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12 Fascinating benefits and uses of basil seeds

They look similar to sesame seeds but are black. The type that you eat typically comes from sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum, which is the plant commonly used to season foods. For this reason, the seeds are typically referred to as sweet basil seeds. They also go by many other names, including sabja and tukmaria seeds.

  • 1 tablespoon (13 grams or 0.5 ounces) of basil seeds supplies 15% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for calcium and 10% of the RDI for magnesium and iron. Additionally, basil seeds could be an important source of iron and calcium for people who don’t eat meat or dairy products.
  • Basil seeds are high in fiber, particularly soluble fiber, including pectin. 

Here are some ways the fiber in basil seeds may benefit your health:

  • Helps you meet your fiber quota. Just 1 tablespoon (13 grams or 0.5 ounces) of basil seeds supplies 7 grams of fiber — 25% of the RDI. Only about 5% of Americans eat enough fiber.
  • May support gut health. Test-tube studies suggest that pectin has prebiotic benefits, meaning it may nourish and increase beneficial gut bacteria. This may include anti-inflammatory bacteria that support gut health.
  • May help you feel full. Pectin may delay stomach emptying and increase hormone levels that promote a sense of fullness. Still, it’s uncertain whether eating basil seeds to curb appetite is an effective weight loss strategy.
  • May aid blood sugar control. When people with type 2 diabetes ate 10 grams (3/4 tablespoon) of basil seeds in water after each meal for a month, their post-meal blood sugar was 17% lower than at the start of the study.
  • May improve cholesterol. Pectin may lower blood cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol absorption in your gut. People who ate 30 grams (7 teaspoons) of basil seeds daily for one month had an 8% drop in total cholesterol.
  • The fibrous, pectin-rich gum from basil seeds could be a valuable ingredient in the food industry, as it’s flavorless and can help thicken and stabilize mixtures. For example, it can stabilize ice cream and reduce the growth of unwanted ice crystals by 30–40% compared to standard ice cream formulations. Basil seed gum can also stabilize salad dressing, low-fat whipped cream, and jellies, as well as serve as a fat replacement in yogurt and mayonnaise. Home cooks can also use these seeds to thicken recipes like desserts, soups, and sauces.
  • Basil seeds are rich in plant compounds, including flavonoids and other polyphenols. Flavonoids are antioxidants, meaning they protect your cells from damage by free radicals. These plant compounds also have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Several observational studies link higher flavonoid intake to reduced heart disease risk. Additionally, in a test-tube study, basil seed extract killed harmful bacteria and triggered the death of cancer cells.
  • Fun and Fibrous Beverage Ingredient. Basil seeds have long been used in drinks in India and Southeast Asia. A popular cold beverage-like dessert in India is falooda, made with basil seeds, rose-flavored syrup, and milk. Some versions add ice cream, noodles, or fruit. The seeds make the drinks a bit chewy and add plenty of healthy fiber — something beverages typically lack.
  • Plant-based source of Omega-3 Fats. Basil seeds contain an average of 2.5 grams of fat per 1-tablespoon (13-gram or 0.5-ounce) serving. This varies based on the growing conditions. Of this fat, about half — 1,240 mg per tablespoon — is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat. There’s no RDI for ALA, but 1,100 mg or 1,600 mg per day for women and men, respectively, is considered an adequate intake of this essential fatty acid. Therefore, just one tablespoon of basil seeds could meet most — or even all — of your daily need for ALA. Your body primarily uses ALA to produce energy. It may also have anti-inflammatory benefits and reduce your risk of certain conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

How to consume: Soaking the Seeds

To soak basil seeds, add 8 ounces (237 ml or 1 cup) of water per 1 tablespoon (13 grams or 0.5 ounces) of basil seeds. Use more water if desired, as the seeds only absorb as much as needed. Using too little water may cause the seeds to clump as they hydrate. Let the seeds soak for about 15 minutes. As the seeds swell, they approximately triple in size. Additionally, the gel-like outer portion turns gray. The center of a soaked basil seed remains black. This part has a light crunch when you chew it — similar to tapioca. Strain the soaked basil seeds and add them to your recipe. If a recipe contains a lot of liquid, such as soup, pre-soaking is unnecessary.

Increase your intake of basil seeds slowly to give your gut time to adjust to the fiber. Note that the high vitamin K content of the seeds could interfere with blood-thinning drugs like warfarin.

Ways to Use Them

You can find recipes online that include basil seeds. Their bland flavor blends easily in dishes.

For example, you can use basil seeds in:

  • smoothies
  • milkshakes
  • lemonade and other drinks
  • soups
  • salad dressings
  • yogurt
  • pudding
  • hot cereal like oatmeal
  • whole-grain pancakes
  • whole-grain pasta dishes
  • bread and muffins

When using basil seeds in baked goods, you can grind them and use them to replace part of the flour rather than adding them soaked.

Alternately, you can use soaked basil seeds to replace eggs in baked goods. Use 1 tablespoon (13 grams or 0.5 ounces) of basil seeds soaked in 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces or 45 ml) of water to replace 1 egg.


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