Basil is a tasty, pungent herb that teams brilliantly with tomatoes, but did you know that you can also eat the seeds?

Basil seeds are like black sesame seeds, and they usually come from the sweet basil plant, which is the type you commonly use to season foods. They are also known as sabja or tukmaria seeds, and they have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.

Read on to find out the benefits and uses of basil seeds, and why you should start introducing them into your diet.

1. Good Mineral Source

1 tablespoon of basil seeds gives 15% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of calcium, and 10% of magnesium and iron.

Calcium and magnesium are used by your body for bone health and muscle function, while iron is needed to produce red blood cells.

Many people don’t get enough calcium and magnesium through their diet alone, so eating basil seeds can help you reach the daily requirement, especially if you don’t eat meat or dairy products.

2. Full of Fiber

Basil seeds are high in fiber, especially soluble fiber. Just 1 tablespoon of basil seeds contains 7 grams of fiber, which is 25% of the RDI.

3. Could Support Gut Health

Test-tube studies suggest that the pectin (a soluble fiber) in basil seeds has prebiotic benefits which may sustain and increase good gut bacteria. This could include anti-inflammatory bacteria that support the digestive system.

4. May Help You Feel Fuller for Longer

Pectin may help delay the stomach emptying, and could also increase hormone levels that help you feel full, but it’s still uncertain whether eating basil seeds is effective in a weight-loss diet.

5. Could Regulate Blood Sugar

One study showed that when subjects with type 2 diabetes ate 10 grams of basil seeds in water after each meal for a month, their post-eating blood sugar was 17% lower than at the start of the study.

6. May Improve Cholesterol Levels

Pectin could lower blood cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol absorption in the gut. One study showed that those who ate 30 grams of basil seeds every day for a month had an 8% drop in total cholesterol.

7. Can be Used as A Flavorless Thickener and Stabilizer

The pectin-rich gum from basil seeds is being looked at to see if it can be a valuable ingredient in the food industry, as it creates a flavorless food thickener and stabilizer.

It can stabilize ice cream, and reduce the growth of unwanted ice crystals by 30-40%, compared to standard ice cream stabilizers. It can also be used to stabilize salad dressing, jellies, low-fat whipped cream, and serve as a fat replacement in yogurt and mayonnaise.

You can also use basil seeds at home to thicken soups, sauces, and desserts.

8. Full of Beneficial Plant Compounds

Basil seeds contain flavonoids and other polyphenols which can help protect your cells from damage by free radicals, as well as being anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic.

More research is needed on the potential of basil seeds in human studies.

9. Is a Fibrous Beverage Ingredient

A popular dessert-like beverage in India is called falooda, and is made with basil seeds, rose-flavored syrup, and milk. Other versions add ice cream, noodles, or fruit.

The seeds give a chewy consistency to the drinks, and also add a healthy dose of fiber.

10. Plant Source of Omega-3

Basil seeds contain around 2.5 grams of fat per tablespoon, and of this half is alpha-linoleic acid, which is an omega-3 fat.

Just one tablespoon of basil seeds could meet most of your daily need for this omega-3 fat, which could have anti-inflammatory benefits, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

11. An Alternative to Chia Seeds

Basil seeds are slightly larger than chia seeds, but they have a similar nutritional profile.

The main differences are that chia seeds contain more than twice the omega-3 fat of basil seeds, but they have less fiber.

Both seeds swell and create a gel when they are soaked, but basil seeds swell quicker and to a larger size than chia seeds. Each has a bland flavor, so they can be used in the same recipes. Chia seeds can also be eaten dry – sprinkled on a salad or yogurt – but basil seeds are not usually eaten dry as they are tough to chew.

12. Easy to Use

Basil seeds can be bought online or in Asian food stores. Search for seeds branded “edible”, as the seeds for planting are more expensive and may have been treated with pesticides.

To soak the seeds:

Add 1 cup of water per 1 tablespoon of basil seeds, but you can add more water if you like. Let the seeds soak for around 15 minutes, during which time they will swell around triple in size, and the outer portion of the seeds will turn gray.

Strain the seeds and add them to your recipe. If you are making a soup, you don’t need to pre-soak the seeds, as there is already plenty of liquid in there.

Use the soaked seeds in smoothies, milkshakes, soups, salad dressings, yogurt, pudding, oatmeal, pancakes, pasta dishes, bread, and muffins.