Sunflower seeds: Nutrition, health benefits and the best way to have them

Adding nuts and seeds to your diet is one of the best things you can do for your health. They are nutritious, healthy and prevent you from several kinds of chronic diseases. Sunflower seeds are one such type of seeds that is loaded with high-quality nutrients. They are rich in healthy fats, beneficial plant compounds and several vitamins and minerals. Sunflower seeds can even help reduce inflammation, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

They are part of the sunflower plant. In general, there are two main types of sunflower crops- one is grown for the seeds and the other is grown for the oil. They generally have a mild, nutty flavour and a firm but tender texture.

The nutritional content of sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds might appear tiny but are extremely nutritious. They contain varied nutrients, required by our body to carry out different internal functions. The white seeds are especially high in vitamin E, zinc and selenium. These nutrients protect your body’s cells against free radical damage, reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases and boost immunity. Besides, they also contain compounds like phenolic acids and flavonoids.

30 grams of shelled, dry-roasted sunflower seeds contains:

Calories: 163

Total fat: 14 grams

Protein: 5.5 grams

Carbs: 6.5 grams

Fiber: 3 grams

Vitamin E: 37{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} of the RDI

Niacin: 10{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} of the RDI

Vitamin B6: 11{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} of the RDI

Iron: 6{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} of the RDI

Magnesium: 9{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} of the RDI

Zinc: 10{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} of the RDI

Here are some health benefits of sunflower seeds

Reducing inflammation

Sunflower seeds can reduce inflammation, which is responsible for several chronic diseases including heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. As per a study carried out on 6,000 adults, eating sunflower and other seeds at least five times a week lowered the level of C-reactive protein by 32 per cent as compared to others. It is believed that the potential benefits of the seeds are basically due to the presence of vitamin E.

Cuts down the risk of developing heart disease
Sunflowers seeds contain a compound that can block an enzyme that causes blood vessels to constrict. This can lower down your blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels and can also cut down the risk of stroke. The tiny seeds also contain magnesium that can reduce the pressure of blood against the wall of the arteries.

Good for people who have diabetes

People who have diabetes always have to keep their blood sugar level in check, and sunflowers seeds can even help in that. The tiny seeds have been tested to be effective in lowering the blood sugar level in several studies. Eating a handful of seeds daily may reduce fasting blood sugar by about 10 per cent within six months. This happens basically due to the plant compound chlorogenic acid.

Supporting the immune system
Sunflowers seeds contain zinc that is known to activate about 300 enzymes in the body and boost immunity. They also contain selenium and other vitamins, which can fight infection and boost immunity. Building internal immunity is important to protect oneself from chronic diseases.

Reduces the risk of cancer
Cancers are among the leading causes of mortality worldwide. While there is nothing that can prevent the growth of cancerous cells, making changes in diet can definitely lower the chances. Sunflowers seeds contain beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol that can prevent breast cancer. It represses the growth of tumour cells. There are several other nutrients found in sunflower seeds that can help with the same. Taking these seeds also reduces the chances of colon cancer.

Reduces Cholesterol
The fiber content in sunflower seeds can decrease the level of bad or LDL cholesterol in the blood. Apart from that, the high amount of niacin or vitamin B3 also helps in reducing the level of cholesterol and vitamin B5 increases HDL cholesterol.

Boosts brain function

If you are looking to boost your brain function and increase concentration, sunflower seeds can be a great addition to your diet. The presence of vitamin B6 in it can improve mood and concentration and enhance memory. It even helps to ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Good for the skin
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of these seeds also prevent infections, keeping your skin clear and acne-free. Oleic and linoleic acids, present in sunflower seeds help in the formation of collagen. They slow down the ageing process and reduce blemishes.

Are there any side-effects of eating sunflower seeds?

Sunflowers seeds are generally safe for consumption but in some cases, people may experience some weird side-effects. Here are some things that you may experience after consuming sunflower seeds.

The tiny white sunflowers seeds are extremely high in calcium and calories. Besides, they are also high in sodium. If you are watching your sodium or calorie intake then you must be careful while consuming sunflower seeds.

The tiny seeds are loaded with several health-friendly nutrients but are also a source of cadmium. This heavy metal can harm your kidney when present in the body in a high amount over a long period. A person weighing 70 kilos must not consume more than 490 micrograms (mcg) of cadmium in a day for better health.

In the past, it has been reported that eating a huge amount of sunflower seeds leads to stool blockages in both children and adults. This is more likely to happen if you are eating sunflower seeds with the shell. A person may intentionally consume it, which can be hard for the body to digest and may be passed on to the colon. Excess consumption of sunflower seeds may even cause vomiting.

Some people may even experience an allergic reaction after consuming sunflower seeds. Breathlessness, asthma, mouth swelling, itching of the mouth, hay fever, skin rashes, lesions, vomiting and anaphylaxis are some common symptoms of allergies caused due to the sunflower seeds.

The right way to eat sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are available in the market in both forms- shell or shelled kernels. The outer covering of the shelled sunflower seed is black. It needs to be cracked open with the teeth. The shell is spitted out and the inner seeds are eaten. Most people consume shelled sunflower seeds as it is easy to consume and add in other dishes. You can add to the trail mix, sprinkle on top of your salad and add some in yoghurt or porridge or oatmeal. When baked the seeds turn green, due to a chemical released from it. This is caused due to the reaction of chlorogenic acid and baking soda, which is generally harmless. You should not consume more than 30 grams of sunflower seeds per day.

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