A staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and the perfect ingredient to drizzle on everything, tahini is the seed butter your pantry has been missing. Not only are there serious tahini health benefits, it’s a versatile condiment that can be used practically every which way.
Tahini is made from ground hulled sesame seeds. It’s used as a dip or as an ingredient in several Mediterranean dishes including hummus, halava, and baba ghanoush.
Look for a jar of unhulled, raw, and organic tahini at your local health food store, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, or online. You can even make a DIY tahini with hulled sesame seeds and a food processor.
Tahini Health Benefits
Like other nut and seed pastes, tahini is filled with a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, plant sterols, and healthy fats.
Sesame seeds are oily seeds; roughly 55 percent of the seed’s weight is oil. This oil is a healthy form of polyunsaturated fat, a type of fatty acid necessary for cell regeneration and supportive of heart health and lowered LDL cholesterol levels. Sesame seeds also contain saturated fat and monounsaturated fat.
The unique percentage of fat in sesame seeds has been shown to have antihypertensive properties. A 2006 study of adults with high blood pressure found that using sesame oil as the only form of dietary oil for 45 days was able to help significantly lower blood pressure, reduce weight and BMI, decrease lipid peroxidation, and increase status of key antioxidants including vitamin C, E, and beta carotene.
Sesame seeds contain copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B1. In fact, sesame seeds are one of the best sources of calcium in plant foods, a mineral essential for muscle and nerve function and bone health.
Sesame seeds are also one of the best plant sources of copper, which is needed for collagen production and healthy bone and tissue integrity.
The sesame seeds in tahini contain two beneficial types of lignans, sesamin and sesamolin, which are polyphenols found in plants. These lignans can be converted by bacteria in the gut to form mammalian lignans, which may have protective effects against hormone-related diseases such as breast cancer, according to a 2006 study.
Sesame seed’s lignanas promote heart health, too. Sesamin and sesamolin can also protect against acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and cardiovascular death, according to this 2011 study.
How To Use Tahini
Tahini is delicious with both sweet and savory dishes and is as versatile as almond butter or peanut butter in the kitchen.
Traditionally, tahini is used as a dipping sauce or garnish for bread, falafel, and pita. It’s also a staple ingredient in hummus and baba ghanoush for a nutty, rich flavor.
Don’t forget that tahini can be used for baking, making it an easy swap for peanut butter in cookies, quick breads, and brownies for a unique taste and soft texture.
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