. Sesame Brittle
This recipe will tickle your sweet tooth and will satisfy your candy cravings.
In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together ¾ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of honey, a pinch of salt, ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of water.
Heat until a smooth mixture has formed, then stir in a cup of sesame seeds.
Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is amber in color. The mixture should be about 300°F at this point (an important thing to check for when making hard candies).
Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons of butter.
Once the butter has melted, stir in ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.
Grease a metal baking sheet, preferably with butter, and pour your mixture in.
Once it is cool and hardened (about 15 to 20 minutes), break into pieces and indulge.
7. Simple Sesame Noodles
Sesame is a staple in Asian cuisine, and these noodles are a great addition to an Asian-themed dinner party.
This recipe calls for fluid noodles, but you are free to use any noodles of your choosing. Cook about 12 ounces, and drain and set aside.
Make your sauce by combining ¼ cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sesame oil, ½ teaspoon of hot chili oil, 4 tablespoons of canola oil, and sliced green onion.
This dish is meant to be eaten while the noodles are still warm, but can be refreshing on a hot day when eaten chilled.
8. Cranberry Spinach Salad
Sesame is also a great topping to your salad, giving an extra boost to your healthy lifestyle.
In a medium saucepan, caramelize your almonds. Melt a tablespoon of butter, and stir in ¾ cup of slivered almonds. Cook until slightly toasted, then remove from heat.
In a medium-sized bowl, make your dressing. Combine 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, a tablespoon of poppy seeds, ½ cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of minced onion, ¼ teaspoon of paprika, ¼ cup of white wine vinegar, ¼ cup of cider vinegar, and ½ cup of vegetable oil. Whisk all ingredients together.
In a large bowl, toss a pound of spinach with your dressing, and top with almonds and cranberries.
This salad is the perfect lunch to take to work, or an excellent addition to the dinner table.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.