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 15 health benefits of sesame seeds.
Three tablespoons (30 grams) of unhulled sesame seeds provide 3.5 grams of fiber, which is 12% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) (2, ).
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 (4).
Summary A 3-tablespoon (30-gram) serving of sesame seeds supplies 12% of the RDI for fiber, which is vital for your digestive health.
Some studies suggest that regularly eating sesame seeds may help decrease high cholesterol and triglycerides — which are risk factors for heart disease (, ).
Sesame seeds consist of 15% saturated fat, 41% polyunsaturated fat, and 39% monounsaturated fat ().
Research indicates that eating more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat may help lower your cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk (, , ).
What’s more, sesame seeds contain two types of plant compounds — lignans and phytosterols — that may also have cholesterol-lowering effects (, , ).
When 38 people with high blood lipids ate 5 tablespoons (40 grams) of hulled sesame seeds daily for 2 months, they experienced a 10% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol and an 8% reduction in triglycerides compared to the placebo group ().
Summary Sesame seeds may help reduce heart disease risk factors, including elevated triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
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 (14, 15, 16).
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 (14, , ).
On the other hand, sesame seeds are high in methionine and cysteine, two amino acids that legumes don’t provide in large amounts (14, ).
Summary Sesame seeds — particularly hulled ones — are a good source of protein, which is a necessary building block for your body.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke ().
Sesame seeds are high in magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure ().
Additionally, lignans, vitamin E, and other antioxidants in sesame seeds may help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries, potentially maintaining healthy blood pressure (, ).
In one study, people with high blood pressure consumed 2.5 grams of powdered, black sesame seeds — a less common variety — in capsule form every day.
At the end of one month, they experienced a 6% decrease in systolic blood pressure — the top number of a blood pressure reading — compared to the placebo group ().
Summary Sesame seeds are high in magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure. Additionally, their antioxidants may help prevent plaque buildup.
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 (, , , ):
|Calcium||22% of the RDI||1% of the RDI|
|Magnesium||25% of the RDI||25% of the RDI|
|Manganese||32% of the RDI||19% of the RDI|
|Zinc||21% of the RDI||18% 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 (15, ).
One study found that sprouting reduced phytate and oxalate concentration by about 50% in both hulled and unhulled sesame seeds (15).
Summary Unhulled sesame seeds are especially rich in nutrients vital to bone health, including calcium. Soaking, roasting, or sprouting sesame seeds can improve absorption of these minerals.
Sesame seeds may fight inflammation.
Long-term, low-level inflammation may play a role in many chronic conditions, including obesity and cancer, as well as heart and kidney disease ().
When people with kidney disease ate a mixture of 18 grams of flax seeds and 6 grams each of sesame and pumpkin seeds daily for 3 months, their inflammatory markers dropped 51‒79% ().
However, because this study tested a mixture of seeds, the anti-inflammatory impact of sesame seeds alone is uncertain.
Still, animal studies of sesame seed oil also suggest anti-inflammatory effects (, , ).
This may be due to sesamin, a compound found in sesame seeds and their oil (, ).
Summary Preliminary research suggests that sesame seeds and their oil may have anti-inflammatory properties.
Sesame seeds are a good source of certain B vitamins, which are distributed both in the hull and seed (15).
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 RDI||19% of the RDI|
|Niacin (B3)||11% of the RDI||8% of the RDI|
|Vitamin B6||5% of the RDI||14% of the RDI|
Summary Sesame seeds are a good source of thiamine, niacin, and vitamin B6, which are necessary for proper cellular function and metabolism.
To make red blood cells, your body needs several nutrients — including ones found in sesame seeds.
|Iron||24% of the RDI||10% of the RDI||An essential component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your red blood cells|
|Copper||136% of the RDI||46% of the RDI||Helps make hemoglobin|
|Vitamin B6||5% of the RDI||14% of the RDI||Helps make hemoglobin|
Summary Sesame seeds supply iron, copper, and vitamin B6, which are needed for blood cell formation and function.
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.
Summary Sesame seeds may aid blood sugar control because they’re low in carbs and high in quality protein and healthy fats. What’s more, they contain a plant compound that may help in this regard.
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. (, ).
Summary Plant compounds and vitamin E in sesame seeds function as antioxidants, which combat oxidative stress in your body.
Sesame seeds are a good source of several nutrients crucial for your immune system, including zinc, selenium, copper, iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin E (, ).
For example, your body needs zinc to develop and activate certain white blood cells that recognize and attack invading microbes.
Keep in mind that even mild to moderate zinc deficiency can impair immune system activity (48).
Sesame seeds supply about 20% of the RDI for zinc in a 3-tablespoon (30-gram) serving ().
Summary Sesame seeds are a good source of several nutrients that are important for immune system function, including zinc, selenium, copper, iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.
Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of joint pain and frequently affects the knees.
Several factors may play a role in arthritis, including inflammation and oxidative damage to the cartilage that cushions joints ().
Sesamin, a compound in sesame seeds, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may protect your cartilage (, ).
In a 2-month study, people with knee arthritis ate 5 tablespoons (40 grams) of sesame seed powder daily alongside drug therapy. They experienced a 63% decrease in knee pain compared to only a 22% decrease for the group on drug therapy alone.
Additionally, the sesame seed group showed greater improvement in a simple mobility test and larger reductions in certain inflammatory markers compared to the control group (, ).
Summary Sesamin, a compound in sesame seeds, may help reduce joint pain and support mobility in arthritis of the knee.
Sesame seeds are a good source of selenium, supplying 18% of the RDI in both unhulled and hulled seeds ().
In addition, sesame seeds are a good source of iron, copper, zinc, and vitamin B6, which also support the production of thyroid hormones and aid thyroid health (, , ).
Summary Sesame seeds are good sources of nutrients — such as selenium, iron, copper, zinc, and vitamin B6 — that support thyroid health.
Sesame seeds contain phytoestrogens, plant compounds that are similar to the hormone estrogen (, ).
Therefore, sesame seeds might be beneficial for women when estrogen levels drop during menopause. For example, phytoestrogens may help counteract hot flashes and other symptoms of low estrogen ().
What’s more, these compounds may decrease your risk of certain diseases — such as breast cancer — during menopause. However, further research is needed (, ).
Summary Phytoestrogens are compounds found in sesame seeds that may benefit women who are undergoing menopause.
Sesame seeds can give a nutty flavor and subtle crunch to many dishes.
To enhance the flavor and nutrient availability of sesame seeds, roast them at 350℉ (180℃) for a few minutes, stirring periodically, until they reach a light, golden brown.
Try adding sesame seeds to:
- steamed broccoli
- hot or cold cereal
- granola and granola bars
- bread and muffins
- salad dressing
Additionally, you can use sesame seed butter — also known as tahini — in place of peanut butter or hummus.
Ground sesame seeds — called sesame flour or sesame seed meal — can be used in baking, smoothies, fish batter, and more.
However, sesame allergies have become more prevalent, so you may need to take caution when cooking for groups (, ).
Summary Sesame seeds can perk up many dishes, including salads, granola, baked goods, and stir-fries. Tahini and sesame flour are other products made out of sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds are a good source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.
Regularly eating substantial portions of these seeds — not just an occasional sprinkling on a burger bun — may aid blood sugar control, combat arthritis pain, and lower cholesterol.
To optimize your nutrient intake, you can eat sesame seeds soaked, roasted, or sprouted.