15 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Sesame Seeds
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 (1Trusted Source).
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.
1. Good Source of Fiber
Three tablespoons (30 grams) of unhulled sesame seeds provide 3.5 grams of fiber, which is 12% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Since the average fiber intake in the United States is only half of the RDI, eating sesame seeds regularly could help increase your fiber intake (4Trusted Source).
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 (4Trusted Source).
A 3-tablespoon (30-gram) serving of sesame seeds supplies 12% of the RDI for fiber, which is vital for your digestive health.
2. May Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Some studies suggest that regularly eating sesame seeds may help decrease high cholesterol and triglycerides — which are risk factors for heart disease (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Sesame seeds consist of 15% saturated fat, 41% polyunsaturated fat, and 39% monounsaturated fat (3Trusted Source).
Research indicates that eating more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat may help lower your cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
What’s more, sesame seeds contain two types of plant compounds — lignans and phytosterols — that may also have cholesterol-lowering effects (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
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 (13Trusted Source).
Sesame seeds may help reduce heart disease risk factors, including elevated triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
3. Nutritious Source of Plant Protein
Sesame seeds supply 5 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon (30-gram) serving (3Trusted Source).
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, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
On the other hand, sesame seeds are high in methionine and cysteine, two amino acids that legumes don’t provide in large amounts (14, 18Trusted Source).
Sesame seeds — particularly hulled ones — are a good source of protein, which is a necessary building block for your body.
4. May Help Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke (19Trusted Source).
Sesame seeds are high in magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure (20Trusted Source).
Additionally, lignans, vitamin E, and other antioxidants in sesame seeds may help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries, potentially maintaining healthy blood pressure (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
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 (23Trusted Source).
Sesame seeds are high in magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure. Additionally, their antioxidants may help prevent plaque buildup.
5. May Support Healthy Bones
Sesame seeds — both unhulled and hulled — are rich in several nutrients that boost bone health, though the calcium is mainly in the hull (3Trusted Source).
Three tablespoons (30 grams) of sesame seeds boast (3Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source):
Calcium22% of the RDI1% of the RDI
Magnesium25% of the RDI25% of the RDI
Manganese32% of the RDI19% of the RDI
Zinc21% of the RDI18% of the RDI
However, sesame seeds contain natural compounds called oxalates and phytates, antinutrients that reduce the absorption of these minerals (27Trusted Source).
To limit these compounds’ impact, try soaking, roasting, or sprouting the seeds (15, 28Trusted Source).
One study found that sprouting reduced phytate and oxalate concentration by about 50% in both hulled and unhulled sesame seeds (15).
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.
6. May Reduce Inflammation
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 (29Trusted Source).
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% (30Trusted Source).
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 (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).
This may be due to sesamin, a compound found in sesame seeds and their oil (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
Preliminary research suggests that sesame seeds and their oil may have anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Good Source of B Vitamins
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 (3Trusted Source):
Thiamine (B1)17% of the RDI19% of the RDI
Niacin (B3)11% of the RDI8% of the RDI
Vitamin B65% of the RDI14% of the RDI
B vitamins are essential for many bodily processes, including proper cell function and metabolism (36, 37, 38).
Sesame seeds are a good source of thiamine, niacin, and vitamin B6, which are necessary for proper cellular function and metabolism.
8. May Aid Blood Cell Formation
To make red blood cells, your body needs several nutrients — including ones found in sesame seeds.
Three tablespoons (30 grams) of sesame seeds give (3Trusted Source, 38, 39):
Iron24% of the RDI10% of the RDIAn essential component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your red blood cells
Copper136% of the RDI46% of the RDIHelps make hemoglobin
Vitamin B65% of the RDI14% of the RDIHelps make hemoglobin
Soaked, roasted, or sprouted sesame seeds may increase absorption of these minerals (15).
Sesame seeds supply iron, copper, and vitamin B6, which are needed for blood cell formation and function.
9. May Aid Blood Sugar Control
Sesame seeds are low in carbs while high in protein and healthy fats — all of which may support blood sugar control (3Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).
Additionally, these seeds contain pinoresinol, a compound that may help regulate blood sugar by inhibiting the action of the digestive enzyme maltase (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
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.
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.
10. Rich in Antioxidants
Animal and human studies suggest that consuming sesame seeds may increase the overall amount of antioxidant activity in your blood (23Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
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 (43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source).
Additionally, sesame seeds contain a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol, an antioxidant that may be especially protective against heart disease. (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
Plant compounds and vitamin E in sesame seeds function as antioxidants, which combat oxidative stress in your body.
11. May Support Your Immune System
Sesame seeds are a good source of several nutrients crucial for your immune system, including zinc, selenium, copper, iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin E (3Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source).
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 (3Trusted Source).
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.
12. May Soothe Arthritic Knee Pain
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 (49Trusted Source).
Sesamin, a compound in sesame seeds, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may protect your cartilage (50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source).
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 (49Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).
Sesamin, a compound in sesame seeds, may help reduce joint pain and support mobility in arthritis of the knee.
13. May Support Thyroid Health
Sesame seeds are a good source of selenium, supplying 18% of the RDI in both unhulled and hulled seeds (3Trusted Source).
Your thyroid gland contains the highest concentration of selenium of any organ in your body. This mineral plays a vital role in making thyroid hormones (53, 54Trusted Source).
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 (55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source, 57Trusted Source).
Sesame seeds are good sources of nutrients — such as selenium, iron, copper, zinc, and vitamin B6 — that support thyroid health.
14. May Aid Hormone Balance During Menopause
Sesame seeds contain phytoestrogens, plant compounds that are similar to the hormone estrogen (58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source).
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 (60Trusted Source).
What’s more, these compounds may decrease your risk of certain diseases — such as breast cancer — during menopause. However, further research is needed (46Trusted Source, 61Trusted Source).
Phytoestrogens are compounds found in sesame seeds that may benefit women who are undergoing menopause.
15. Easy to Add to Your Diet
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:
hot or cold cereal
granola and granola bars
bread and muffins
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 (62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source).
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.
The Bottom Line
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.