Black Sesame Seeds - The flavour bomb from Japan

It’s that certain flavour that keeps you going back for more. The Japanese coined the term ‘umami’, or a savoury note that is both comforting and satisfying. Meat, cheese, garlic and truffles are all examples of foods that have a natural ‘umami’ flavour. Yet black sesame seeds are a great little flavour bomb that's often overlooked.

Black sesame seeds share the same botanical name as white sesame seeds (sesamum indicum). Like white sesame seeds, they are a very healthy seed choice for a range of health conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners revere black sesame seeds with potent anti-aging properties. Other purported benefits include the promotion of hair growth and melanin (skin and hair pigment) production.

In Japan black sesame seeds or kura goma are very popular in many savoury dishes. One example is Furikake seasoning. This is a seasoning using traditional ingredients like ground fish flakes (bonito), black or white sesame seeds, sugar and salt. Black sesame seeds impart a stronger, more pronounced umami flavour. Contrary to what most people may think - black sesame seeds are not simply toasted white sesame seeds. They are completely different seeds with very different biochemical compounds. They also have some varying health benefits. Black sesame seeds have a range of healthy nutrients:

  • High polyunsaturated oil content
  • High Calcium, copper, iron
  • Good source of manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, zinc, selenium & vitamin E
  • Polyphenols - sesamol, sesamin & sesamolin
  • Lignans & phytosterols

A small wooden spoon of black sesame seeds

Black sesame seeds - free radical scavengers

A 2019 study by Nantarat et al. measured the free radical scavenging (antioxidant) activities of white and black sesame seeds. Categorically, black sesame seed by-products possessed higher inhibitory effects on inflammatory compounds compared to white sesame seeds. The authors concluded that black sesame seeds could be employed to protect against DNA damage. Black sesame seeds could htus be a generally useful preventative food in chronic diseases.

Black sesame seeds, Osteoporosis & Alzheimer’s

Sesamin which is very high in black sesame seeds was assessed for its ability to affect bone cell metabolism in a study from 2012. This study, published in the BioMed Central Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal, examined the osteoblast (bone-building) activity of sesamin and found promising results for osteoporosis patients. Sesamin increased osteoblastic cell activity in vitro. This activity was found both at a stem cell and differentiated cell level in the study results. Black sesame seeds may maintain bone integrity in populations suffering with osteoporosis.

Panzella et al. (2018) discovered that black sesame pigment possesses heavy metal-binding (chelating) activities. Black sesame pigment mimics gastric pH levels, which have a catalytic effect on the development of Alzheimer's disease. After black sesame digestion, there was over an 80% inhibition of acetylcholinesterase-induced amyloid plaque aggregation. In simple terms, even small amounts of black sesame seeds have the ability to interrupt beta-amyloid plaque formation in the brain. This plaque aggregation is a known primary cause of Alzeheimers disease.

A small wooden bowl of black sesame seeds

Black sesame seeds may protect against liver cancer & fatty liver disease

In lab studies, black sesame seeds showed potent antiproliferative and antioxidant activity. Phenolic sesame extracts were tested against HepG2 liver cells in a study published by Zhou et al. (2016). The results revealed that the anti-cancer effects of black sesame seeds were more potent compared to white sesame seeds. A mouse model from 2018 revealed encouraging results with regard to black sesame seed ethanol extract. This compound was assessed for its protective activity against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This condition usually develops as a complication from diabetes or glucose metabolism. Black sesame seed extract provided antiobesity and hepatoprotective effects against NAFLD. Reduced fat accumulation, improved insulin responses and glucose tolerance were all observed. Lower inflammatory markers, including TNF-alpha and 1L-6 were also established in this study. Finally, increases in glutathione, vitamin C and global antioxidant levels were also identified. This makes black sesame extract a promising and protective dietary inclusion for optimal liver health.

Comparison of sprouted white and black sesame seeds

A study published in Food Science and Biotechnology journal investigated the differences in germination properties of both black and white sesame seeds. They examined the phytochemical, amino acid, phenolic and antioxidant contents of each seed type. The authors established that sprouted black sesame seeds contained higher catechin and epicatechin content. Catechins (like those found in green tea) have anticancer and antimicrobial qualities. White sprouted seeds have higher sesamin & sesamolin composition. They also have higher protein composition (including arginine, tryptophan, leucine & alanine). Antioxidant levels were raised in both white and black sprouted sesame seeds. Both black and white sprouted sesame seeds may be a great functional food, according to these findings.

A fullscreen close up shots of black sesame seeds

Systematic review of sesame seeds

A systematic review of 7 clinical trials on sesame seeds found a positive correlation between sesame products and chronic disease outcomes. Systemic hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidaemia (dysregulated cholesterol) and type 2 diabetes were all improved from sesame seed consumption. Wichitsranoi et al. (2011) found that black sesame meal capsules were specifically useful in hypertensive patients. 30 participants with pre-hypertension were randomised into two groups. The test group consumed a 2.52g capsule of black sesame meal daily for 4 weeks. Cholesterol, blood pressure and malondialdehyde levels were all reduced, while vitamin E levels increased. Collectively these results show promising benefits for reducing blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. While these study sizes were small, the results for black sesame seeds are promising for an array of diseases.


