Are Sesame Seeds Harmful During Pregnancy? Safety Guide

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Sesame seeds are commonly used in Asian cuisine and are often found atop bread buns, tuna, and salads. They add a unique flavor, texture, and visual appearance. There’s also some misleading information online about them – so is this common ingredient safe to consume during pregnancy?

Overall, sesame seeds are safe to consume during pregnancy, as long as you are not allergic to sesame. In fact, they contain many essential nutrients including protein, fiber, and healthy fatty acids.

With its many uses and variations, there is much confusion over the safety of sesame seeds during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters. So, let’s dive into the facts about them and uncover the truth.

Are Sesame Seeds Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

Many pregnant women wonder if they can consume sesame seeds during their pregnancy. Overall, they are safe to consume while pregnant. 

These seeds are tasty and nutritious and even recommended during pregnancy (source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG]). Read on for more information on the nutritional content of these seeds below!

The amount of these seeds in food varies from just a few sprinkled on top of a bowl of rice or a sandwich bread bun to larger quantities in sesame-crusted foods, sesame dresses, tahini, and the sesame-based halva dessert. 

All quantities are safe to consume during pregnancy. However, tahini has its own specific safety considerations (related to food-borne illness, not the sesame content). Read more about tahini when pregnant here!

black and white sesame seeds in glass bowls

Are Sesame Seeds Harmful in Late or Early Pregnancy?

You may have heard that it is dangerous to eat sesame seeds during the first or third trimesters of your pregnancy. There is no scientific basis for this, so, fortunately, these seeds are safe to eat at any time during pregnancy.

As long as you monitor for any signs of a sesame allergy, they are safe to consume while pregnant. 

If you’re wondering about sesame oil, rather than the seeds, we have a guide to sesame oil while pregnant right here.

Are Black Sesame Seeds Safe for Pregnant Women? 

Black sesame seeds are known for their sharp contrast to white sesame seeds and are commonly used in Asian cuisine. 

The difference between black sesame and other colors is that the black seeds still contain the hull, while the different colors are just the kernel of the seed. 

The black sesame seeds are not only safe for pregnant women, they are even more nutritious! They contain greater amounts of vitamins and minerals than the kernel seeds have (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]). 

sesame seeds on american cheese on burger buns

What Are the Benefits of Sesame Seeds During Pregnancy? 

Sesame seeds have many nutritional benefits as they contain vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. Let’s discuss some of the key players! 

First of all, these seeds — much like any nut or seed — is a good protein source and rich in amino acids that help facilitate every chemical reaction in the body (source: MedlinePlus). Protein helps strengthen and build muscles, bones, skin, and more. 

While sesame seeds do not contain enough protein to replace meat, poultry, fish, or plant-based protein source, like tofu, adding a tablespoon or so of them is the perfect way to add a protein boost to your meal. 

Additionally, they contain lots of fat. However, they have a healthy type of fat called unsaturated fat. The two types of unsaturated fats in them are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. 

In comparison, saturated fat consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and heart attack (source: American Heart Association). 

Swapping out foods high in saturated fats (fried foods, for example) with unsaturated fat foods (such as sesame seeds), can help support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.

However, a serving of two tablespoons (approximately 16 grams) of white sesame seeds does contain about 1.5 grams of saturated fat (source: USDA). Therefore, do not have more than a few tablespoons of sesame seeds at a time, to ensure you do not consume excessive saturated fatty acids. 

Now let’s discuss some of the many beneficial vitamins and minerals in them.

They are rich in the mineral calcium that helps build the baby’s teeth and bones (source: ACOG). Therefore, they are an excellent calcium source if you have trouble digesting dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt

fresh tofu salad with sesame seeds

They are also rich in the mineral iron (source: USDA). While iron is essential for overall health at any time, it is especially crucial during pregnancy.

Iron helps facilitate healthy red blood cell functioning, blood production, oxygen transport through the blood, and more (source: University of California San Francisco). Iron deficiency is very common, including in the United States. 

It is recommended that you consume at least 18 milligrams of iron each day to help support a healthy pregnancy (source: American Pregnancy Association).

Sesame seeds contain about half of a milligram of iron in one tablespoon. This jumps up to over 1.3 milligrams of iron per tablespoon if you are consuming black sesame seeds (source: USDA). 

These seeds, and other plant sources, contain non-heme iron, which is less readily absorbed and utilized by the body compared to heme iron found in animal sources. 

Therefore, pair your non-heme iron source, such as sesame seeds, with a food rich in vitamin C to help the body absorb it more easily. Adding a vitamin C source can look like pairing your sesame seed-rich meal with a glass of orange juice, some bell peppers, Brussel sprouts, and more!

Finally, sesame seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber (source: USDA). Fiber is a crucial part of a healthy digestive system.

Fiber can help reduce uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues, including constipation and diarrhea (source: Mayo Clinic). Fiber also can have favorable impacts on improving cholesterol levels, decreasing blood sugars, supporting weight management or loss, and even promoting longevity! 

Overall, sesame seeds are a great addition to your pregnancy diet, as long as you do not have any sesame allergies. Consume a few tablespoons per day to reap the health benefits! I hope this article cleared up any confusion surrounding sesame consumption during pregnancy.