Black Sesame Seeds vs White: What’s Better? | Health Benefits


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White and Black sesame seeds in a round ying and yang bowl atop of a bamboo mat

Sesame seeds are an essential part of many cuisines across the globe. They can be seen atop hamburger buns, crackers, and bread. They are the critical ingredient for foods like hummus, tahini, halva, and sesame oil. Whether on the outside or the inside of your food, there is no disputing that they are an integral part of cooking. The tear-shaped seeds have a subtle mild, nutty, sweet flavor and many health benefits. 

No wonder they have made their way into modern cooking and become an essential ingredient in many diets. But when it comes to which is the best, which is better, black sesame seeds or white sesame seeds? 

Three brown spoons, one with black sesame seeds, one unhulled white sesame seeds, and white sesame seeds
The most common sesame seeds are black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, and unhulled sesame seeds. Image via Shutterstock

Sesame History 

The sesame plant, or sesamum indicum, likely originated in Asia or Eastern Africa thousands of years ago. It is known that ancient Egyptians used ground seed as grain flour, and around 5000 years ago in China, the seed oil was burned to make soot for writing ink. It was once thought to have magical properties and lends itself to the popular expression “open sesame” from the Arabian Nights tale of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”

Japanese traditional appetizers called goma ae that has sesame seeds on top  on a grey plate next to lemon slices and a pair of chopsticks
A typical Japanese appetizer, goma ae is a delicious and refreshing start to a meal! Image via Shutterstock

Sesame Seeds in Japan

When Japanese cuisine flavors are thought of, more often than not, it’s associated with soy sauces, miso, dashi, and yuzu. But just as important and sometimes overlooked is sesame flavoring. In Japan, sesame plays an essential role in meals.

The sesame seeds and oil is used in appetizers like goma ae – sesame salad, and main meals like stir fries and sushi. Traditional snacks that can be traced back hundreds of years also use them. Snacks like karinto and okaki were originally manufactured to replace the luxury of sugar. Even now, these treats are still enjoyed. 

They can also be found in furikake, which is a traditional form of Japanese seasoning.

In addition, Buddhist monks in Japan who follow the Shojin Ryori diet – a strict specialty diet that Buddhist monks follow created gomadofu. Gomadofu is made of ground sesame paste, water, and kudzu (arrowroot). This dish is often eaten at the beginning of a meal by Buddhist monks following a traditional vegan or vegetarian diet. 

White sesame seeds in a bowl on top of loose sesame seeds
Hulled white sesame seeds are the most common seeds used. Image via Shutterstock

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Sesame Seed Varieties 

Sesame seeds are usually categorized by their color, brown, black, tan, and white. Typically brown, black, and tan colored ones are unhulled varieties. White ones, more commonly seen on hamburgers, are the hulled varieties.

The main difference between the hulled and unhulled types is their physical appearance, also called the shell or husk. Unhulled seeds are prepared in their most natural state with their intact shell, whereas hulled seeds have their hulls removed, revealing the white inner part of the seed.  

The hull, as a standalone, contains more micronutrients overall. However, the flavor is slightly more bitter and, therefore, not preferred by everyone. Hence why most commonly, the white seeds can be seen adorned over pastries and bread. 

Seed pods surrounded by loose  white seeds.
Each sesame seed pod contains some 50 to 80 sesame seeds. Image via Shutterstock

Sesame Seed Benefits 

Overall, these seeds provide a myriad of benefits. They are rich in protein and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that they may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of high blood pressure due to calcium and magnesium. Other benefits lie in how they can lower blood sugar levels, the risk of inflammation, and increase bone health support. Their nutritional properties provide calcium, B vitamins, vitamin E, and antioxidants. It’s easy to see why these wonder seeds are sprinkled over many dishes in and out of Japan! 

Two wooden spoons were one has white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds

Black and white sesame seeds have great nutritional value and add to most diets. Image via Shutterstock

Black or White Sesame Seeds?

Distinguishing between black sesame seeds vs white through their differences is pretty difficult past the color comparison. The black sesame has more of a nutty and rustic taste compared to its white counterpart. This is mostly due to the hull removal process that the white sesame has undergone. 

The black sesame seeds have slightly higher nutritional value and benefits than the white ones. This again is due to the dehulling process where some micronutrients are kept. 

When it comes to figuring out which is better for you, it comes down to personal preference and availability!

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