Dips or sauces made with nuts or seeds add a rich taste to the dish. Tahini is one such dip or paste made of ground sesame seeds and is quite popular in the Middle East. Tahini nutrition and benefits can be attributed to its primary ingredient — sesame seeds. Besides, the creamy condiment is rich in protein, fiber, polyphenols like lignans, and magnesium. These nutrients may help reduce cancer risk and improve brain and bone health. Moreover, tahini is also suitable for people with nut allergies.
In this article, we discuss further the health benefits of tahini, its nutrition facts, and its potential side effects. Keep reading.
In This Article
What Is Tahini?
Tahini is made from sesame seeds and is a staple in many cuisines worldwide. It is prepared by roasting sesame seeds and processing them into a crumbly paste in a food processor into a paste. Tahini is commonly used to make Baba ganoush (a roasted eggplant dip) and is mostly used in a vegan diet.
Tahini is bound to have many vitamins and minerals as it is made with sesame seeds. Take a look at its nutrient profile in the following section.
Tahini Nutrition Facts
100 g of tahini contain (1):
As stated, tahini is very high in fiber, protein, calories, and fat. So, is tahini good for you? If yes, what are its benefits? Keep reading to know.
Benefits Of Tahini
1. May Reduce Cancer Risk
Sesame, the primary ingredient of tahini, contains lignans (polyphenolic compounds) like sesamin, sesamol, sesaminol and sesamolin. These compounds are known to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Studies suggest that these lignans may prevent the rapid growth of cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death of such cells) and arresting the cell cycle. This, in turn, may help reduce the risk of lung, breast, prostate, colon, liver, cervical, blood, and skin cancers (2).
Sesame seeds also contain bioactive compounds like phytosterols, whose chemical structure is very similar to that of cholesterol. Hence, phytosterol-rich diets may help reduce cholesterol levels, enhance the immune response, and decrease the risk of certain cancers (3). Similarly, lignans have a similar structure to estrogen. Sesamin and sesamol can bind to estrogen receptors and potentially protect against hormone-related cancers (4).
2. May Relieve Arthritis Pain
Osteoarthritis, one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, is said to have affected 15% of the population. However, sesame may help relieve the painful symptoms of knee osteoarthritis (a condition where the cartilage in the knee degenerates).
Studies found that sesame intake (40g/day), along with standard drug therapy, had reduced the pain intensity in knee osteoarthritis patients (5). Hence, sesame may be a viable adjunctive therapy. In another study, sesame oil supplement was found to attenuate early joint pains in rats by preventing muscular oxidative stress (6).
3. May Promote Bone Health
Magnesium deficiency may cause osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones) by directly acting on bone cells. Besides, it may also weaken bones by affecting the activity of the parathyroid hormone (7). Consuming tahini, a good source of magnesium, may help improve magnesium levels in the body and enhance bone health.
In a study, women whose magnesium intake was more than 422 mg/day had a significantly higher bone mineral density of the hip and the whole body (8).
4. May Improve Brain Health
Sesame lignans are known to have neuroprotective effects. A study suggests that they suppress age-related cognitive decline in mice by reducing oxidative stress in the brain. Hence, long-term intake of lignan-rich tahini may help improve brain health and prevent cognitive decline (9). However, more studies are warranted to further understand this benefit.
Adding the nutrient-rich tahini to your diet is as simple as it can get. Here are a few ways to do it.
How To Add Tahini To Your Diet
To reap the maximum benefits, use tahini:
- As the main ingredient of hummus
- As a salad dressing
- As a dip
- In baked goods
Tahini is a tasty addition to your diet. However, it may cause side effects in some individuals. What are they? Keep reading to know.
Side Effects Of Tahini
1. Sesame Allergy
Individuals with sesame allergies may experience gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, and hives after consuming tahini (10). Severe reactions like palatal pruritus (itchy roof of the mouth), generalized erythema (skin redness), wheezing, and clinical shock may also occur due to hypersensitivity to sesame seeds. However, such reactions are usually mild at the initial stages. If promptly diagnosed, clinical progression of the symptoms can be prevented by eliminating the offending food from the diet (11).
2. May Cause Indigestion
Sally Stevens, a Registered Dietitian, says “Eating too much tahini can easily cause indigestion. If the intake of oil and protein is too much, they accumulate in the stomach and intestines, which increases the burden on the digestive system, especially in people with poor digestive functions.” However, these downsides are usually mild and subside within a day or two.
Tahini is a very high-calorie food. So, does it impact your weight loss goals? If yes, what measures should you take?
Is Tahini Good For Weight Loss?
Paula Doebrich, a Registered Dietician, says, “Tahini is a high-fat food and has about 90 calories per tablespoon. This does not make it a low-calorie food, so enjoy it mindfully if you are trying to lose weight. However, if enjoyed in moderation, it can be part of a weight loss diet.”
So, how much tahini can you eat daily? Holly Klamer, MS, RDN, says, “You should take only one tablespoon of tahini which is equal to 15 grams. It is full of minerals and vitamins, and helps in providing enough nutrients to our body.”
How does tahini compare with peanut butter? Which is healthier? Here is what a registered dietitian has to say.
Is Tahini Better Than Peanut Butter?
Holly Klamer says both peanut butter and tahini provide similar nutrients. Both are good sources of heart-healthy fats and minerals. While peanut butter is slightly higher in protein, tahini is richer in calcium and iron.
Tahini is a highly nutritious and calorific food made from the seeds of sesame. It is commonly used in making hummus and dips. However, there is limited research on the benefits of tahini, but a few studies have explored the benefits of isolated antioxidants and nutrients of sesame seed. Studies suggest that magnesium and polyphenols like lignans in sesame seeds are highly beneficial. Consuming lignans for the long term may help reduce cancer risk and suppress age-related cognitive decline. Besides, adequate intake of magnesium also improves bone mineral density. But individuals with sesame allergies may experience allergic reactions. Hence, practice caution.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is tahini healthier than hummus?
Tahini is the main ingredient in hummus and may not be a healthier choice when compared to hummus as tahini is a calorie-dense. However, when mixed with hummus, one can enjoy all the benefits.
Is tahini good for constipation?
No, tahini is not good for constipation. In people with chronic constipation, it may aggravate the condition and other related issues like gastrointestinal discomfort and bloating.
How long can tahini be kept in the fridge?
Once opened, tahini can be stored in the refrigerator for 6 months.
What can you mix with tahini?
Tahini can be mixed with garlic and olive oil and can be used as a dip. It goes well with eggplant, yogurt, and other middle eastern cuisines.
- Tahini may reduce cancer risk, relieve arthritis pain, improve bone health, and boost brain health.
- You can add tahini to your diet as a salad dressing, main ingredient of hummus, dip, or baked goodies.
- People with sesame allergies may experience gastrointestinal discomfort if they have tahini.
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- Anti-Inflammatory and Anticancer Properties of Bioactive Compounds from Sesamum indicum L.—A Review
- Value addition in sesame: A perspective on bioactive components for enhancing utility and profitability
- Tahini The Magical Condiment In-Depth Look at its Nutritional and Health Benefits
- Effects of sesame seed supplementation on clinical signs and symptoms in patients with knee osteoarthritis
- Daily sesame oil supplement attenuates joint pain by inhibiting muscular oxidative stress in osteoarthritis rat model
- Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions
- An update on magnesium and bone health
- Sesame Lignans Suppress Age-Related Cognitive Decline in Senescence-Accelerated Mice
- Impact of magnesium on bone health in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis
- Prevalence and Severity of Sesame Allergy in the United States
- Hypersensitivity to sesame seed