There are quite a few impressive health benefits of sunflower seeds, including their ability to stimulate hair growth, promote heart health, aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol and prevent certain cancers, among others. Available as one of the most popular and readily available snack foods, sunflower seeds are not only great to eat on the go but they also provide a number of health benefits to us.
What are Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are the fruiting bodies of the sunflower plant, which bears the scientific name Helianthus annuus. There are three types of commonly used sunflower seeds – one that is pressed for oil and two others, which have varying levels of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. This is where the potential health benefits of sunflower seeds truly come into play. The seeds that are most frequently consumed are striped or mottled in color, rather than having a solid black shell.
These seeds are primarily consumed as a snack food in many parts of the world. They can be eaten both in their full “seed” form, as well as their de-hulled form, in which only the kernel is eaten. Both the shell and the inner kernel have a different nutrient profile. In some countries, sunflower seeds are also used in culinary preparations other recipes. They make a tasty and a nutrient-dense treat, particularly when salted.
Sunflower Seeds Nutrition Facts
Sunflower seeds are more than just a snack; they also deliver a significant amount of vitamin E to the body. They also provide us with various antioxidants and carotenes, which can support the immune system of the body. There is also a moderate amount of magnesium, selenium, manganese, and phosphorus in sunflower seeds, while the outer shell provides dietary fiber. You can also find small amounts of zinc, copper, and iron in these seeds, along with numerous B family vitamins. Perhaps, the most important thing is the level of polyunsaturated fats in sunflower seeds including notable amounts of phytosterols. A 1/4th cup serving of dried sunflower seeds contains over 200 calories.
Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds provide many health benefits such as promoting heart and skin health, stimulating hair growth, aiding in weight loss, lowering cholesterol, prevent certain cancers and balance hormonal levels, among others.
One of the best components of sunflower seeds is the high vitamin E content. With roughly 80% of your daily requirements fulfilled by a 1/4 cup of these seeds, you will get a major antioxidant boost from adding these to your diet. Vitamin E can act as an antioxidant for the skin and is known to rejuvenate the skin by increasing blood circulation and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
While these seeds are notoriously high in calories, they also possess a good amount of dietary fiber. This can help to speed the digestive process and lower cholesterol levels. Furthermore, fiber helps to make the body feel full, preventing the occurrence of overeating.
If you regularly consume these seeds, it can give your hair a great texture and tone. Vitamin E is not only good for the skin but also the hair. In addition to the minerals and antioxidants, the seeds contain iron, which can stimulate circulation and drive the blood flow to the scalp thus stimulating hair growth.
Phytosterols are found in the highest concentrations in sunflower seeds and pistachios. They are proven to be a great cholesterol-controlling compound. A handful of these seeds every day can help protect your heart by lowering cholesterol and plaque deposition in the arteries and blood vessels.
Balance Hormone Levels
Research has linked sunflower seeds to better functioning of the thyroid gland. This gland controls many of the hormonal activities in the body.
Some studies have connected selenium to preventing the spread and occurrence of cancer. This trace mineral functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body. It can slow down the oxidative stress and neutralize the free radicals before they can cause too much damage.
Magnesium has been linked to an improvement in mood and temperament. This is one of the minerals present in a moderate concentration within the seeds. If you regularly suffer from anxiety or depression, this might be the snack for you.
Promote Growth & Development
Magnesium plays a key role in the calcium channels of the body, which can have a major impact on electrolyte balance and blood pressure. Nearly 30% of your daily requirement of magnesium is fulfilled by a 1/4th cup of these seeds. Therefore, it can be an excellent remedy for treating the symptoms of hypertension.
Relieve symptoms of Arthritis
Some people rely on sunflower seeds due to their vitamin E content. This antioxidant vitamin has been directly connected to the reduced symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions throughout the body.
Side Effects of Sunflower Seeds
There are clearly a number of benefits to eating sunflower seeds. Some of the potential side effects of eating too many include weight gain, skin rashes, kidney issues and an elevated blood pressure. Fortunately, most of these side effects can be avoided by consuming a moderate amount of these seeds.
Kidney Issues: Due to the high level of phosphorus in sunflower seeds, one should avoid excessive intake of these. Too much of this mineral in your system can be quite serious and may lead to kidney issues. Only a moderate amount of seeds, not more than 1/2 a cup, is necessary for most of the potential health benefits.
Skin Rashes: These seeds are also high in a somewhat rare mineral, selenium. If you consume too many seeds, you can develop an inflammation of the skin, a chronic fatigue or suffer from mood swings.
Weight Gain: Approximately 200 calories are present in every 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds. So, if you are regularly snacking on these seeds, you are increasing your calorie intake significantly. While these seeds are delicious, they must be eaten in moderation to prevent an excessive weight gain.
Best Ways to Eat Sunflower Seeds
As mentioned earlier, there are various ways to eat sunflower seeds. The most popular way is to simply eat them raw, either with the shells or de-hulled. By eliminating the shell, you can often cut down on the sodium intake, but you will also lose out on some of the dietary fiber and mineral content.
Some people also like to roast sunflower seeds. You can do this by boiling 1 cup of sunflower seeds in salted water for 5-10 minutes. Let the seeds dry on a baking pan. Lightly salt or season the seeds if you wish to. Bake the seeds at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, or until the seeds have acquired a brown color.
You can find sunflower seeds or the dehulled kernels in everything from salad and bread to cookies and various sauces or curries.