Sunflowers have abundant health benefits that ensure a healthy life in the long run. You can reap the health benefits of sunflowers in two different ways; one way is from sunflower seeds and the other is from sunflower oil. Sunflower seeds improve digestion, brain power, and the functioning of the cardiovascular system; it is rich in magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc and iron. On the other hand, sunflower oil prevents heart diseases and is a great skin moisture retainer.
The beautiful sunflower plant, with its bright yellow petals is a great treat to the eyes. These petals have a seed-studded center, while the grayish-green seeds are encased in tear drop-shaped gray or black shells with black and white stripes. These seeds have a high oil content and have been one of the primary sources used to acquire polyunsaturated oil. The sunflower seeds with shells have a mild nutty taste and a tender texture.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are very low in cholesterol and sodium, thereby protect your heart. These seeds are a good source of vitamin B6, thiamin, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, manganese and selenium, and are rich in vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol). To keep your daily nutrition upright, you should opt for these seeds. Sunflower seeds are also very good for your digestion and brain health.
Prevents cellular damage
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, which is a vital component of your day-to-day nutritional needs. These seeds are great antioxidants that stop the extensive spread of free radicals within the human body. These free radicals can lead to a variety of cellular damage and diseases. Rich, natural sources of vitamin E are rare, but sunflower seeds are rich in this vitamin, which aids in the proper functioning of the circulatory system. Vitamin E also helps the blood to clot readily when you experience external wounds, thereby helping speed up the healing process. Sunflower seeds also help to lower the risk of cardiac diseases and diabetes. The selenium present in sunflower seeds repairs cellular damage and eliminates the spread of cancerous cells.
Sunflower seeds have a large amount of dietary fiber. If your body is deficient of fiber, you may experience a host of health problems like constipation, piles, hemorrhoids, colon cancer and many others. Severe digestive problems can even increase toxicity within your intestines. The recommended amount of fiber is around 30 grams per day for an adult. However, it has been noted in surveys that most people fail to consume even 15 grams per day. By including sunflower seeds in your diet, you can easily get a rich supply of the dietary fiber and reduce the possibility of digestion-related problems.
Increases Energy Levels
Most athletes enjoy eating sunflower seeds, as these seeds offer high amounts of protein and carbohydrates. These seeds aid the liver’s discharge of glycogen into the bloodstream. Glycogen is a form of sugar; thereby providing an extra boost of quick energy.
Strengthens Bones and Muscles
The iron in sunflower seeds distributes oxygen to your muscles, while zinc strengthens your immune system and helps you to avoid coughs and cold. Magnesium is also essential for strong bones and energy production. Almost 2/3 of the magnesium in the human body is stored in the bones. Magnesium aids the bones in their physical structure and strength, while the remaining magnesium is found on the surface of the bones, which is used up by the body as required. The high magnesium content in sunflower seeds lowers your blood pressure; thus reducing the possibility of a heart attack or stroke.
Improves Brain Health
It has been proven in several studies that sunflower seeds can actually have a calming effect on your brain. This property of sunflower seeds is due to the high content of tryptophan present within the seeds. When you have foods containing tryptophan, it efficiently increases your brain’s fabrication of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter. Serotonin also effectively reduces tension, thereby creating a relaxed feeling. The choline content in these seeds plays a vital role in memory and vision functions.
Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases
Sunflower seeds have high amounts of betaine, which effectively protects against cardiovascular diseases. Moreover the presence of arginine in these seeds is also responsible for a healthy heart. The lignans keeps blood cholesterol at appropriate levels, thus preventing heart attacks and atherosclerosis.
Helpful During Pregnancy
Sunflower seeds are abundant in folate content, also known as folic acid, which is a type of vitamin B. Folate is very good for pregnancy, as it helps in the production of new cells in the body, thereby promoting the replication of DNA and RNA, which is very significant for the growth and development of the fetus. It works in association with vitamin B-12 to form hemoglobin in the red blood cells. By having enough folate in your body, you also lower the chances of heart ailments.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is probably most commonly heard whenever we discuss frying or cooking. It is a non-volatile oil produced from sunflower seeds. The most common use of sunflower oil is in frying oil, as well as in cosmetic formulations like lip balms and skin creams as a soothing agent. Whenever we hear about someone having a heart attack, the first thought is that the person should exercise regularly and use sunflower oil brand for cooking. Various health awareness programs have spread the useful information that sunflower oil is the best option to keep your heart healthy even after consuming fried foods.
