Tahini is a Middle Eastern condiment made from ground hulled sesame seeds. You can serve it alone as a dip; and it’s also a main ingredient in foods such as hummus. It’s frequently used in North African and Eastern Mediterranean cuisines. But, should you share it with your favorite canine companion?
Nutritionally, tahini has 592 calories per 100-gram serving. That might be a large serving but tahini is widely used in some dishes as a topping for fish, meat, and vegetables, as well as being an important ingredient in hummus. If you’re eating it alone, as a dip, then one tablespoon contains 89 calories.
Tahini is made up of 53 percent fat, 22 percent carbohydrates, and 17 percent protein. It is very high in thiamine and phosphorus. It also has plenty of zinc, niacin, iron, magnesium and folate, along with some other vitamins and minerals. It is low in sodium unless additional salt is added.
Tahini does provide some fiber but with the outer hull of the sesame seeds removed, it has less fiber than regular sesame seeds.
Studies have shown that sesame seeds and sesame oil have a natural chemical called sesamol that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging benefits. Other studies have found that it also has anti-cancer effects.
Sesame seeds have more phytosterols than other seeds and nuts. These plant compounds have been found to help lower cholesterol.
Many potential health benefits are claimed for tahini or sesame either through home remedies, folklore, or early studies but more research is required to prove them.
On the down side, some people are allergic to sesame seeds. Many people with allergies to tree nuts also seem to be allergic to sesame. Symptoms include:
- Itching or tingling mouth;
- Hives, eczema, itching skin;
- Swelling of lips, face, tongue, throat, or other body parts;
- Wheezing or stuffy nose;
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, feeling sick, or throwing up.
Anaphalactic shock is also possible with a severe allergic reaction. Call 911 immediately if you or someone else experience the following:
- Your throat tightens;
- You have a swollen throat of the feeling of a lump in your throat that makes it hard to breathe;
- Your blood pressure drops;
- You feel dizzy, light-headed, or seem to be losing consciousness.
Can you give your dog Tahini to eat?
Yes, it should be safe to give your dog some tahini, in small amounts. Keep in mind that tahini is high in fat and calories so a little goes a long way. If your dog is already overweight, you might want to find a treat or topper with fewer calories. Otherwise, it should be safe to give your dog 1-2 tablespoons of tahini. You can mix the tahini in with his normal dog food.
Adding sesame seeds to your dog’s food is less likely to be beneficial. Dogs are not good at digesting small seeds so they won’t get the same nutrition from them as they do from the toasted, ground hulled sesame seeds.
Likewise, hummus is not a good choice for your dog. The chickpeas in hummus may or may not be a problem but hummus is typically loaded with seasonings that can be problematic for dogs such as onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, extra salt, and other things.
There are some commercial dog foods that include ground sesame seeds in their ingredients for various reasons so some dogs may already be getting some of the benefits of sesame in their diets.
As long as the tahini you give your dog is the basic toasted ground hulled sesame seeds without other things added, it should be safe. Some dogs, like some people, can be allergic to sesame but it is not common.
If you would like to make your own tahini at home, it’s not difficult. You only need a couple of ingredients and a food processor. There are lots of sites online that describe what to do. We found these instructions on Inspiredtaste.net:
Toast the unhulled sesame seeds in a pot on the stove top. They are small and they burn easily so it only takes a few minutes for them to become lightly toasted.
When they cool, toss them into your food processor and process them until a crumbly paste starts to form.
Add 3-4 tablespoons of an unflavored oil such as avocado oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, or grapeseed oil.
Continue processing, with stops to scrape the sides and bottom of the container. The tahini should be ready and extra smooth.
You can add a little salt as you like.
You can find more information and storage directions at the link.
How much Tahini can your dog eat?
Since tahini is high in fat and calories, it’s best to limit the amount you give to your dog. The general rule is that you should not give your dog treats or “extras” that make up more than 10 percent of their daily food.
Tahini contains about 89 calories per tablespoon so if your dog is supposed to eat 890-900 calories per day, he could have one tablespoon of tahini per day. If you have a larger or more active dog that gets 1800 calories per day in his normal diet, he could get two tablespoons (178 calories) of tahini per day.
If you are trying to help your dog slim down, it’s probably a good idea to leave tahini out of his diet.
How often can you give your dog Tahini?
As long as your dog has no ill effects from eating tahini, you could give him a small amount every day. However, you should watch carefully for weight gain. If you notice that your dog is gaining weight (when it’s not desired), you may need to cut back on the tahini or add it to your dog’s food less often.
You should also watch for any signs that your dog has loose stools. It’s possible that the fat content in the tahini could be too rich for some dogs. For other dogs, it could help with constipation problems. If you notice any stool problems with your dog, adjust how much and how often you are giving him tahini.
Dogs and Tahini: conclusion
People have been eating tahini for hundreds or even thousands of years. It appears to have many possible health benefits not just for humans but also for dogs. The only thing you need to watch with your dog is the fat and calories. Given in moderation, many dogs should be able to safely enjoy tahini. Just watch your dog’s waistline!