Sunflower seeds are the fruits of sunflower that are commonly eaten as a snack. They are generally consumed roasted with added salt or other flavors. People with nut allergies can consume sunflower seeds as a substitute. Sunflower seeds are loaded with nutrients and eating sunflower seeds can be highly beneficial for us. A major source of polyunsaturated fat, sunflower seeds keeps the heart healthy and averts weight gain. Today in this post, we are going to learn about the sunflower seeds nutrition and benefits.
Sunflower seeds are available in both shelled and unshelled form. Shelled seeds are easier to add in other dishes as their own flavor does not overwhelm the main flavor of the dish. They can be also be easily added to smoothies and ground mixes. If you want to store your sunflowers seeds, keep them in an airtight container in a refrigerator. Since they contain polyunsaturated fats they can go rancid if they are kept in the heat for too long.
Sunflower seeds nutrition and benefits
From helping prevent cancer due to high contents of antioxidants to reducing the risks of heart disease, sunflower seeds are highly nutritious. Eating sunflower seeds can help you prevent bone loss, avoid muscle cramps, regulate blood sugar level to being beneficial for your skin, eating sunflower seeds is seriously good for our health.
Are you ready to learn about the major sunflower seeds nutrition and benefits?
Let’s dive in and explore the benefits and major nutritional contents of sunflower seeds.
Rich in Vitamin E
When cholesterol oxidizes, it becomes harmful for our health. Vitamin E in sunflowers inhibits oxidation of cholesterol. According to this study, the isomers in Vitamin E prevent damage caused by free radicals, which leads to oxidation of cholesterol.
Vitamin E also balances secretion of hormones in the body. According to this study, Vitamin E maintains healthy working of the nervous and endocrine system of the body and balances the hormones naturally.
Vitamin E, being a powerful anti-oxidant promotes blood circulation in the scalp and reduces damage to the hair. It stimulates secretion of sebum, which moisturizes the hair naturally. It keeps scalp from becoming dry and flaky.
Sunflower seeds contain a good quality of selenium, which is believed to fight against coronary diseases. It increases blood flow and reduces oxidative stress. Until date, Selenium concentrations were inversely associated with heart disease risk in observational studies. Because observational studies did provide with misleading evidences in the past, for other antioxidants, the validity of this association is uncertain.
According to this study selenium acts as a protector of thyroid and regulates production of reactive oxygen within the thyroid gland, hence protecting it from thyroid diseases.
Patients of asthma may have reduced level of selenium in their body. Studies have found, patients of asthma who took selenium supplements experienced less symptoms of asthma than those who took a placebo. Sunflowers seeds could be an additional natural combatant against asthma. However, more research is required for it to gain solid ground and become popular.
High in Folate
According to National Sunflower Association, 1 ounce of sunflower seeds contains 17% of the daily value of Folate.
A major Folate-dependent reaction in the body is the conversion of the methylation of deoxyuridylate to thymidylate in the process of forming DNA, which is required for proper cell division. If this process is hampered in anyway then, it leads to megaloblastic anemia. A handful of sunflower seeds maintains proper formation of red blood cells in the body and keeps the anemia at bay.
Folate and folic acid are a principal component for pregnant women as it helps in the normal development of fetus. Folate deficiency can lead to potential neural tube defects like, spina bifida, anencephaly, deformity of the limbs and heart disorders.
Folate also might help avert cancer. According to a cohort, study on 525000 people aged 50-71 years in the U.S., individuals with total folate intakes of 900 micrograms/day or higher had a 30 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer than those with intakes less than 200 micrograms/day.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats (Good Fats)
Sunflower seeds contain a healthy amount monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which, unlike trans fats are good for health.
Monounsaturated fats replace the saturated ones and keep the heart healthy. Studies says, consuming more monounsaturated fats protects our body against metabolic syndrome, a bunch of disorders that enhances the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Monounsaturated fats are anti-inflammatory and they boost the overall immune system of the body.
