Is there any macronutrient as important to the keto diet as fat? Without carbohydrates (your body’s main and preferred energy source) to rely on, fat is the macronutrient that keeps us going. Not only does it keep us feeling full and satisfied longer, but fat also helps to absorb the essential vitamins we need, as well as aids in hormone production. Enter sesame oil — a type of vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds that has quickly become a go-to for keto dieters everywhere. But, is it actually keto-friendly? More than that, is it healthy? Are there some brands that are better than others? Plus, how exactly can you use it in cooking? Here, we break down the nutritional composition of sesame oil. We will also figure out whether it’s keto-friendly, including its health benefits and uses in cooking.
What Is Sesame Oil?
Sesame oil is a vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds.
It is sometimes referred to as gingelly or til oil and is mainly used in cooking but has also been known to be used medicinally for centuries. It is an edible oil made by pressing the tiny, nutrient-packed sesame seeds of the Sesamum indicum plant (14).
Sesame oil has a nutty flavor and is widely used in many Asian cuisines, such as Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Thai cooking. It can be used to add flavor to dishes or used as a base for dressings or sauces. When heated, the oil becomes fragrant with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.
How Is Sesame Oil Made?
Sesame oil is made by pressing and grinding sesame seeds to extract the oil. Pressure or heat is often used to force the oil out of the seeds. The extracted oil is then filtered, clarified, and sometimes blended with other oils to enhance its flavor and texture.
In some cases, substances like citric acid may be added to preserve freshness and improve shelf life. Depending on the variety of sesame seeds used, the resulting oil can be amber to deep yellow in color, with a nutty flavor and aroma.
Cold pressing and heating each produce different types of sesame oil, which vary widely in taste, nutrition, and color. Cold-pressed sesame oil is less processed and has a more intense flavor than heat-extracted oil.
Heat-extracted oils are heated to higher temperatures during the extraction process, resulting in much lighter colors and milder flavors.
Regardless of which extraction method is used, cold-pressed or heated, the nutritional value of sesame oil remains high.
Is Sesame Oil Keto Compliant?
Yes, sesame oil is keto-compliant. It is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, making it a great addition to any keto diet plan.
The zero-carbohydrate content of sesame oil makes it an ideal choice for the keto diet since carbohydrates are severely restricted. As far as fat sources go, sesame oil is an excellent choice.
In fact, it is one of the most commonly used oils on the keto diet as it not only adds flavor to dishes but also provides essential fatty acids and other vital nutrients that are important for overall health.
The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that 1 tablespoon of sesame oil is composed of (11):
- Calories: 124 Kcal
- Protein: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Total fat: 14 g
- Fatty acids, total saturated: 1.99 g
- Fatty acids, total monounsaturated: 5.56 g
- Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated: 5.84 g
- Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): 0.196 mg
- Choline: 0.028 mg
- Vitamin K: 1.9 micrograms
Furthermore, sesame oil is rich in the following plant compounds:
- Sesamin, sesamol, and sesamolin – are lignans, a type of polyphenol that may provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits (2).
- Oleic acid, linoleic acid, and stearic acid – are types of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that may reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, and help promote heart health (4).
- Campesterol, stigmasterol, and beta-sitosterol – are phytoestrogens that may help reduce inflammation and protect against some chronic diseases (7).
How To Use Sesame Oil For Keto-Friendly Cooking?
Sesame oil is an excellent addition to any keto-friendly meal. Its rich, nutty flavor adds depth and complexity to dishes.
Below are some of the ways you can use sesame oil for keto-friendly dishes:
- Marinades and salad dressings – a combination of sesame oil and other flavorful ingredients, like soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers, make a delicious marinade or dressing.
- Roasting – add a few drops of sesame oil to your roasted vegetables for a nutty flavor.
- Soups and stews – add a few drops of sesame oil to your soup or stew for a rich flavor.
- Baked goods – sesame oil can be used in place of vegetable oils in some baked goods recipes. Note that for keto-friendly baked goods, alternative flours like almond and coconut flour should be used.
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Health Benefits Of Keto-Friendly Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is a great source of healthy fats and other nutrients that may provide numerous health benefits.
Research suggests that you stand to gain the following health benefits from consuming sesame oil:
Improved Heart Health
Plenty of research links unsaturated fat (including the types found in sesame oil) to improved heart health, including reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels, especially when they replace saturated fats in the diet (13).
Sesame oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for a healthy cardiovascular system. Additionally, sesame oil has lignans and phytoestrogens — compounds thought to reduce inflammation, which is one of the leading contributors to heart disease (8).
