The Health Benefits Of Tahini
If you’ve ever had hummus or baba ganoush you’re probably familiar with tahini. Tahini is a staple in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines and gives a light, nutty taste to both savory and sweet dishes. Aside from its delicious unique taste, tahini has a handful of health benefits. It’s packed with numerous vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. A perfect reason for it to be a staple in your pantry. Read on to find out all of the health benefits of tahini.
What is Tahini?
Tahini is a beige paste made from ground hulled sesame seeds. It typically has a creamy, smooth texture similar to a nut butter, yet thinner. It makes it perfect for drizzling! Tahini has a deeper flavor profile than most nut butters, but is complementary in both sweet and savory applications. It has a mild bitterness, which makes it perfect for pairing with tart fruits like lemon or pomegranate or balancing out sweet flavors like sweet potatoes, warm spice or sugary desserts.
Tahini has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions including Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Turkey and Israel for thousands of years. Further, it’s most popular use is as an ingredient in hummus and baba ghanoush. However, tahini is often enjoyed as a dip on its own, served alongside flatbread or pita, or in a sauce or salad dressing. Throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East, it’s also lauded as an ingredient in baked goods. Its use in carrot cake is actually what sparked Soom’s business plan!
What are the Health Benefits of Tahini?
Tahini is packed with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. It also contains plant-based protein which can help add to your total daily intake. In addition to providing numerous nutrients, tahini has also been associated with several benefits, including improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and potential cancer-fighting effects. Let’s take a closer look at some of the main health benefits of tahini.
One tablespoon of tahini contains:
- 90 calories
- 2.6 g protein
- 8 g fat
- 1.5 g fiber
- 64 mg calcium
- 1.3 mg iron
- 0.24 mg copper
- 14.2 mg magnesium
- 0.69 mg zinc
- 5.2 mcg selenium
Tahini is packed with healthy polyunsaturated fat. One tablespoon of tahini contains 61 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 3470 mg of omega-6 fatty acids. These types of fats are necessary to get from the food we eat as our body is unable to produce them itself. While tahini does contain omega-3 fatty acids, it contains quite a bit more omega-6 fatty acids.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important. However, most Americans are getting too much omega-6s in the form of ultra-processed vegetable oils like canola, soybean, sunflower, and safflower oil. It’s thought that Americans are getting a 12:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s, while the ideal daily ratio 4:1 ratio. It’s best to focus on getting omega-6s from whole food sources like tahini and other nuts and seeds while making an effort to include omega-3-rich foods like chia seeds, ground flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and salmon.
Excellent Source of Minerals
Tahini is rich in minerals like calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. These minerals are extremely important for optimal health. However, many people don’t consume enough of these minerals on a daily basis. Tahini is one of the best sources of plant-based calcium and iron, which can be hard to come by especially if eating a mostly plant-based or vegan diet.
Tahini is an excellent source of lignans, sesamin and sesamol. Lignans are antioxidant polyphenols that can help support the immune system and balance hormone levels. Tahini is also high in vitamin E, which functions as an antioxidant. This helps reduce oxidative stress in your body. Oxidative stress is cellular damage caused by free radicals. It’s thought that excess free radicals and oxidative stress are the root cause of inflammation and many chronic diseases.
Other Possible Health Benefits
- Lowers cholesterol (source)
- Helps to balance hormones
- Lower blood pressure (source)
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases (source)
- Promotes skin health (source)
- Prevents inflammation which leads to the development of chronic diseases (source)
- Aids bone health
How to Use Tahini
Tahini’s earthy taste lends it to both sweet and savory dishes. This makes it an incredibly versatile pantry staple. As mentioned before, the most common use for tahini is in hummus and baba ghanoush. However, there are endless ways to use this ingredient. Other savory ways include using it as a marinade or finisher for fish, meat, or vegetables, as a base of a salad dressing, as a spread on toast, or as a drizzle on top of roasted vegetables or grain bowls.
Tahini also tastes delicious in sweet dishes. It pairs well with tart fruits like lemon, pomegranate, as well as dates and figs. In desserts, tahini balances out the sweetness while giving a subtle nuttiness. It works well in cookies, banana bread, ice cream, or swirled on top of brownies. Tahini also pairs well with chocolate (what doesn’t?!), making it absolutely necessary to have a chocolate tahini option. Perfect for dipping strawberries, drizzling on top of pancakes or waffles, spreading on toast, or eating straight from the jar!
Honestly, tahini can pretty much be used as a replacement for any nut butter. This is especially great for schools, and kids or adults with peanut or tree nut allergies. That being said, it’s important to be aware there are sesame seed allergies. It is estimated that 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame seeds. It might be a good idea to let people know if you make and share a dish or dessert with tahini.
Tahini is an incredibly healthy addition to any diet. It is an excellent source of a variety of nutrients, healthy fats and antioxidants that are necessary for optimal health. In addition, there are numerous science-based health benefits including lowering cholesterol, reducing your risk of developing chronic diseases, and balancing hormones. Its earthy flavor lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes, making it an easy addition to sauces, dips, dressing or desserts. Tahini is such a nutrient-dense, flavorful seed butter, it deserves a spot as one of your pantry staples.