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You Ask, I Answer: Calcium in Sesame Seeds?

SesameSeedsI have come across conflicting information on sesame seeds as a good source of calcium.

Some websites (none written by nutritionists) claim they are, others claim they are not.  A few vegan websites I’ve been to [refer to] them as “calcium superstar” or a “calcium powerhouse”.

So, do you get calcium from these tasty seeds or not?

– Evan Raggio
(City Withheld)

You do, but not as much as some uninformed individuals may lead you to believe.

Describing sesame seeds as a “calcium powerhouse” is incorrect.  In the non-dairy world, that superlative is better suited to kale and mustard greens.

There are two important factors to keep in mind about calcium and sesame seeds.

Number one: unhulled sesame seeds (ones which contain the hull) contain more calcium than hulled sesame seeds (ones without the hull).

Whereas one tablespoon of unhulled sesame seeds delivers nine percent of the Daily Value of calcium, that same amount of hulled sesame seeds delivers four percent.

You may think, “alright, so I’ll just eat unhulled sesame seeds, and make tahini from them as well!”

Here’s the other issue — unhulled sesame seeds contain a large amount of oxalates.

Oxalates severely restrict calcium absorption.  Spinach is also very high in oxalates, which is why it is not a good source of calcium (I am flabbergasted by the amount of articles I have seen written by Registered Dietitians which tout spinach as an “excellent source of calcium” — it is NOT!).

So, while you do get some calcium from sesame seeds, they are certainly not a powerhouse or an “excellent source”.


One Comment

  1. doug said on August 21st, 2010

    Thanks for pointing out those more subtle considerations that many overlook. The nutrient content is not the only thing to consider, to your point, it’s what’s absorbed that matters in the end. It is amazing how so much information is not evidence-based but rather more like ‘nutritional urban myths’; repeated often enough they become ‘truth’.

    Watch out for sneaky oxalates!

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