Black sesame seeds are also known as black-colored sesame seeds, gingili, til or zi-er bu in Chinese. They come from a specific variety of the “Sesamum indicium” plant and have a mild nutty flavor with a hint of bitterness. They are also quite oily.
Black sesame seeds are used as a substitute for white sesame seeds because they retain their original flavor, texture, and aroma. They are also a great, gluten-free alternative for making flours. In Asian countries, products such as ice cream, pastries, macaroons, and noodles are often made with black sesame seed paste to give them an extra kick of flavor.
These days, however, it is possible to find products containing the whole black sesame seed too! For thousands of years, these little seeds have been an important part of not only Chinese culture but various other cultures all over Asia for their health benefits, use in cooking, and their ability to be used in so many different types of dishes.
In this article, we will be discussing black sesame seeds, their nutritional content, and their importance to our diet as well as how they can improve your health!
Black Sesame Seeds Nutrition Facts
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds contain 100 calories and the following nutrients (1):
- 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 Health Benefits
Black sesame seeds are rich in nutrients that support optimal health, and regularly eating them may have specific benefits.
May Help Reduce Oxidative Stress
People living with chronic disease often experience oxidative stress, which is damage to cells caused by free radicals. Research suggests that black sesame seeds may help reduce oxidative stress in the body. This is because they contain antioxidants such as B-sitosterol, which is a phytosterol that has been shown to help protect cells from free radicals. In fact, the antioxidant activity of black sesame seeds may be comparable to vitamin C (2)!
Promote Proper Thyroid Function
Black sesame seeds are a good source of dietary selenium, a trace mineral that supports proper thyroid function and helps prevent hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is problematic because it causes weight gain, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, hair loss and most commonly – depression! This study shows that participants with mild hyperthyroidism who took selenium supplements had their symptoms improve (4).
Encourage Heart Health
Black sesame seed phenolic extracts have been shown to prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation, thereby possibly reducing the risk for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, sesame seeds are high in fiber which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the bloodstream (2).
Both black and white sesame seeds contain magnesium, which plays a central role in heart health. Eating just one ounce of either kind of seed provides about 20% of the daily value for this important mineral that helps keep blood vessels healthy and lower the risk of heart disease (1).
It also supports general cardiovascular function and helps regulate blood pressure and prevent hypertension. Magnesium can even help muscles relax and reduce muscle cramps (2). The best part is that you don’t need to eat an entire 1-ounce or 30 gram serving size to get enough magnesium. Just eating a small amount each day is enough.
Nourish Your Skin From The Inside Out
Due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, black sesame seeds are known for helping maintain the health of your skin. Eating them regularly will help promote elasticity, protect against free radicals, and even have an anti-inflammatory effect (2)!
Black sesame seeds are also a good source of protein which helps build collagen in the skin (8). If you’re looking for naturally beautiful skin to show off then try including black sesame seeds into your diet – just half a cup gives you 35% of your daily value for calcium!
A 2008 study in Gastroenterology International says that black sesame seed oil has hypoallergenic properties and may improve gastrointestinal function (even preventing constipation!) It also suggests that consuming this oil can decrease swelling in the small intestines and help to stimulate the intestines.
Boost Your Energy Levels
Sesame seeds contain a good amount of thiamin, which contributes to energy production and cellular metabolism by helping transform food into glucose (i.e., fuel) for the body. If you need a little boost after your morning run or before heading off to work then consider snacking on black sesame seeds – one tablespoon has about 10% of your daily value for this essential B-vitamin (2)!
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Improve Brain Function And Mood
Black sesame seeds are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid with antidepressant properties that helps elevate mood naturally. They also contain significant amounts of vitamin B6, folate, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc – all of which are important to supporting brain health and function (9).
Boost Blood Sugar Regulation
Black sesame seeds are rich in fiber and protein, both of which are important for regulating blood sugar levels.
