Are sesame balls healthy?

Sesame balls, also known as jian dui, are a popular Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice flour rolled into a ball and coated with sesame seeds on the outside. They are often filled with sweet red bean paste, but can also be filled with savory fillings like meat or vegetables. Sesame balls are a traditional food eaten during Chinese New Year and other celebrations, but they are enjoyed year-round as a sweet treat or snack.

With their sweet taste and delicious filling, sesame balls can seem like an indulgent dessert. However, they are made from some healthy ingredients like rice flour, sesame seeds, and beans. Sesame balls provide nutrients like protein, fiber, iron, calcium, and antioxidants when prepared properly. But they can also be high in sugar, fat, and calories depending on how they are made and what fillings are used.

So are sesame balls ultimately a healthy or unhealthy food? Here is a detailed look at the nutritional value of sesame balls and whether they can be part of a balanced diet.

Nutritional content of sesame balls

The main nutritional contents of plain sesame balls made from rice flour and sesame seeds include:


Sesame balls are high in carbohydrates, with around 76g of total carbs in 100g of plain sesame balls. The rice flour provides most of the carbohydrate content. Sesame balls fillings like red bean paste add even more carbs. The carbohydrates are mainly in the form of starch rather than natural sugars.


There is about 6g of protein in 100g of plain sesame balls from the rice flour and sesame seeds. The protein content increases when sesame balls contain fillings like red bean paste or meat. Protein helps maintain muscle mass and gives you energy.


Plain sesame balls contain around 5g of fat per 100g, which comes mostly from the sesame seeds. Using oil to fry sesame balls increases the fat content further. However, sesame seeds contain mostly unsaturated fats, which are healthier than saturated fats.


Sesame balls provide around 1.5g of fiber in a 100g serving. The fiber comes from the sesame seeds and also the rice flour. Fiber promotes fullness and digestive health. Adding bean paste filling further increases the fiber content.


There are around 387 calories in 100g of plain fried sesame balls. The calories come mainly from carbs and fat. Sesame balls with filling will be higher in calories.

Vitamins and minerals

Sesame balls contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals like:

– Calcium: 137mg per 100g
– Iron: 2.7mg per 100g
– Magnesium: 37mg per 100g
– Phosphorus: 255mg per 100g
– Potassium: 117mg per 100g

The vitamins and minerals come mostly from the sesame seeds and rice flour. These provide important micronutrients to support health, although sesame balls are not a very rich source compared to some other foods.

Overall, plain sesame balls are high in carbs and calories, moderate in protein and fat, and low in fiber and micronutrients. The nutritional profile can vary significantly depending on the cooking method and added ingredients.

Potential health benefits

Despite their high calorie and carb content, sesame balls made from nutritious ingredients may provide some potential health benefits, including:

Heart health

Sesame seeds contain sesamin and sesamolin compounds that can help lower cholesterol levels, reducing heart disease risk. The fiber and potassium may also support heart health.

Cancer prevention

Sesame seeds contain antioxidants like lignans that can help protect against cancer by reducing oxidative stress and cell damage.

Bone strength

The calcium in sesame seeds helps maintain bone mineral density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Digestive health

The fiber in sesame balls can help promote regularity and improve gut health by supporting the beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

Blood sugar control

Despite their high carb content, sesame balls have a low glycemic index, meaning they do not spike blood sugar levels as much as many other sweets.

Nutrient intake

Sesame balls provide protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants when made with nutrient-dense ingredients. They can help meet daily nutrient needs as part of a varied diet.

So in moderation, sesame balls may have some protective effects on health and provide important nutrients. However, any benefits would depend on the specific ingredients and preparation method.

Potential health risks

There are also some potential downsides to eating too many sesame balls, including:

High in calories

The calorie content quickly adds up, especially if consuming large portions or multiple sesame balls. This can contribute to weight gain over time.

Blood sugar spikes

While individual sesame balls have a low glycemic index, eating many may spike blood sugar and insulin. This is risky for diabetics.

High in refined carbs

The white rice flour lacks nutrients and fiber compared to whole grains. Diets high in refined carbs are linked to health risks.

May contain hydrogenated oil

Some sesame balls are fried in hydrogenated vegetable oil high in trans fats, which can raise cholesterol levels.

Easy to overeat

Sesame balls are highly palatable, which can easily lead to overeating and poor portion control. It’s important not to consume too many in one sitting.

Often high in sugar

Sweet fillings like red bean paste and custards add a lot of sugar if using unhealthy recipes. Excessive sugar intake is tied to many diseases.

The high calorie, carb, and potential sugar content of sesame balls can contribute to weight gain, blood sugar issues, and poor diet quality if consumed in large amounts. Moderation is key.

Tips for eating healthy sesame balls

Tip Explanation
Choose whole grain flour Using whole wheat or brown rice flour adds more fiber and nutrients vs. white rice flour
Reduce added sugar Fillings like fruit or low sugar red bean paste cuts unnecessary sugar
Avoid frying Baking or steaming sesame balls reduces the fat and calorie content
Add nourishing fillings Fillings like black sesame paste, unsweetened peanut butter, or vegetables increase nutritional value
Practice portion control Stick to 1-2 sesame balls at a time to avoid overconsumption

Choosing healthier recipes and ingredients, and watching your portion sizes, can help keep sesame balls as part of a balanced diet.

Healthy sesame ball recipe ideas

Here are some ideas for healthier sesame ball recipes:

Baked sesame balls

– Whole wheat flour base
– Filling of pureed apples or crushed pineapple
– Baked instead of fried
– Lightly sweetened or unsweetened

Turmeric sesame balls

– Rice flour base mixed with turmeric powder
– Filling of chickpeas and minced vegetables
– Steamed instead of fried
– Savory and protein-rich

Strawberry chocolate sesame balls

– Brown rice flour base
– Filling of fresh strawberry puree and dark chocolate pieces
– Baked and lightly sweetened
– Contains antioxidants from fruit and chocolate

Peanut butter sesame balls

– Whole wheat flour base
– Filling of unsweetened peanut butter
– Steamed and topped with sesame seeds
– Great source of protein and fiber

There are many possibilities for giving sesame balls a nutrition boost with the right recipes and ingredients. Moderating your portion sizes is also key.

Sesame balls for children

Sesame balls can make a fun and tasty treat for kids in moderation. Here are some tips for making them healthier for children:

– Use whole grain flour in the recipe
– Avoid frying and opt for baking or steaming
– Fill with fruit purees or nut butters instead of red bean paste
– Avoid adding sugar in the filling or dough
– Stick to small bite-sized sesame balls
– Serve with fresh fruit or yogurt for balanced nutrition
– Limit to one serving or occasionally as a special treat

Supervise young children when eating sesame balls due to the choking risk of the sesame seeds. Introduce peanut or other nut butter filled sesame balls with caution if allergy risks.


Sesame balls can be an enjoyable food and part of a healthy diet when prepared properly. Plain sesame balls provide nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, they are also high in refined carbs, calories, and fat when fried. Consuming too many may increase risk of weight gain and blood sugar spikes. Choose whole grain flour, healthy fillings, and baking or steaming instead of frying. Practice portion control and consume sesame balls in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet in order to gain health benefits rather than risks. Sesame balls can also be modified to make a healthier treat for children. Making wise choices when enjoying traditional sesame balls allows you to gain their great taste while minimizing potential downsides.

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