The monounsaturated fats in sunflower seeds also help you to lose weight. There is enough proof for us to believe that monounsaturated fats help people with high levels of certain liver enzymes, a forerunner to liver disease, reduce weight, waist circumference and cholesterol, in addition to other components related to obesity.
Polyunsaturated fats help lower elevated blood pressure. Polyunsaturated fats with taken with antidepressants works effectively against depression. A study published in 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition led by researcher J. Burgess, reports that 100 boys with ADHD had low levels of polyunsaturated fats in their system. This may mean that polyunsaturated fats may prove to be beneficial for people with ADHD.
The importance of sunflower seeds seems to increase by the minute. Phew! Read on find out more.
Rich in Protein
According to National Sunflower Association, sunflower seeds are rich in protein as they provide with 12% of the daily value of protein.
Protein helps our muscles recover while supporting tendon, ligaments, and other tissues of the body. Eating protein before and after exercise stimulates muscle recovery, promotes muscle synthesis and serves as an efficient treatment for muscle ache. According to this research, the amino acids contained in protein inhibit sarcopenia, which is muscle loss due to aging.
This study states that, proteins do not affect the blood glucose level and even helps in reduced absorption of sugar during meals. Protein rich food, like sunflower seeds, thus helps maintain the adequate level of energy in the body and prevents the level of glucose in blood from rising. This is especially beneficial for patients of type-II diabetes. Since protein controls blood sugar level, it also helps keep heart diseases in check.
Munching on sunflower seeds can also help you concentrate. When the body contains lesser amino acids than it should, our concentration, leaning and coordination suffers. Once the amino acids are restored, leaning and coordination skills improve.
A study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Science in the year 2012, reports that magnesium supplementation is low risked and efficacious for reducing symptoms of insomnia, ameliorates sleep efficiency, sleep time and the onset of sleep. Additionally, it helps people wake up early in the morning and lowers cortisol concentration. Cortisol has been associated with causing stress.
According to this study, deficit of magnesium leads to muscle spasms, and hence snacking on sunflower seeds help your muscles relax and contract and lets you move around freely.
Rich in Copper
Sunflower seeds contain a good amount of copper, which is required for the utilization of antioxidants in the body like Vitamin C, superoxide dismutase, ascorbate oxidase, and tyrosinase. These inhibit free radicals, which cause damage to our brain like neurodegenerative diseases, cancer. Vitamin C with other antioxidants also helps in slowing down the ageing process.
Copper acts as a stimulant for brain, as it is a part of transporter proteins that fire neurons in the brain. Additionally, copper helps the thought processes and the cognitive functions of the brain. Copper is also believed to protect the outer layer of the nerves, called myelin sheath. Copper, positively affects certain brain pathways involving dopamine and galactose. These neurotransmitters are required to maintain the needed energy level, to keep our mood in check and to help us focus.
Consuming copper along with zinc, magnesium and calcium might slow down bone loss in older women. Copper is a major element in growing bones besides muscles, tendons and ligaments. Copper deficiency might lead to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, weak joints and so on.
Contains Vitamin B1 or Thiamine
Sunflower seeds contain 43% Thiamine, which is needed for a system of enzyme reactions called pyuruvate dehydrogenase, which works to oxidize the sugar we consume. If the nervous system is devoid of enough fuel from food then it might lead to nerve damage, leading to difficulty in moving, learning of retaining information. Thiamine also helps in breaking down proteins and fats.
Munching on sunflower seeds can help you keep heart diseases at bay. Vitamin B1 in the sunflower seeds can help maintain healthy functioning of the ventricles and helps treat heart failure.
Thiamine helps prevent a specific disorder of the brain called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Patients of this disorder are mostly alcoholics. They experience involuntary muscle movements, difficulty in walking, lethargy and nerve damage. Alcohol inhibits proper thiamine absorption in the body. If consumed in high quantity, thiamine also treats symptoms of alcohol withdrawal quite effectively.