Their magnesium content also helps lower insulin resistance (i.e., when the body doesn’t respond properly to the hormone that regulates blood sugar) which is helpful for diabetics – especially type 2 diabetes sufferers who struggle with insulin resistance due to obesity or metabolic syndrome (3).
However, if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes (glucose intolerance), it’s important to talk with your doctor before consuming black sesame seeds on a regular basis because they can impact blood sugar levels.
Black sesame seeds contain cancer-fighting compounds like phytosterols, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, selenium and other minerals that act as chelating agents, binding to free radicals and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers (2). The best part is that you can get all these benefits without sacrificing flavor or texture.
Grow Stronger Bones
Black sesame seeds are rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc which are essential for maintaining strong teeth and bones. Black sesame seed oil is also used in some cases to treat osteoporosis. Consuming black sesame seeds may help prevent fractures by helping you absorb important bone-building nutrients more effectively (2).
Suffering from anxiety or depression? Black sesame seeds can help! Eating small amounts daily is known to reduce stress and instill feelings of well-being and joy. This effect occurs mostly due to the high levels of magnesium and thiamine found in black sesame seeds (9).
Note: When taken as a supplement, commercial grade black sesame seeds don’t contain this effect unless they’ve been de-hulled (the hulled form of black sesame seeds is known as hu hsi ko in Chinese).
Possible Side Effects Of Black Sesame Seeds
Though they’re generally fairly safe and easy to use, black sesame seeds can have adverse effects for those who have pre-existing medical conditions or low immune systems. Some examples include:
Eating too many black sesame seeds may cause hypoglycemic episodes in people who suffer from low blood sugar levels (5). Therefore, these people should probably avoid consuming these seeds on a regular basis until they talk with their doctor about it first.
Blood Clotting Issues
Consuming black sesame seeds may have adverse effects on people that are prone to blood clotting or have clotting disorders. Because of their high content of minerals like vitamin K, calcium, iron, and magnesium, black sesame seeds can increase the risk of blood clots forming in your system if you’re susceptible to this condition.
Contains Active Ingredient Used In Some Asthma Medications
People who use certain types of inhalers for treating asthma should avoid consuming large amounts of black sesame seeds because they contain cysteinyl leukotriene inhibitors – active ingredients used in some varieties of these medications. Check with your doctor before taking any medication containing cysteinyl leukotriene inhibitors when consuming a lot of black sesame seeds or other foods containing these ingredients.
If you’re prone to high cholesterol or heart disease, then consuming black sesame seeds may cause your levels of lipids in the blood to skyrocket , which can be harmful to your health. It’s best to speak with a doctor before using black sesame seeds as part of your diet if you have any pre-existing medical conditions like this one.
Seed Coating Containing Arsenic
According to studies, some types of seed coating applied on Chinese style produce like moringa seeds contain more than allowable amounts of arsenic – an element that is known for causing cancer after extended periods (more than five years) of exposure. Black sesame seeds are one of the types of foods that can contain these levels of arsenic, so it’s important to check all food labels before buying them (7).
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Because black sesame seeds contain a lot of copper , people with low stomach acid levels or trouble digesting copper-rich foods may experience adverse reactions after eating a lot of these tiny nutritional powerhouses. Some examples include (6):
- Stomach pain
- Slight dizziness
Food Allergy Reactions
As previously mentioned, if you have a food allergy or sensitivity to one or more of the ingredients found in black sesame seeds (or any other type of seed for that matter), then you should avoid consuming them on a regular basis.
Too many black sesame seeds may be harmful to your skin. If you have sensitive skin then avoid applying black sesame seed oil directly on it because it’s very likely that your skin will become irritated, dry, or break out in rashes (6).
How To Use Black Sesame Seeds
These seeds are incredibly versatile when it comes to culinary uses. Here are some of the most common uses of black sesame seeds:
As A Topping
These seeds can be sprinkled on salads, over stir-fries, noodles, veggies, rice dishes (like sushi), desserts, and even breakfast cereals. They’re also great when sprinkled onto yogurt or apple slices for an afternoon snack!
