Tahini offers a salty, creamy component to any dish and its health benefits are certainly something to brag about. Made into a paste from grounded sesame seeds, tahini is featured in many dishes as a sauce or dressing.
Sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium, an important mineral that helps maintain bone health and is a key player in muscle contraction. It is important to consume a diet rich in calcium from plants and dairy products as it may help to lower the risk of certain cancers, specifically breast and colon cancers.
Sesame seeds are also a rich source of lignans, a phytochemical classified as a plant-based phytoestrogen which may be protective against hormone-associated cancers such as breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Currently, the evidence is inconclusive on the extent of its protective actions and several studies have found conflicting results or no associations to lowering the risk of breast cancer specifically. Regardless of the inconclusiveness of these studies, consuming sesame seeds in all its forms is a great addition to a healthy diet.
Tahini also contains phytosterols, a plant form of cholesterol which competes with cholesterol for absorption and thus helps to lower overall the amount of cholesterol we absorb from our diets. Phytosterols are also being studied for their ability to inhibit tumor growth and initiate cell death among other anti-cancer properties. Although most of the studies to date involve animal models and cell cultures, incorporating foods that have high phytosterol content into our diets can add protection and support healthy cellular growth and repair.
Additionally, tahini contains several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, selenium, zinc, and copper, that each possesses their own beneficial properties. Both Vitamin E and Selenium are powerful antioxidants. Zinc is essential for our developing immune cells and for making DNA.
It’s best to refrigerate tahini once opened. It can go rancid on the shelf but will last a very long time in the fridge. Before using, try letting it warm up on the counter for ease of stirring, which will ensure the right consistency for recipes.
There are numerous ways to incorporate tahini into the diet, and each recipe is tastier than the next! Add a tablespoon of tahini to roughly a cup of chickpea or white bean puree to make hummus.