Whether enjoyed as a snack or used in recipes, sunflower seeds are an excellent source of dietary minerals, protein, fiber, B Complex Vitamins and vitamin E. It’s no wonder that more and more people are using these delicious nutty seeds as supplements in their diets. Throughout this article, you will learn the benefits of incorporating sunflower seeds into your diet and see how you can get started taking advantage of this natural superfood.
Sunflower seeds contain essential dietary minerals including magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and zinc. 100 grams of dried whole sunflower seeds is equivalent to 584 calories which makes them perfect for snacking on throughout the day – just don’t eat too many of them. Half of a 100-gram serving is comprised of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are extremely good for you and have many health benefits.
10 Health Benefits of Eating Sunflower Seeds
The vitamin E and folate found in Sunflower Seeds are both essential nutrients that promote cardiovascular health. Folate plays an integral part in metabolizing homocysteine, a red flag for cardiovascular problems, into methionine which is an essential amino acid. Vitamin E is responsible for antioxidant functions. Balanced levels of vitamin E have been shown to lower overall risk of early death from cardiovascular disease. It also plays an important part in neutralizing free radicals in order to defend brain health and cell membranes against swelling and redness. With just a quarter cup serving of sunflower seeds you can get over 60% of the daily recommended amounts of vitamin E!
Tremendous source of magnesium
The high levels of magnesium found in sunflower seeds help support the healthy function of the cardiovascular, nervous and immune systems. Magnesium deficiency can cause a multitude of problems within these systems. One-quarter cup serving of sunflower seeds can provide you with 25% of your daily recommended magnesium and help keep your immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems fit and strong.
Promotes thyroid health
The rich amounts of selenium found in sunflower seeds helps aid in thyroid health. Recent studies have shown that selenium plays a critical role in thyroid hormone metabolism. Your thyroid gland regulates body temperature, heart rate and the rate of your metabolism. One of the keys to controlling your thyroid function naturally is to include more selenium in your diet.
Helps prevent cancer
The antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals found in sunflower seeds diminish oxidative stress from occurring in your body. Oxidative stress, when left unmanaged contributes to the development of cancer. Sunflower seeds possess chemopreventive compounds that shut down early stages of cancer and halt the growth of tumors. Vitamin E has been demonstrated in many studies as an effective preventive measure in warding off cancer. The selenium in sunflower seeds is also an extremely important antioxidant in preventing breast cancer in women. Whilst vitamin E has been shown to ward off prostate cancer in men.
Promotes healthy bones
Sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium which plays an important part in keeping the skeletal structure healthy and prevents conditions caused by loss of bone mineral density like osteoporosis. Those adhering to traditional western diets will often find that they are deficient in magnesium but by eating sunflower seeds daily you can ensure your body is getting sufficient amounts of magnesium.
Extremely good for your skin
Vitamin E is essential to maintaining youthful and healthy skin. Sunflower seeds provide an excellent source of vitamin E and lipids that ward off damage from sun and pollution and help keep your skin adequately hydrated. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which neutralizes the oxidant effect of free radicals which cause dryness, fine lines and wrinkles on your skin. By incorporating sunflower seeds into your diet you can give yourself a fantastic source of vitamin E that will work wonders on your skin.
The consumption of sunflower seeds has been proven to help balance cholesterol levels in the body. Recent studies show that sunflower seeds contain the highest amount of phytosterols out of all the nuts and seeds. Phytosterols play a vital role in keeping cholesterol levels in balance which is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular problems. The vitamin E in sunflower seeds helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol. When cholesterol becomes oxidized a process known as atherosclerosis can occur which results in blocked arteries and in some cases cardiac arrest.
Balances blood sugar levels
The nutrients found in sunflower seeds helps maintain the balance of blood sugar levels. As a result of our modern diets high in sugar, processed foods, refined grains and sweetened beverages our blood sugar levels often spike and fall. By incorporating sunflower seeds into your diet the nutrients will help keep your blood sugar levels balanced. The high levels of magnesium in sunflower seeds has also been shown to have a protective effect against type 2 diabetes.
