Having grown up in a household dominated by Middle Eastern cuisine, tahini is one of my very favourite things to eat. Back then, I didn’t know it was a health food – I just loved the taste.
To the uninitiated, tahini is a thick, stiff paste made from ground sesame seeds. It looks pretty unpromising in the jar – an unappetising, oily, beige-coloured sludge. But, trust me, this stuff is addictive.
Tahini has an intensely nutty taste and is very versatile – you can make it into an amazingly zingy dressing that livens up everything from a roasted sweet potato to grilled fish or meat; use it to make the Middle Eastern dips hummus or baba ganoush; or make something sweet with it.
These days, thanks to my eldest son’s tahini habit, we go through at least one jar of it every week. He eats it morning, noon and night and favours his very own concoction which he created one day when he fancied a dessert and couldn’t find one. He mixes tahini with honey, raw cacao powder, coconut oil and almond butter. This is a rough (and healthier) approximation of a chocolate-flavoured halva – a flaky, sesame-based Middle Eastern sweet that’s delicious but very high in refined sugar.
I use tahini mainly as a dressing/dip. I mix it with some water till it loosens up and add in loads of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a few grinds of Himalayan salt and then throw in some freshly chopped flat leaf parsley.
You can buy two main types of tahini: hulled and unhulled. Unhulled tahini, made from the whole sesame seed, is darker and nuttier and has its full nutritional value intact. Because of its high fat content, tahini is often seen as an unhealthy food choice…but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Here’s why we should all be eating more of it:
- Sesame keeps your bones and blood vessels strong – sesame seeds are very high in the essential minerals calcium, copper, and magnesium. A tablespoon of sesame seeds has 88mg of calcium, which can contribute to bone health.
- Tahini is 20% pure protein, so it’s a great post-workout snack when you need to retain muscle strength.
- Sesame aids in anaemia prevention – just one tablespoon has almost 2mg of iron. That’s nearly 15% of the recommended daily intake.
- Tahini is easy on your gut – whole sesame seeds can be hard to digest because the body has a hard time breaking down the hull on the outside of the seed. When the seeds are ground into tahini they have the opposite effect, so tahini is great for those with digestive issues.
- It makes hair shine and skin glow – tahini contains just about every type of vitamin B your body needs, which play a big part in healthy cell division and red blood cell health. B vitamins also contribute to immune health and nervous system health, all of which produces healthy skin and hair.
- Detoxes your body from the inside out – tahini is a great detoxifying agent for your liver. It’s high in healthy fats like omega-3, which work hard to keep your liver clean and functioning in tip-top shape.
There you have it: a nutritional powerhouse and delicious to boot. And if you’d like to see Max and I in action preparing tahini, check out our video.