Black Sesame Furikake Salmon 


Furikake (pron. fu-ree-kah-ke) is a savoury spice blend that's used as a seasoning in Japanese dishes. I recommend it on avocado toast, scrambled eggs, potatoes, rice, noods, fish, steamed vegetables - for a start! Best of all, it's so easy to make. You can recreate that authentic Japanese umami flavour at home with your homemade black sesame furikake. Black sesame furikake pairs perfectly with a heart-healthy fillet of wild salmon. Hope you enjoy it. 


  • 2 fillets of wild caught salmon, skin on
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame furikake seasoning (see recipe below)
  • 1 tablspoon olive oil


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Spread 1 tsp of mayonnaise on each of the salmon fillets (flesh side) then sprinkle with furikake seasoning.
  3. Place salmon fillets skin side down and reduce heat to medium.
  4. Cook salmon for 5 to 6 minutes, until just opaque and skin has turned crispy. 5. Turn salmon fillets onto furikake side and cook for a further minute or to your liking.
  5. Remove salmon and rest for a few minutes before serving with crushed potatoes, green salad or fluffy rice.

Quick Furikake


  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped nori (roasted seaweed)
  • 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. bonito flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 pinch salt


  1. Bash it all together in a small bowl or crush gently in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Adjust seasoning as desired and sprinkle on everything!
  3. Or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month

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Article References

References Alasalvar, C., Chang, S. K., Bolling, B., Oh, W. Y., & Shahidi, F. (2021). Specialty seeds: Nutrients, bioactives, bioavailability, and health benefits: A comprehensive review. Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety, 20(3), 2382–2427.

Gouveia, L., Cardoso, C. A., de Oliveira, G. M., Rosa, G., & Moreira, A. S. (2016). Effects of the Intake of Sesame Seeds (Sesamum indicum L.) and Derivatives on Oxidative Stress: A Systematic Review. Journal of medicinal food, 19(4), 337–345.

Ha, T. J., Lee, M. H., Seo, W. D., Baek, I. Y., Kang, J. E., & Lee, J. H. (2017). Changes occurring in nutritional components (phytochemicals and free amino acid) of raw and sprouted seeds of white and black sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) and screening of their antioxidant activities. Food science and biotechnology, 26(1), 71–78.

Nantarat, N., Nakagawa, K., Miyamoto, R., Chansakaow, S., Sirithunyalug, J., & Leelapornpisid, P. (2019). Free Radical Scavenging Capability of Various Defatted Sesame Seed Cakes and Hulls Using EPR Compared with In Vitro Testing and HPLC Analysis. Journal of oleo science, 68(12), 1279–1285.

Panzella, L., Eidenberger, T., & Napolitano, A. (2018). Anti-Amyloid Aggregation Activity of Black Sesame Pigment: Toward a Novel Alzheimer's Disease Preventive Agent. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(3), 676.

Wanachewin, O., Boonmaleerat, K., Pothacharoen, P., Reutrakul, V., & Kongtawelert, P. (2012). Sesamin stimulates osteoblast differentiation through p38 and ERK1/2 MAPK signaling pathways. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 12, 71.

Wang, D., Zhang, L., Huang, X., Wang, X., Yang, R., Mao, J., Wang, X., Wang, X., Zhang, Q., & Li, P. (2018). Identification of Nutritional Components in Black Sesame Determined by Widely Targeted Metabolomics and Traditional Chinese Medicines. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(5), 1180.

Wichitsranoi, J., Weerapreeyakul, N., Boonsiri, P., Settasatian, C., Settasatian, N., Komanasin, N., Sirijaichingkul, S., Teerajetgul, Y., Rangkadilok, N., & Leelayuwat, N. (2011). Antihypertensive and antioxidant effects of dietary black sesame meal in pre-hypertensive humans. Nutrition journal, 10, 82.

Yang, Y., Wang, J., Zhang, Y., Li, J., & Sun, W. (2018). Black Sesame Seeds Ethanol Extract Ameliorates Hepatic Lipid Accumulation, Oxidative Stress, and Insulin Resistance in Fructose-Induced Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 66(40), 10458–10469.

Zhou, L., Lin, X., Abbasi, A. M., & Zheng, B. (2016). Phytochemical Contents and Antioxidant and Antiproliferative Activities of Selected Black and White Sesame Seeds. BioMed research international, 2016, 8495630.

Wikipedia Contributors. (2021, June 10). Furikake. Retrieved from Wikipedia website: , viewed 24 June 2021