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Black sesame seeds are small, flat, oily seeds that grow in the fruit pods of the Sesamum indicum plant, which has been cultivated for thousands of years.

Sesame seeds grow in a variety of colors, including shades of black, brown, tan, gray, gold, and white.

Black sesame seeds are primarily produced in Asia, although they’re quickly gaining popularity around the world.

This rise in popularity could be due to the belief that black sesame seeds are better for your health, but you may wonder whether this claim is true (1).

This article details black sesame seeds’ nutritional information and how the seeds may contribute to optimal health.

Black sesame seeds are rich in a number of nutrients. Just 2 tablespoons (14 grams) of black sesame seeds contain (2):

  • Calories: 100
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fat: 9 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Magnesium: 16% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 11% of the DV
  • Copper: 83% of the DV
  • Manganese: 22% of the DV
  • Iron: 15% of the DV
  • Zinc: 9% of the DV
  • Saturated Fat: 1 gram
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 3 grams
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 grams

Black sesame seeds are an especially rich source of macrominerals and trace minerals. Your body requires trace minerals only in small amounts, while macrominerals are required in larger quantities.

A higher intake of macrominerals like calcium and magnesium is associated with improved heart disease risk factors, particularly high blood pressure (3, 4, 5).

Some of the trace minerals in black sesame seeds — in particular iron, copper, and manganese — are important for regulating your metabolism, cell functioning, and immune system, as well as the circulation of oxygen throughout your body, among other activities (6, 7, 8).

Because more than half of a sesame seed is composed of oil, sesame seeds are also a good source of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (9, 10).

The most recent scientific evidence suggests that replacing foods high in saturated fats with foods high in unsaturated fats may lower your risk of heart disease (11, 12).

SUMMARY

Black sesame seeds contain many important trace and macrominerals, as well as healthy fats that may help lower your risk of heart disease.

It’s commonly believed that black or other colored sesame seeds have been left whole with the outer hull of the shell intact while pure white sesame seeds have had the hull removed.

This is mostly true, but it’s important to note that some unhulled sesame seeds still have a white, tan, or off-white color, making them difficult to distinguish from hulled sesame seeds. It’s best to examine the packaging to determine whether they’re hulled or unhulled.

Unhulled sesame seeds are typically crunchier and have a stronger flavor, compared with the softer, mild white sesame seeds that have had their hull removed.

Still, it’s not just the taste and appearance that differs between hulled and unhulled sesame seeds. The two types can have significant differences in their nutritional value as well.

The following chart highlights some of the most notable differences between 1 tablespoon (9 grams) of hulled and unhulled sesame seeds (13, 14):

UnhulledHulled
Calcium88 mg5 mg
Iron1 mg0.5 mg
Potassium42 mg30 mg
Copper0.37 mg0.11 mg
Manganese0.22 mg0.12 mg

Some beneficial plant chemicals in sesame seeds, such as lignans, are found in large amounts in the outer hull of the seeds. Therefore, unhulled black sesame seeds typically contain more lignans than hulled white sesame seeds (15, 16, 17).

Also, emerging research suggests white and black sesame seeds differ in their contents of beneficial plant chemicals, amino acid proteins, and antioxidants. Black sesame seeds appear to boast more lignans and certain beneficial unsaturated fatty acids unsaturated fats (18, 19).

However, only a few studies have been conducted on the differences between black and white sesame seeds. More research is needed to fully understand these differences.

SUMMARY

In addition to containing more nutrients, black sesame seeds have a stronger flavor and more crunch than white sesame seeds that have had their outer hull removed.

Black sesame seeds are rich in nutrients that support optimal health, and regularly eating them may have specific benefits.

One reason why black sesame seeds could be so beneficial to health is due to the seeds’ effects on oxidative stress, particularly for people who are living with a chronic disease (20).

In one 8-week mouse study, consuming 0.45–0.9 mL of a black sesame seed extract per pound (1–2 mL per kg) of body weight daily improved insulin resistance, treated oxidative stress in the liver, and appeared to protect against obesity (21).

Furthermore, some human research has shown that black sesame seeds may help reduce oxidative stress.

A study in 30 people found that taking 2.5 grams of black sesame seed capsules per day for 4 weeks significantly decreased levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), one of the most commonly used biomarkers of oxidative stress (22).

Yet, human research is limited at this time, and more studies are needed.