When used in place of oils that have saturated fat and trans fats, unsaturated fats like sesame oil may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. It doesn’t replace the need for other heart-healthy foods, but it can certainly be a great addition.
Improved Brain Health
Sesame oil may also benefit brain health. It contains sesamin, a lignan that is thought to help reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative damage in the brain. Additionally, sesamin may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (6).
Sesame oil is also abundant in antioxidants. Research suggests that these compounds may help reduce oxidative damage, which can lead to cellular damage and disease. They may also help reduce inflammation and protect against certain chronic diseases (12).
An antioxidant-rich diet is nature’s answer to diseases like cancer and diabetes, so adding sesame oil to your keto-friendly meals could be beneficial for your health (12).
Blood Sugar Control
The healthy fats in sesame oil may also benefit blood sugar control. Studies show that omega-6 fatty acids may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels (9). Additionally, the antioxidants in sesame oil may also help reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity (12).
May Relieve Arthritis Symptoms
Sesame oil may also help reduce inflammation associated with arthritis. Research suggests that the antioxidants, lignans, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in sesame oil may help reduce inflammation, joint pain, and stiffness (1).
May Heal Wounds And Burns
Consuming sesame oil isn’t the only way it can benefit your health. Research suggests that applying sesame oil topically may help heal wounds and burns quickly. It is said to contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compounds that help reduce inflammation and prevent infection (15).
May Improve Sleep Quality
Topical sesame oil may also help improve sleep quality. Studies suggest that applying sesame oil to the scalp before bedtime can induce a deeper, more restful sleep. It is said to be because of the calming and sedative properties of sesame oil (5).
Improved Hair Health
Using sesame oil topically on hair is also thought to improve hair health. It may help nourish the scalp, strengthen the roots, and even promote hair growth (10). The antioxidants in sesame oil may also help reduce inflammation and nourish the scalp.
Why Is Sesame Oil Bad For Keto Diet?
Although sesame oil is keto-friendly, it can be harmful if subjected to heat through high-temperature cooking methods like deep-frying.
Refined sesame oil has a high smoke point. But when subjected to high heat, less refined sesame oils can break down and become toxic. It shares this quality with other oils that have high levels of polyunsaturated fat.
Research has suggested that consuming high amounts of polyunsaturated fats through deep-frying can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer (3).
So while its carb and fat content make it keto-friendly, sesame oil should be used sparingly and mainly for cold dishes or ones cooked at low temperatures.
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If you need a keto-friendly oil for cooking, we recommend the following that are not only zero carbs but also have a high smoke point:
- Avocado oil – made by cold-pressing the flesh of ripe avocados
- Coconut oil – made from the meat of coconuts
- Olive oil – made from cold-pressed olives
- Sunflower oil – made by cold-pressing sunflower seeds
The Bottom Line
Sesame oil is a great addition to the keto diet if used correctly. It’s full of healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidants, which makes it a great oil to use for salad dressings and cold dishes. However, less refined sesame oils should be avoided when cooking at high temperatures as the fats can become toxic when subjected to heat.
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!
- Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects of Sesame Oil on Atherosclerosis: A Descriptive Literature Review (2017, nih.gov)
- Antioxidant lignans sesamin and sesamolin in sesame (Sesamum indicum L.): A comprehensive review and future prospects (2023, sciencedirect.com)
- Dietary Lipids and Cancer (2007, nih.gov)
- Effect of diets rich in oleic acid, stearic acid and linoleic acid on postprandial haemostatic factors in young healthy men (2001, pubmed.gov)
- Effects of Ayurvedic Oil-Dripping Treatment with Sesame Oil vs. with Warm Water on Sleep: A Randomized Single-Blinded Crossover Pilot Study (2016, nih.gov)
- Efficacy and Safety of Sesame Oil Cake Extract on Memory Function Improvement: A 12-Week, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study (2021, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits and Pharmacological Properties of Stigmasterol (2022, nih.gov)
- Health benefits of sesamin on cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors (2020, nih.gov)
- Omega-6 fatty acid biomarkers and incident type 2 diabetes: pooled analysis of individual-level data for 39 740 adults from 20 prospective cohort studies (2017, nih.gov)
- Sesame and Pumpkin Seed Oil are New Effective Topical Therapies for Alopecia Areata (2019, sapub.org)
- Sesame oil (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- The importance of antioxidants and place in today’s scientific and technological studies (2019, nih.gov)
- Types of Fat (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Value addition in sesame: A perspective on bioactive components for enhancing utility and profitability (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Wound healing activity of Sesamum indicum L seed and oil in rats (2008, niscpr.rec.in)