The health benefits of sunflower oil are almost same as that of sunflower seeds, since the origin of sunflower oil is from the parent seeds. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats present in sunflower oil provide energy and also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Like the seeds, sunflower oil also has choline and phenolic acid that prevent heart diseases.
It is believed that sunflower oil also has an important role to play in skin care. Some people use sunflower oil for massaging premature infants having low birth weight or other complications. It is claimed that this efficiently lowers the chances of developing skin infections. Since their organs (including their skin) are in an underdeveloped stage, this oil acts as a protective barrier. However, sufficient scientific literature is not available on this benefit of sunflower oil.
Like the sunflower seed, sunflower oil is also rich in vitamin E. Thus, being an antioxidant, it counterbalances cancer-causing free radicals. Vitamin E also prevents asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and colon cancer. While the magnesium content prevents muscle cramps, Tryptophan helps in relaxing the brain and can cure insomnia. Sunflower oil also has palmitic acid (used in anti-psychotic medicines), stearic acid, lecithin, tocopherols, carotenoids and selenium. This oil is also rich in proteins, copper, iron, zinc, calcium, and omega-6 fatty acids.
In today’s fast-paced lifestyle and chronic levels of stress, along with commonly tedious professional lives, we hardly have time to check and consume nutritious foods, but by using sunflower oil in our kitchens we can at least improve the quality of cooking. A fatty diet, fast food, and a lack of exercise have the possibility of resulting in obesity. The generational trend is moving fast towards foods and meals with unhealthy ingredients that can have a lasting impact on your health. Many of these foods don’t provide any protein, vitamins, or essential nutrients. By incorporating sunflower oil in your diet, you can lead a healthy life by reaping its ultimate benefits, as discussed above. The majority of restaurants and food manufacturers are well aware of the health benefits of the sunflower oil; whether they use it or not is their choice.
The versatility of this oil has prompted its usage to a wide extent. Sunflower oil can be used in extremely high cooking temperatures and keeps the food fresh and healthy for a much longer time. Sunflower seeds also enrich your food’s flavor. They can be sprinkled over salads, cereals, and soups, used on desserts, or simply as snacks and also mixed with vegetables. To savor a tasty, healthy, and quick energy-giving snack, add sunflower seeds to any of your recipes.
Origins of Sunflower Seeds and Sunflower Oil
Sunflowers are believed to have originated in Mexico and Peru. In the United States, sunflowers are known to have been cultivated during ancient times. The Native Americans used sunflowers for more than 5,000 years. They not only used the seeds as a premium food and an oil source, but also utilized the flowers, roots, and stems for different purposes such as for dye pigment. Sunflowers were introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers. They were first grown in Spain and then subsequently introduced to other neighboring countries. Currently, sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world. Today, the major commercial markets of sunflowers include Russia, Spain, Argentina, France, Peru, and China.
Cultures all around the world have been enjoying sunflower seeds for generations. You can eat the seeds raw, roasted, or use them for flavor and texture in your selected recipes. Today, most people prefer taking sunflower seeds as a healthy snack between meals. These seeds provide ample energy in an easy way. However, many people are unacquainted with the health benefits of eating sunflower seeds. These seeds are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients.
You are probably familiar with the refined cooking oil used in majority kitchens, which is actually composed of sunflower oil. The health improving, natural sunflower oil comes from the oily type of sunflower seeds. This oil is light both in taste and appearance. Sunflower oil supplies more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil available on the market. Sunflower oil is a mixture of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It prevents many diseases like heart problems, obesity, and indigestion as it has low saturated fat levels. Sunflowers are known to be the most versatile vegetable oil, as you can cook nearly any recipe with this oil. Renowned cooks all over the world prefer this oil for its frying performance, light taste, and associated health benefits.
How to Buy and Store Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are sold in either shelled or unshelled form and are usually available in packed containers and sometimes bulk bins. You may purchase these in the bulk section, but make sure that the bins containing the seeds are well covered to ensure the seeds’ maximal freshness. If you buy unshelled seeds, make sure that they are not broken or dirty. They should be strong and not limp in texture. When you buy shelled seeds, avoid the yellowish ones as they have probably become rancid. Sunflower seeds have a high fat content that can go sour, so it is always advisable to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also store them in the freezer.
If you buy sunflower oil, make sure it is from a reputed brand. Check the sealed portion to ensure its quality. Storing sunflower oil requires no special treatment; you can keep it at room temperature. Containers can be of either stainless steel or plastic.