Sunflower seeds are a great source of dietary fiber which means they can aid in digestion and greatly reduce your risk of digestion related problems. The daily recommendation of fiber is 30 grams per day, but most people barely manage to get even 15 grams per day. By including sunflower seeds in your diet you can more easily reach the recommended daily fiber intake and keep digestive problems at bay.
The body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant is vitamin E which travels through the body and neutralizes free radicals that would if left unchecked, damage cell membranes, brain cells and cholesterol. When vitamin E protects these cellular and molecular components it has an anti-inflammatory effect that aids in the reduction of symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The History of Sunflower Seeds
The sunflower was a common crop among American Indian tribes throughout the ages. It’s been suggested that the plant was cultivated by American Indians in present-day Arizona and New Mexico as far back as 3000BC. Some believe the sunflower was even domesticated before corn.
The sunflower has been used in a variety of different ways by American Indian tribes. The seeds were grounded into flour for cakes, mush or bread. Some tribes would mix the seed with other vegetables such as beans, squash and corn. The seed was also eaten as a snack due to it’s high-fat content.
5 interesting facts about sunflower seeds
- The Fibonacci sequence is almost always found in the spiral formation of seeds on a sunflower.
- Sunflower seeds are found in two different varieties; black and striped.
- A single sunflower can produce up 2000 seeds!
- The scientific name for Sunflower is ‘Helianthus’, Heilia meaning Sun and Anthus meaning flower.
- Striped sunflower seeds are used in making snacks whilst the black seeds are used to create oil.
Allergic reactions to sunflower seeds are extremely rare because they are not high in purines, oxalates, aflatoxins or any other substances that cause allergic reactions.
Because sunflower seeds are an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat, it’s important that you balance your omega-6 intake with omega-3s as well. It’s recommended that you consume about 1 ounce of sunflower seeds per day and get the rest of your fat intake from sources like walnuts, flaxseeds and coconut.
3 easy recipes to incorporate sunflower seeds into your diet
Easy Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter
- 3 cups hulled sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350F and spread sunflower seeds over a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast until the seeds turn a light gold and produce a nutty aroma – ideally 20 – 25 minutes. Keep an eye on seeds to ensure they don’t burn.
- Once toasted, pour into a food processor fitted with an “S” blade and start processing them. Initially, the seeds will be ground into a fine meal but after 4 – 5 minutes they should start to form a sticky clump.
- Keep processing the seeds until they reach a creamy consistency. Once the desired consistency is achieved, transfer the butter to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
- 2 cups rolled oats soaked overnight in fresh apple juice and drained.
- 1 cup buckwheat groats soaked overnight in fresh apple juice and drained.
- 1 cup shelled sunflower seeds previously soaked or sprouted for 1 day.
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 4 Tbs maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp or more fresh ground cinnamon
- Enough fresh fruit juice to create desired consistency
- Combine all ingredients excluding the raisins and sesame seeds (we will add these later). The mixture should form clumps, if it doesn’t you may need to add some fruit juice help things stick together. Spread the mixture on a dehydrator tray at 105 degrees for around six hours. When the mixture becomes dry and crunchy, add the raisins and sesame seeds and seal the mixture in an airtight container.
- You are now ready to enjoy your homemade granola as either a cereal or snack on the go!
Banana Sunflower Cookies
- 3 bananas, mashed
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat your oven to 350F and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Use an electric mixer in a large bowl to combine the banks, oil and sugar for 1 minute.
- In another bowl, mix the flour with sunflower seeds, baking powder and baking soda. Then add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and combine thoroughly.
- Chill the mixture in a refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Once the mixture has chilled, drop rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet leaving around 2” space between each cookie. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the edges have turned golden brown.
Sunflower seeds are a fantastic source of many important nutrients and minerals that keep us healthy. It’s incredibly easy to start incorporating sunflower seeds into your diet and reduce your risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease and a whole multiple of other health problems. With such a large variety of ways to incorporate sunflower seeds into your diet, it doesn’t make sense not to. Take the plunge and start including these healthy little seeds into your diet and reap the multiple benefits to your health today!