The sunflower seeds are one of the most popular seeds in the world because of the number of benefits it has to offer. It is a mild seed, which is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Additionally, when consumed in moderate amounts, it can enable weight loss, good skin and hair, and better digestion. Furthermore, it is effective in treating and preventing debilitating diseases such as cancer, arthritis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and hypertension, among others.
As the name suggests, the sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower plant. The term seed, is actually a misnomer. Since the ‘seed’ is contained inside the pericarp or hull, technically it is a cypsela. However, the hull is inedible. The edible portion is inside the hull, and is technically its heart or kernel. Nevertheless, in layman’s terms it is referred to as a ‘seed’. Botanically speaking, there are three varieties of the sunflower seed. The most common and most popular is the linoleic variety. The other two are known as high oleic and NuSun, the latter of which is developed uniquely for extracting sunflower oil. The classification of the seeds is based on the different levels of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in them. From a commercial perspective, however, the classification is based on the husk’s pattern. Seeds with a solid black husk are called oil sunflower seeds, and as the name suggests, these seeds are pressed to extract oil. Seeds with a striped husk are used for culinary purposes and may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.
The benefits of consuming sunflower seeds are many, in fact a 100 gram serving can provide the body with 584 kcal of energy. Its most impressive properties include a 51% of daily value of fats, of which monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids make up the most part. Additionally, it is also abundant in vitamins and minerals. They can give anywhere between 23% and 129% of daily value of the vitamin B family and 234% daily value of vitamin E. Further, they are also abundant in minerals like manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, and phosphorous, which can comprise between 40% and 94% of daily value. Sunflower seeds contain 36% daily value of fiber and they can give the body 20% of the daily required intake of carbohydrates and a similar value of proteins as well.
As mentioned earlier, sunflower seeds are extremely abundant in vitamin E. Just one-fourth of a cup, can give the body 80% of vitamin E that the body needs on a daily basis. Since vitamin E is super rich in antioxidants, they prevent symptoms of aging from showing in the body. Vitamin E increases the circulation of blood in the body. Therefore, it rejuvenates the skin by providing it with optimum levels of oxygen, and prevents signs of aging such as wrinkles from showing.
It is a common misconceptopn that the high fat content and the high calorie count in sunflower seeds is detrimental to those who are trying to lose weight, and instead increases weight. The thing to note about these seeds is that they are high in unsaturated fatty acids, which are essential to the body, and they also are abundant in dietary fiber. The unsaturated fatty acids contribute to improving the good cholesterol in the body while reducing bad cholesterol. This fiber can assist the body’s natural digestive process by enhancing nutrient absorption. It also bulks up waste matter, so that it is passed more easily through the body. The fiber also makes the body feel full for an extended period of time, thus minimizing the chances of overeating.
Vitamin E is not only beneficial for skin but also for hair. Regularly consuming sunflower seeds ensures that the hair repairs itself and gets a great texture. Along with antioxidants, sunflower seeds also contain minerals such as iron. Iron oxygenates the blood and facilitates better circulation. It drives blood flow into the scalp, thus stimulating hair growth. It is a great nutritional supplement during autumn, when a lack of moisture in the environment can cause problems like hair fall and dandruff.
While good cholesterols are crucial for the body to function normally, bad cholesterol can cause many health problems such as heart diseases. Consuming sunflower seeds can prevent such problems. Sunflower seeds and pistachios are known for their abundance of a compound called phytosterols. This compound regulates bad cholesterol levels in the body. Additionally, it also reduces plaque deposition in blood vessels and arteries.
The secretion of hormones in the body is regulated by the thyroid gland. Dysfunction in this gland is known to cause a condition known as thyroid diseases. This dysfunction is detrimental to health because it causes many other symptoms. Studies have shown that consuming sunflower seeds leads the thyroid gland to function at its optimum. There are more studies being conducted to understand the exact chemical cause and effect of this benefit.
As mentioned, sunflower seeds are high in dietary fiber. This fiber bulks up the stool and facilitates the peristaltic movement of the intestines, thus optimizing the digestive process. Another benefit of consuming this seed is that it makes uptake of nutrients more efficient in the gut by improving bacterial balance.
Sunflower seeds are one of the few known sources of selenium, a trace mineral that prevents the occurrence and spread of cancer, according to some studies. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant. It therefore reduces oxidative stress and neutralizes the effects that free radicals can have on the body.
Sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium in moderate amounts. A healthy serving of these seeds everyday can provide some part of the daily requirement of magnesium to the body. Studies have shown a direct link between the consumption of magnesium with an improvement in mood. Therefore, those who suffer from depression and anxiety should definitely consider adding sunflower seeds to their daily diet.
All sleep specialists assert that the secret to a good night’s sleep is a relaxed body. An unrelaxed body will not get the required rest, irrespective of how many hours you sleep every day. The chemical compound that relaxation can be attributed to, is known as serotonin. This ‘feel good’ compound is generated by the conversion of tryptophan. The latter is found in abundance in sunflower seeds.
Although sunflower seeds are not abundant in protein, they still provide a number of essential amino acids, which the body cannot produce on its own, and that facilitate the growth and development of the body.
Magnesium plays a critical role in the calcium channels of the body, which in turn can impact blood pressure and electrolyte balance. Just one-fourth of a cup of sunflower seeds can provide the body with 30% of its required intake of magnesium. Magnesium is key in treating the symptoms of hypertension, i.e. blood pressure and electrolyte levels.
As we already know, sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, which has many antioxidant properties. Research shows that vitamin E has a direct impact on reducing inflammation in the body, including arthritis.
Sunflower seeds are one of the most popularly consumed seed varieties in the world today, especially in the United States. They are available as shelled as well as unshelled, and they are said to have a mild, nutty taste with a medium to firm texture. They can be eaten in a variety of ways, from raw and sprouted to roasted and toasted. Recently, there has been a spike in their use to create sunflower seed butter, as it is less likely to cause an allergy as compared to say, peanuts or almonds. Their mild flavor makes them an ideal garnish for a salad, or even to be mixed in stronger flavors like vegetable patties.
Although sunflower seeds are clearly very beneficial, they do have a number of side effects. Consuming large amounts of these seeds can lead to many health problems. For instance, it can impact the functioning of the kidneys. Sunflower seeds contain high levels of phosphorous, which when consumed excessively, can impact kidney function. The daily intake of these seeds should be limited to a maximum of half a cup, which ensures that all the required nutrients and benefits are realized without harming the body in any way. Further, excessive consumption can also result in weight gain. These seeds are absolutely delicious, so one can overeat them while being under the impression that they are a healthy snack. While they are healthy, excessiveness can undo their potential benefits and cause problems, instead. Just one-fourth of a cup of these seeds contains 200 calories, so consuming more than that increases calorie intake significantly. Additionally, these seeds can also cause rashes on the skin. As we know, sunflower seeds contain a trace mineral known as selenium. While selenium, in moderation, can prevent cancer, when consumed in excess it can produce a number of symptoms apart from skin rashes, including chronic fatigue and mood swings. Lastly, it can elevate blood pressure when consumption isn’t controlled. It elevates the level of sodium in the blood, which in turn can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart conditions.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the sunflower plant is native to North America. The evidence suggests that they were cultivated by Native Americans as long ago as 3000 BC. However, they were commercialized as a crop for the first time in Russia, and used to extract oil. Only in the 1800s were they re-imported by North America and used for their oil, seeds, and aesthetic properties.