healthy sesame seeds

18 Facts About Sesame Seeds

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Sesame seeds are tiny, oval seeds that come from the sesame plant. They are commonly used as a topping on hamburger buns or in baked goods, but they also have a rich history and provide some impressive health benefits. Here are 18 interesting facts about these tiny nutritional powerhouses:


Sesame seeds originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Their rich, nutty flavor and abundance of oil quickly made them a staple crop across Asia and the Mediterranean. Today, sesame is one of the most popular seed crops in the world – and for good reason! Keep reading to learn more about their long history, culinary uses, and health impacts.

History and Origins

  • Sesame seeds are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, domesticated well over 5,000 years ago in the Indus Valley region (modern day India and Pakistan).
  • Sesame was brought to the United States in the 17th century by African slaves. It became an important commercial crop in the South.
  • The phrase “Open Sesame”, from the Arabian Nights tale of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, refers to the way sesame seeds burst open when they reach maturity.

Culinary Uses

Sesame seeds with wooden spoon
Sesame seeds with wooden spoon
  • Sesame oil is very popular in Asian cuisines, like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dishes. The oil has a high smoke point, making it good for stir-frying.
  • The seeds are used in a variety of baked goods, like bagels and breads. Their small size and nutty crunch make them the perfect topping.
  • Middle Eastern tahini paste and halva candy are both made from ground sesame seeds.
  • In Sicily, sesame seeds are used to make a sweet confection called giuggiuleni.

Nutrition and Health Benefits

  • Sesame seeds contain high amounts of protein, magnesium, copper, calcium, iron and zinc. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin B1 and dietary fiber.
  • Despite their tiny size, sesame seeds have one of the highest oil contents of any seed. The oil has antioxidant properties and contains two unique substances called sesamin and sesamolin.
  • Research shows that these two substances can improve blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. This may explain why sesame oil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
  • The lignans found in sesame seeds have been shown to prevent certain types of cancer tumors from developing.

Other Interesting Facts

  • The sesame plant grows quite tall, up to 6 feet, with beautiful white or purple flowers prior to developing seed pods.
  • Some varieties of sesame seeds are black, while others are yellow, brown or red. The most popular commercial type is beige or off-white.
  • Unhulled sesame seeds contain more calcium than milk by volume.
  • In some parts of the world, sesame seeds were once used as a form of currency.
  • During World War II, Japanese troops were given sesame bars to provide nutrition and quick energy.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sesame Seeds

How can sesame seeds benefit my heart health?

Regularly consuming sesame seeds may help reduce high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are risk factors for heart disease. The polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in sesame seeds, along with their plant compounds lignans and phytosterols, contribute to these heart-protective effects.

What are the nutritional benefits of sesame seeds?

Sesame seeds are a good source of fiber, protein, healthy fats, B vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. They also contain antioxidants that help fight oxidative stress in the body.

Can sesame seeds help with blood pressure control?

Yes, sesame seeds are high in magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure. The antioxidants in sesame seeds may also aid in preventing plaque buildup in the arteries, supporting healthy blood pressure levels.

Are sesame seeds beneficial for bone health?

Yes, sesame seeds contain nutrients essential for bone health, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc. However, the hull of the seeds contains most of the calcium, so it is recommended to soak, roast, or sprout the seeds to improve mineral absorption.

How can sesame seeds contribute to blood sugar control?

Sesame seeds are low in carbohydrates while being rich in protein and healthy fats. This nutrient profile can support blood sugar control. Additionally, sesame seeds contain a compound called pinoresinol that may help regulate blood sugar levels by inhibiting the action of the digestive enzyme maltase.


In conclusion, sesame seeds may be tiny, but they have had an enormous impact globally both culinarily and medicinally for thousands of years. Their rich, nutty flavor combined with substantial health benefits make them a pantry staple for good reason. So whether you’re making Asian stir-fry, Middle Eastern hummus, or Sicilian sweets, sesame seeds are a versatile ingredient that pack a serious nutritional punch.

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