1. It's better than peanut butter. Bold statement, we know. Tahini has the same creamy texture and nutty flavor as peanut butter, but it's safe to eat if you have nut allergies.
2. You can put it in just about anything. Add some water, lemon juice and olive oil to tahini for a simple dressing. Mix it into Greek yogurt, then top with fruit and muesli for added protein at breakfast. Or skip the mayo and swipe it on a sandwich: you'll keep the healthy fats but add loads more nutrition, says Joan Salge Blake, R.D., clinical associate professor at Boston University. "This will give you the same moistness you want and a little more nutritional boost per bite," she says. Tahini's versatility spans savory and sweet, so you can even add it to your next batch of brownies or cookies.
3. It's good for your heart. Your body needs the healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats in tahini, says Adina Fradkin, R.D., founder of Adina Fradkin Nutrition Consulting and advisor at Soom Foods. Sure, there are 19 grams of fat in one serving, but only 3 grams of that is the dreaded saturated kind. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, two types of polyunsaturated fats, are anti-inflammatory, so your serving of tahini could help curb inflammatory cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke.
4. It's really good for your heart. Tahini is a good source of potassium, a mineral that most Americans fall short on, says Salge Blake. Low potassium can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. It's recommended that adults get 4,700 mg of potassium a day, but most people are coming in somewhere between 2,400 mg to 3,200 mg, according to Salge Blake.
5. One serving packs a ton of fiber. Many Americans get, on average, only 15 of the recommended 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, according to Salge Blake. But just two tablespoons of tahini provides 4 grams of fiber, so add a tahini dressing to a bean salad and you'll hit 20 grams by lunch. Having a high-fiber diet can help you lose weight by keeping you feeling full for longer, and it may also fight colon cancer, keep your GI tract regular, lower cholesterol, and control blood sugar levels. (Here's more on how Fiber Is the New Fat Fighter.)
6. You'll build strong bones. Calcium can be hard to get in your diet, especially if you avoid dairy, but one serving of tahini has 4 percent of the daily calcium requirement—that's twice as much as a serving of peanut butter, says Fradkin. (See point #1.) "Calcium and phosphorous, another mineral found in the sesame paste, both help build bone material and optimize bone density," she adds. (Certain workouts can actually help build strong bones, too! Read: Why You Need to Do Moe HIIT.)
7. It's a great post-workout snack. Tahini is packed with 8 grams of protein per serving. "Most Americans bank a lot of their protein for dinner, but the key is to spread out the protein throughout the day," says Salge Blake. By doing so you feel fuller longer, and aid muscle protein synthesis, or the muscle building and recovery from exercise. Try tahini instead of peanut butter on toast or in a smoothie and you'll get twice as much protein.
8. There's only one ingredient. Check the nutrition label and you'll most likely see one ingredient: ground sesame seeds. Depending on the brand there may also be a little salt, but not enough to worry about, with only 50 mg total in most single servings. Tahini has no added sugars, preservatives, or chemicals that would give you an excuse to not eat it straight from the jar. Just don't eat the whole jar in one sitting. "It's a calorie-dense food, with about 200 calories in 2 tablespoons," says Fradkin. "So portion size is important."
9. You need more iron. This mineral can be difficult to get through food alone, especially if you don't eat meat. "Everyone needs iron in their diets to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body," says Fradkin. "Women particularly need adequate iron because blood is lost through menstruation, so a woman's body is constantly tasked with needing iron to rebuild those red blood cells." One serving of tahini has about the same amount of iron as a 3-ounce piece of red meat. "That's great news for vegetarians and vegans who need an iron-dense, non-animal source of iron," she adds. (More delicious Iron-Rich Foods That Aren't Red Meat.)
10. You'll get an extra boost of B vitamins. Tahini has a good mix of B vitamins, and most significantly thiamine. Most people get adequate amounts of B vitamins through diet alone, since it's well-absorbed by the body and fortified in common foods like bread and cereal, says Fradkin. Nonetheless, our body needs thiamine to metabolize fats and protein and to help convert carbohydrates into glucose, which the body uses to produce energy.