Tahini Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Tahini

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Many cooks know that tahini is a key ingredient in hummus, a popular dip eaten around the world, but some are unfamiliar with tahini itself. Tahini is a paste made from ground, toasted sesame seeds. The seed butter is a staple in many cuisines and has a distinctive nutty taste that is sometimes described as acidic or bitter. Since sesame seeds pack a lot of nutritional value into their very small size, tahini can also be a healthy addition to your diet.

Tahini Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one tablespoon (15g) of tahini. 

  • Calories: 89
  • Fat: 8g
  • Sodium: 17mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 1.4g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 2.6g

Carbs

Sesame seeds (which are used to make tahini) are a high-fiber food; each tablespoon of whole, dried seeds provides just over 1 gram of fiber. You'll benefit from about 1.5 grams of fiber when you consume a 1-tablespoon serving of tahini. That is 6% of the recommended daily intake for most adults. 

The remaining carbohydrate in tahini is starch. Starch is a good source of energy for the body. There are no sugars in tahini (unless sugars are added in the brand that you buy, but that is very unusual).

Because there is no sugar in tahini, its estimated glycemic load is zero. Glycemic load takes into account the serving size of a given food to estimate its impact on your blood sugar. It's considered to be more helpful than just using the glycemic index for people who are choosing foods based on their effects on blood glucose.

Fats

There are about 8 grams of fat in a tablespoon of tahini, made up of three types:

  • Polyunsaturated fat (3.5g): Most of the fat in tahini is polyunsaturated, which is considered a "good" fat. There are different kinds of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and tahini contains two of them: α-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Monounsaturated (3.04g): Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods and are also "good" fats that help develop and maintain healthy cells, boost the immune system, and promote healthy vision.
  • Saturated fat (1.1g): There is a small amount of saturated fat in tahini. Saturated fats raise your LDL cholesterol levels, so health experts generally advise limiting this type of fat.

Protein

There are almost 3 grams of protein in tahini if you consume just 1 tablespoon, so tahini is a good plant-based protein source.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tahini provides important micronutrients. However, because the serving size is usually small, the nutritional boost you get from consuming the seeds will only put a small dent in your total daily vitamin and mineral needs.

You will get 13% (0.2 milligrams) of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of thiamin if you consume a tablespoon of tahini and you follow a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet. Thiamin is a water-soluble B vitamin that the body needs to metabolize carbohydrate and branched-chain amino acids. It is also vital for neural function. Other vitamins and minerals in tahini include:

Health Benefits

Thanks to their fiber, micronutrients, healthy fats, and antioxidants, tahini and other sesame products (such as sesame oil) are celebrated for their healthfulness. 

Promotes Digestive Health

Some of the carbohydrate in tahini is fiber. Fiber not only supports overall digestive health, but also helps regulate blood cholesterol and increases satiety—the feeling of fullness after eating, which can help aid mindful eating practices.

Lowers Cholesterol

Along with fiber, the polyunsaturated fat in sesame seeds can help to lower your LDL cholesterol (sometimes called "bad cholesterol"), thereby helping to reduce your risk for heart disease.

Improves Heart Health

Along with lowering cholesterol, the omega-3 fatty acids found in sesame seeds may reduce the risk of an irregular heartbeat, slow the build of plaque in your arteries, and may even help to lower blood pressure. The omega-6 fatty acids in sesame seeds may also help to reduce blood pressure. 

Controls Blood Sugar

Those omega-6 fatty acids may also help to control blood sugar, which reduces the risk of diabetes. One small study also showed that when combined with anti-diabetic medication in people with diabetes, sesame oil (which is found in tahini) helped significantly reduce blood sugars.

Fights Oxidative Stress

A review of several studies of sesame products in people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes showed an increase in antioxidants in the body and a reduction in oxidative stress (damage from free radicals).

Allergies

Sesame allergies affect about 0.1% of the North American population, but exposure to sesame is a major cause of anaphylaxis in the Middle East. Although skin prick testing is available, food challenge is a better method of diagnosis.

Unfortunately, if you are allergic, it may be difficult to avoid products that contain sesame since sesame does not have to be disclosed as an ingredient in foods. However, tahini will always include sesame seeds. So if you know that you have a sesame allergy, you should always avoid tahini.

Symptoms of a sesame allergy may range from mild to severe and can include difficulty breathing, itchiness around the mouth, and other symptoms, up to and including anaphylaxis.

Adverse Effects

In animal studies, sesame seeds negatively interacted with the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, but this effect has not been seen in humans. People taking medications changed by the liver, antidiabetes medications, or medication for high blood pressure should be cautious when consuming sesame. Check with your health care provider if you are taking medication to be sure that consuming tahini or other sesame products is safe for you.

Varieties

Most tahini is made from white or light sesame seeds and is lighter in color (similar to the color of peanut butter), but you may also see black tahini. It's made from black sesame seeds and has a darker, more intense flavor. You'll also find seasoned tahini on some store shelves. As you might imagine, this type of tahini has seasonings added before packaging.

Usually, there are no other ingredients in tahini other than ground, hulled sesame seeds. Occasionally, oil is added for consistency, which affects nutritional value slightly.

Storage and Food Safety

Unopened tahini does not need to be refrigerated. However, once it is opened, many cooks store it in the refrigerator to prevent the oil from becoming rancid. Tahini will keep for several months when refrigerated. Before using tahini, you will need to stir the paste vigorously, as it naturally separates when left standing.

How to Prepare

Hummus is the most common way that many Americans use tahini. The seed paste provides a creamy, nutty flavor that makes hummus perfect for dipping vegetables, pita chips, and crackers. To make hummus, simply blend chickpeas with tahini, garlic, lemon, and a dash of salt.

But there are many other ways to use tahini that do not involve hummus. Tahini has a spreadable texture that makes it a great addition to sandwiches. In fact, some people use tahini like they use peanut butter. 

You can also use tahini to make baked goods (cookies and muffins), salad dressings, soups, and sauces.

Recipes

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