Are you looking for a healthy and nutritious evening snack? Then look no further than the delicious sunflower seeds. This nutty tasting seed with its firm yet tender texture will take care of your hunger, while providing you with a host of nutrients.
The sunflower is an herbaceous annual plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. The botanical name of this plant is Helianthus annuus. The plant is native to the Middle American region and its leading producers are Russia, China, the USA and Argentina. The beautiful sunflower produces gray to white conical shaped seeds with a smooth surface. Each sunflower head contains hundreds of edible oil seeds.
Nutritional Value of Sunflower Seeds:
These crunchy seeds are an excellent source of health benefitting nutrients like vitamin A, E and B1 and 6, folate and niacin. A 100 grams serving contains around 35.17 grams of vitamin E. They contain good amounts of copper, manganese, selenium, magnesium and phosphorus. It comes packed with essential fatty acids like polyunsaturated fatty acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of protein and amino acids that are essential for kid’s growth.
100 grams of this high-energy food provides 584 calories. Hence, the seeds should be enjoyed in moderation due to its high caloric content.
Benefits of Sunflower Seeds:
1. Rich in Healthy Fats:
The sunflower seeds have an extremely high oil content, making them one of the main sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Both these fats are excellent for the overall health.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits:
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E neutralizes the effects of free radicals, preventing the damage of fat containing structures and molecules. The anti-inflammatory properties reduce the symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
3. Lowers the Risk of Cancer:
Sunflower seeds enhance the immune response, thereby decreasing the risk of certain cancers. The vitamin E and high fiber content in sunflower seeds reduce the possibility of colon cancer. Selenium in sunflower seeds induces DNA repair and synthesis of damaged cells, inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells. It also induces the self-destruct sequence to eliminate the abnormal cells.
4. Inhibits Diabetes:
Sunflower seeds can decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes in women going through their menopause, thereby reducing the development of diabetic complications.
5. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases:
Sunflower seeds can also prevent the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown that people who consume a good amount of vitamin E are at a much lower risk of dying due to heart attack. Sunflower seeds reduce the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Vitamin E also prevents the free radicals from oxidizing the cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol adheres to the blood vessels and initiates the process of atherosclerosis, which can block the arteries, leading to heart attack and stroke.
6. Nervous Health:
Sunflower seeds are known to soothe nerves and ease stress and migraine. Magnesium in sunflower seeds counterbalance calcium, thereby regulating nerve and muscle tone. It prevents calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating it. This helps to keep the nerve relaxed. A deficiency in magnesium causes the nerve cells to become overactive, sending too many messages and causing excessive contraction.
7. Bone Health:
Sunflower seeds contain bone healthy minerals like calcium, copper and magnesium, which prevent bone mineral density loss. They also contain Vitamin E, which eases the arthritic pain. Copper found in sunflower seeds helps in the cross linking of collagen and elastin, which provides strength and flexibility in joints and bones.
8. Skin Health:
Regular consumption of sunflower seeds will add a glow to the skin. It combats the UV rays and keeps the skin youthful and beautiful. Copper in sunflower seeds is required to produce melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its color.
The nutrients present in sunflower seeds prevents scarring and appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. The essential fatty acids like palmitic, oleic and linoleic acid encourage the formation of collagen and elastic, making the skin soft and smooth.
Sunflower seeds are usually employed to extract the edible oil. Sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world. The leading commercial producers of sunflower seeds are the Russian Federation, France, China, Spain and Argentina. The oil is used mainly for cooking purposes.
Sunflower seeds are available throughout the year in the local market and grocery shop. They are sold either shelled or unshelled. They are available in prepackaged containers and bulk bins. While purchasing unshelled seeds, make sure they are not broken or dirty. The seeds should be firm and do not have a limp texture. Sunflower seeds are best stored in an airtight container or refrigerator as they are quite prone to rancidity. The cold temperature will not affect their texture or flavor.
How to Use:
Here are a few quick serving ideas of how sunflower seeds can be savored:
- Roasted and salted seeds are usually enjoyed as a healthy snack. They are also used as a garnish for the salads and pasta.
- Add sunflower seeds to your savory dishes or chicken, tuna and turkey salad. Sprinkle some into the bowl of hot and cold cereals. This will enhance its nutritive value.
- The seeds are added in cakes, muffins and candies. The flour made from the seeds is used in Germany to make dark bread called sonnenblumenbrot.
- Add sunflower seeds to your scrambled eggs to give a crunchy texture and taste to it. You can also use ground sunflower seeds to dust the meat.
- Sunflower butter, better known as Sunbutter, is the best alternative to peanut and milk butters.
- Sunflower seeds allergy is quite rare, but some people may suffer reactions like sneezing, gastritis, vomiting and itching of the eyes.
- Sunflower seeds contain a meager amount of oxalates or purines. Hence, people suffering from kidney disorders should avoid eating sunflower seeds.
- Do not eat the shells of the sunflower seeds as it can puncture the digestive tract, leading to stomach disorders.
|(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||51.46 g||172%|
|Dietary Fiber||8.6 g||23%|
|Pantothenic acid||1.130 mg||22%|
|Vitamin A||50 IU||1.6%|
|Vitamin E||35.17 mg||234%|
These nutty and crunchy sunflower seeds can become a popular part of your diet. There are endless possibilities to use them and thus enjoy the amazing benefits they offer. However, if you notice any health issues on consuming them, it is good to discuss with your physician. Feel free to share your feedback with us if any.