Black sesame seeds are commonly added to thicken sauces like teriyaki sauce. They’re also combined with soy sauce and garlic to make black bean sauce which is used in many Asian cuisines – especially Chinese cuisine. These ingredients can be drizzled with oil over cooked vegetables or steamed fish for a simple but flavorful meal anytime of the day!
As A Condiment
Black sesame seeds are unique in that they don’t need to be ground up before consumption. After heating them in water for around ten minutes, they’re ready to eat as-is! You can also sprinkle them on fresh meals like steamed fish or veggie dishes immediately before serving.
Black sesame seeds are wonderful in stir-fries and other Asian recipes!
As A Sweetener
If you suffer from diabetes, black sesame seeds aren’t the best choice because of their glycemic index. However, if you don’t have any pre-existing health conditions then black sesame seeds make an excellent natural sweetener that is more nutritious than artificial alternatives.
To process the seeds into powder form, just grind them up together with some salt using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until fine , about 5-10 minutes. The result should be a fine powder that is great for sweetening up dishes like porridge, fruit salad, yogurt, cocktails , oatmeal, pancakes , toast – even ice cream
As Tahini Paste
Once you’ve ground the seeds into powder form, it’s also possible to make them into a paste using some oil. The paste can be used as a great alternative to tahini sauce, which is typically made from sesame seeds.
Black seed oil is often used as a natural alternative to ordinary vegetable oil. It adds a deep, rich flavor that is wonderful for wok-fried dishes and it also contains high levels of antioxidants which help preserve the freshness and color of your food.
As A Skin Conditioner
Black sesame seeds can be mixed with olive or coconut oils and applied directly onto the skin to treat conditions like dry, cracked feet, minor burns, psoriasis, and eczema. Black sesame seed oil is also known to improve symptoms associated with acne when applied topically (8).
Note: The effectiveness of this treatment depends on the application method, type of condition being treated, symptoms, how long symptoms have been present, etc. Always consult an expert before trying this or any other home remedy.
As A Supplement
Black seed oil is often taken orally in capsule form as a supplement to improve immunity, aid digestion, boost energy levels and help with the symptoms of asthma. More research needs to be done on these effects before they can be recommended to anyone trying them.
Note: Be sure that your product contains 100% pure black sesame seed oil for maximum potency. You may also want to consider using whole roasted seeds instead of supplements because of their high nutrient density compared to processed oils.
What’s The Difference Between Black Sesame Seeds Vs. White Sesame Seeds?
The main difference between black and white sesame seeds comes down to their color. White sesame seeds are viable when they’re alone but turn brown after being roasted. On the other hand, black sesame seeds stay shiny and jet-black after being roasted because of their high content of melanin. They also have a distinct nutty flavor that’s more intense than just regular white or brown varieties. Additionally, it takes around ten minutes to roast black sesame seeds, while it only takes a few minutes to do the same with white ones.
The Bottom Line
Black sesame seeds offer a ton of benefits! They’re delicious when added to yogurt or salad dressings, helpful for heart health, good for brain function, potentially cancer-fighting – not to mention their incredible nutrient profile with significant amounts of calcium and iron. However, it’s important to consume them in moderation because too much of a good thing can be dangerous.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Black Sesame Seeds (2019, usda.gov)
- Identification of Nutritional Components in Black Sesame Determined by Widely Targeted Metabolomics and Traditional Chinese Medicines (2018, nih.gov)
- Intracellular magnesium and insulin resistance (2004, pubmed.gov)
- Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment (2017, nih.gov)
- SESAME: Overview, Side Effects, Precaution, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews (n.d., webmd.com)
- Sesame-allergy information (2006, manchester.ac.uk)
- The chemical composition and heavy metal content of sesame oil produced by different methods: A risk assessment study (2021, wiley.com)
- Value addition in sesame: A perspective on bioactive components for enhancing utility and profitability (2014, nih.gov)
- Vitamin and mineral supplementation for preventing dementia or delaying cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment (2018, nih.gov)