Benefits & Uses of Sunflower

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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The beautiful sunflower plant, with its bright yellow petals, is a great treat to the eyes. These petals have a seed-studded center, which is grayish-green in color. These seeds are encased in teardrop-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 extract polyunsaturated oil. The sunflower seeds with shells have a mild nutty taste and a tender texture.

Benefits of Sunflower

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 with sunflower seeds and the other is from sunflower oil.

Sunflower Seeds

Cultures all around the world have been enjoying sunflower seeds for generations. However, many people are unacquainted with the health benefits of eating sunflower seeds. The British Food Journal highlights the various benefits of sunflower seeds.

  • According to USDA National Nutrient Database, these seeds are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients. They are rich in magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, and iron.
  • They improve digestion, brainpower, and the functioning of the cardiovascular system.

Sunflower

Sunflower Oil

The health- improving, natural sunflower oil comes from sunflower seeds. This oil is light both in taste and appearance.  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 impressive frying ability, light taste, and associated health benefits. Benefits of this oil include:

  • Sunflower oil supplies more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil available in the market.
  • It 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.
  • Sunflower oil is a great skin moisture retainer, according to researchers from Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania.

Uses of Sunflower

The versatility of this flower has prompted its usage to a wide extent.

  • Sunflower oil can be used in extremely high cooking temperatures and keep the food fresh and healthy for a much longer time.
  • To savor a tasty, healthy, and quick energy-giving snack, add sunflower seeds to any of your recipes.
  • They can be sprinkled over salads, cereals, soups, desserts, snacks, and can also be mixed with vegetables.
  • 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, as they easily provide ample energy.

How to Select & Store?

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 select the bins containing the seeds that are well covered to ensure the seeds’ maximal freshness
  • If you buy unshelled seeds, make sure that they are clean and not broken.
  • When you buy shelled seeds, avoid the yellowish ones as they have probably become rancid
  • These seeds can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer

Note: Sunflower seeds have a high content of fat and can easily go sour. So make sure you store them well.

Sunflower oil is easily available in supermarkets.

  • Always buy sunflower oil from a reputed brand.
  • Check the sealed portion to ensure its quality.
  • Sunflower oil can be kept at room temperature
  • It can be stored in either stainless steel or plastic containers.

Origin

These flowers 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 premium food and an oil source, but also utilized the flowers, roots, and stems for different purposes such as for dye pigment. These flowers 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. You are probably familiar with the refined cooking oil used in the majority of kitchens, which is composed of sunflower oil.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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