Tahini is a common ingredient in popular foods around the globe, including hummus, halva, and baba ghanoush.
Favored for its smooth texture and rich taste, it can be used as a dip, spread, salad dressing, or condiment.
It also boasts a long list of nutrients and several health benefits, making it a must-have for any kitchen pantry.
This article reviews the nutrition, benefits, uses, and downsides of tahini.
Tahini is a paste made from toasted and ground sesame seeds.
Considered a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, tahini is often featured in traditional Asian, Middle Eastern, and African dishes as well.
It’s an incredibly versatile ingredient and can be served as a dip, spread, or condiment.
It typically has a smooth texture similar to nut butter but a stronger, more savory taste that’s often described as bitter.
In addition to providing a wealth of nutrients, tahini has also been associated with several benefits, including improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and potential cancer-fighting effects.
Summary Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. It’s versatile, highly nutritious, and associated with numerous potential health benefits.
Tahini is relatively low in calories but high in fiber, protein, and an assortment of important vitamins and minerals.
One tablespoon (15 grams) of tahini contains the following nutrients (1):
Tahini is an especially good source of copper, a trace mineral essential for iron absorption, blood clot formation, and blood pressure (2).
Summary Tahini is rich in many nutrients, including protein, fiber, copper, selenium, and phosphorus.
Due to its impressive nutrient profile, tahini has been linked to a number of health benefits.
Sesame seeds, which are the main ingredient in tahini, have a powerful effect on heart health by decreasing risk factors, such as high blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
In one study, 50 people with osteoarthritis completed standard medication therapy for 2 months, either with or without the addition of 40 grams, or about 1.5 tablespoons, of sesame seeds daily.
By the end of the study, participants in the sesame-seed group had significant reductions in triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, compared with the control group (5).
According to a review of eight studies, sesame seeds may also reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers or a reading), which could help prevent heart disease and stroke (6).
As tahini is made from ground sesame seeds, these findings apply to the paste as well.
Though acute inflammation is an important part of your immune response, chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to conditions like cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders (7).
Some research suggests that sesame seeds could protect against inflammation.
In one study, consuming 40 grams of sesame seeds daily for 2 months effectively reduced levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a compound used to measure inflammation in people with osteoarthritis (5).
In another study, feeding sesame oil to mice lowered levels of several inflammatory markers after just three months (8).
Tahini contains sesamol, a natural compound in sesame seeds that is thought to have anticancer properties (9).
One test-tube study showed that sesamol blocked the growth and spread of liver cancer cells (10).
However, current research is limited to test-tube and animal studies evaluating the effects of one specific component of tahini.
More research is needed to understand how tahini may impact cancer in humans.
Summary Tahini and its components may help improve heart health, reduce inflammation, and prevent the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
Tahini is very versatile and can be enjoyed in various ways.
It’s often spread over toast or used as a dip for pita bread.
It can also be mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and spices to create a rich and creamy homemade salad dressing.
Alternatively, try using it to dip your favorite veggies, such as carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, or celery sticks, for a healthy snack.
Tahini can even bring a unique flavor to baked goods and desserts like banana bread, cookies, or cake to help tone down the sweetness and add a nutty taste.
Summary Tahini can be used as a spread, dip, or salad dressing. It can also be mixed into baked goods to add a unique nutty flavor.
Despite the many benefits associated with tahini, there are some downsides to consider.
Tahini is high in omega-6 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found primarily in vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, and corn oils (14).
Though your body needs omega-6 fatty acids, consuming a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids yet low in omega-3s may contribute to chronic inflammation (15).
Therefore, it’s important to keep your intake of omega-6 foods like tahini in moderation and round out your diet with plenty of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish.
Additionally, some people may be allergic to sesame seeds, which can potentially cause severe side effects like anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that can impair breathing (16).
If you suspect that you may have an allergy to sesame seeds, avoid eating tahini.
Summary Tahini is rich in omega-6 fatty acids and could cause an adverse reaction in those who are allergic to sesame seeds.
Tahini is made from toasted and ground sesame seeds.
It’s rich in important nutrients like fiber, protein, copper, phosphorus, and selenium and may reduce heart disease risk and inflammation.
What’s more, test-tube and animal studies suggest that sesame seeds may have anticancer properties.
Best of all, tahini is versatile and easy to use, which makes it a great addition to a healthy, well-rounded diet.