Furthermore, because some studies used concentrated sesame seed extract, the results may not be the same for whole black sesame seeds. Thus, more randomized controlled studies in humans are needed (20).

Rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that play an important role in preventing or slowing different types of cell damage in your body.

One type of cellular damage that antioxidants are believed to protect against is oxidative stress. Long-term oxidative stress may contribute to the development of many chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Some foods are better sources of antioxidants than others. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains are some of the best sources.

All sesame seeds contain antioxidants and healthy plant chemicals, but black sesame seeds appear to be a particularly rich source (16, 23, 24).

It also appears that sprouted black sesame seeds could have even higher amounts of some antioxidants than seeds that have not yet sprouted (18).

May improve blood pressure

A small study in 30 adults found that taking a capsule containing 2.5 grams of black sesame seed meal daily for 4 weeks significantly decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading), while a placebo group did not experience changes (22).

Moreover, a systematic review of research on sesame seeds’ effects on blood pressure found that five out of seven clinical studies observed significant improvements in blood pressure (25).

Still, the researchers noted that studies with stronger methodology were needed to confirm these initial findings.

May have anticancer properties

Over the past few years, sesame seeds have been investigated for their anticancer properties.

Two of the compounds in black sesame seeds — sesamol and sesamin — are believed to contribute to their anticancer properties (26).

Sesamol has demonstrated its anticancer properties in multiple animal and test-tube studies.

These studies have observed the compound’s ability to combat oxidative stress and regulate various stages of cell lifecycle and signaling pathways — each of which plays a role in the development of cancer (27).

Sesamin plays a similar role in cancer prevention. The compound also appears to promote the destruction of cancer cells through apoptosis (programmed cellular death) and autophagy (the removal of damaged cells) (28).

Human studies, as well as studies conducted with whole black sesame seeds rather than sesame seed concentrates, are still lacking. Therefore, it’s currently unclear how eating black sesame seeds affects cancer risk.

May promote healthy hair and skin

Sesame seed oils are often included in hair and skin products, such as soap, shampoo, and moisturizer. Therefore, you may wonder whether eating black sesame seeds is also good for hair and skin health.

While few studies have directly examined how eating black sesame seeds affects hair and skin, the seeds contain many nutrients known to encourage healthy hair and skin.

Some of these include (29):

  • iron
  • zinc
  • fatty acids
  • antioxidants

Other studies have investigated the topical application of sesame oil.

For example, a 2011 study found that sesame oil could block up to 30% of harmful ultraviolet (UV) light rays. UV light not only causes sunburns but also can lead to wrinkles, early aging of the skin, and even cancer (30).

Another more recent study in 40 people being treated in the emergency room for trauma to their extremities found that massaging the injured extremities with sesame seed oil significantly reduced pain (31).

However, neither of these studies used oil made from black sesame seeds specifically.

SUMMARY

Regularly eating black sesame seeds could reduce oxidation in the body, improve blood pressure, and provide antioxidants and other plant chemicals that help fight cancer. Still, more research in humans is needed.

Black sesame seeds can be purchased online or at most grocery stores.

The seeds are incredibly versatile when it comes to their culinary uses. They can easily be sprinkled onto salads, vegetables, and noodle and rice dishes. The seeds can even be used in baked goods or as a crunchy coating for fish.

Black sesame seeds can easily be processed into a milk or tahini paste, and black sesame seed oil can be used just as any other oil would be.

Black sesame seed extract can also be purchased as an oil or supplement in capsule form. There are currently no recommendations regarding how much black sesame seed extract to take, so it’s best to check with your healthcare provider before taking these supplements.

Although black sesame seeds are generally considered safe for most people, some may experience an allergic reaction. Therefore, it’s best to use caution if it’s your first time cooking with black sesame seeds.

SUMMARY

Whole black sesame seeds can be used in many dishes, and black sesame seed extract can be purchased in capsule form.

Black sesame is a nutrient-rich oilseed that has been cultivated from the Sesamum indicum plant for thousands of years.

Some evidence supports the use of black sesame seeds to improve blood pressure and decrease oxidation in the body.

However, more research is needed to better understand the quantity and form of black sesame that’s needed to generate these effects.

Still, black sesame seeds are safe for most people without sesame allergies, and they make a delicious addition to many meals.

Shop for black sesame seeds online.