Thiamine caused better reaction time, clear-headedness and made the individuals taking the test more energetic. According to some researches, thiamine helps avert vision problems like glaucoma and cataracts. This maybe because thiamin stimulates muscle and nerve signaling, which is important for relaying messages from the eyes to the brain.
A quarter cup of sunflower seeds about 34% of manganese. Manganese helps the body to use up its stored iron content, which prevents anemia. Since manganese is closely associated with hormone activity, it acts a natural cure of infertility. Manganese deficiency has been known to cause infertility problems.
researchers and studies claim that women with low levels of manganese in their blood experience more pain and mood swings during the pre-menstruation phase.
Manganese with glucosamine hydrochloride or chondroitin sulfate, is a good treatment for arthritis. Regularly eating manganese rich foods like sunflower seeds can help reduce inflammation in joints and tissues. It also causes relief from common pain like in the knees and lower back.
Manganese in sunflower seeds can help prevent epilepsy and mental illnesses. Manganese is released in the synaptic cleft, which may influence synaptic neurotransmission. Dietary manganese deficiency, which may stimulate susceptibility to epileptic functions, seems to affect manganese homeostasis in the brain, probably followed by alteration of neural activity.
High in Phosphorus
Phosphorus along with Calcium is the most important component for building up good bone structure. More than 50% of bones in our body is made up of phosphate. Phosphorus aids in the formation of bone mineral density that prevents bone breakage, osteoporosis, bone fracture and so on. For healthy bone growth, a steady equal level of calcium and phosphorus must be maintained in the body.
Phosphorus also maintains healthy metabolism and helps break down carbohydrates and fats in the body by producing digestive enzymes. Phosphorus is essential to properly synthesize, absorb and utilize vitamins from food – including B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin. Phosphorus is also a principal component for synthesizing amino acids, with which proteins are made of, to help with cellular purpose, energy creation, proper growth and reproduction.
Phosphorus, generally occurs as phospholipids in the body that are a major component of cell membrane. The major task of these phospholipids is maintaining the pH level of the body by mitigating excess levels of alkali or acidic components in the body.
Phosphorus is also believe to help with digestion since it is an electrolyte. Eating sunflower seeds can reduce acid reflux and reduce the excess water retained in the body.
Contains Vitamin B6
A one-quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains around 28% of Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 with folate reduces homocysteine levels, which in turn leads to the body being able to effectively repair the damaged blood vessels. (Source: ) Vitamin B6 also maintains proper blood pressure and blood cholesterol level, which results in reduced risk of heart diseases.
Homocysteine not only causes heart diseases but also causes damage to the neurons of the central nervous systems. Thus, Vitamin B6 maintains proper functioning of the brain by keeping homocysteine level in the blood in check.
If you are worried about how to eat sunflower seeds, fret not. Just try the recipe mentioned below for a healthy and tasty snack.
Add sunflower seeds to water and salt, and bring it to boil. Simmer for an hour. Then drain the water and dry the seeds. Do not rinse the seeds. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and bake the seeds for half an hour. Keep stirring often. Remove the seeds from the oven when they have turned brown.
Sunflower seeds are loaded with powerful antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals which are required by our body. Some of the major benefits of eating sunflower seeds include healthy heart, improved cognitive function, good skin, slow ageing, prevention of muscle cramps and bone loss. In today’s post, we have discussed about the major sunflower seeds nutrition and benefits in detail.
Although beneficial, excess intake of sunflower seeds can lead to weight gain. Excess consumption of selenium or phosphorus can lead to calcification of non-skeletal tissues and kidney damage. Selenium toxicity can result in selenosis, symptoms of which include, brittle hair and nails, fatigue and skin rashes.
So enjoy a roasted snack of sunflower seeds today and decide for yourself if they are beneficial or not!
Eliana the chief editor at bodyandbeans is a professional yoga instructor and a fitness freak. She has done her master’s in history from Kolkata University. She is passionate about healthy eating and living practices.