Like the better-known white sesame seeds commonly used in Western cuisine, black sesame seeds are mineral-rich seeds from the sesame plant that originate in India. These black seeds tend to be more flavorful and aromatic than the white seeds, and they are valued for containing between 40 and 60 percent oil per seed. As with all sesame seeds, they are tolerant of droughts (sesame plants are regarded as “survivor crops” since they can survive extremely testing and deprived conditions), and are considered among the oldest oilseed crops ever harvested by mankind. They have a very long shelf life, and are resistant to rancidity.
High levels of protein – Two tablespoons of black sesame seeds contain approximately three grams of natural plant protein, which is 60 percent more protein than their hulled equivalents. Protein is necessary for the growth and repair of muscles, the creation of antibodies, and the smooth functioning of our metabolism and digestive system. The seeds are also high in amino acids, which play important roles in stabilizing the metabolism and building blocks of proteins.
Rich in antioxidants – Black sesame seeds contain a large number of natural antioxidants such as sesamin, sesamol, and sesamolin. Antioxidants contain anti-aging properties and are well-known for combating free radicals in our bodies, thus reducing our risk of cancer. While non-hulled white sesame seeds also contain respectable levels of antioxidant activity, a study published in Food Chemistry in 2006 found that non-hulled black seeds contained the highest levels.
Good source of calcium – Black sesame seeds are high in calcium (35 percent of our recommended daily intake per cup), meaning that sufferers of osteoporosis and other bone diseases will greatly benefit from consuming them on a regular basis.
Produce a healthy oil – Sesame oil is among the stablest of all vegetable oils and is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, a family of healthy unsaturated fats. Along with sunflower oil, sesame oil can be used for the ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling.
Impressive mineral content – One hundred grams of black sesame seeds also contains approximately 60 percent of our RDI of iron, 97 percent of our RDI of magnesium, 111 percent of our RDI of phosphorous, 9 percent of our RDI of potassium, and 75 percent of our RDI of zinc. The seeds’ magnesium content is significant, since magnesium deficiencies (which can lead to fatigue and weakness) are one of the commonest nutritional deficiencies in the Western world.
Though black sesame seeds are an excellent raw snack, they do have their place in the kitchen. Indeed, due to their rich nutty flavor, the seeds are a staple in baked goods (especially in breads such as bagels and hamburger buns). They are also commonly scattered atop pieces of sushi and various baked snacks and salads in Japan. In their native India, black sesame seeds are the principal ingredient of sesame seed balls and several ground powders, and sesame oil is used in many curries and curry-like dishes across East Asia.
About the Author
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world’s healthiest foods.