A popular snack across the country and around the world, sunflower seeds are a surprisingly nutritious and healthy food. They are packed with nutrients and are now being recognized for their healing properties. When eaten in moderation, sunflower seeds make a nice addition to any well-balanced, whole foods diet.
Sunflower Seeds for Good Health
While the fats, vitamins, and minerals found in sunflower seeds are certainly good for you, seeds should be enjoyed in moderation due to their high caloric values. When eaten in small amounts, sunflower seeds are packed with healthy nutrients your body will love.
Rich in Healthy Fats
Although many people avoid fat, certain types or fat are actually beneficial to our health and well being. The new Choose My Plate government recommendations discuss the importance of these essential fatty acids. Sunflower seeds are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, two types of fats that are great for your body in moderation.
The healthy fat in oil made from sunflowers has been documented to reduce total and LDL cholesterol in a clinical study posted by the National Sunflower Association. According to the Mayo Clinic, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat found in foods like sunflower seeds can help cholesterol levels, decrease heart disease risk, and even possibly help with insulin levels for type 2 diabetics.
High in Vitamin E
Sunflower seeds are also the number one whole-food source of vitamin E, according to the National Sunflower Association. Just one-fourth cup of sunflower seeds includes all the vitamin E you need for the day.
Packed With Potassium
One-fourth cup of raw, unsalted seeds contains 226 mg of potassium and only 3mg of sodium per the USDA National Nutrient Database. For those on a diuretic, sunflower seeds can help replace the lost potassium they need.
As for the vitamin and mineral makeup of sunflower seeds, a recent article in Natural News discussed the role of sunflower seeds in helping with depression. They assert that seeds that soak in the radiance of the sun and contain magnesium, potassium, and other healthy nutrients can raise serotonin levels and increase nerve function without antidepressants.
High in Magnesium
Just one-fourth cup of seeds contains about a third of the daily magnesium necessary for healthy, adult women. Magnesium is the fourth most plentiful mineral in our bodies according to the National Institutes of Health. It is found in bones, but is also involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body.
Filled with Phosphorus, Zinc, and Other Minerals
Sunflower seeds are a great source of phosphorus, according to FitDay. This mineral helps your body create strong teeth and bones. These little seeds also have plenty of zinc and other essential minerals.
Plenty of Protein
Just one-fourth cup of seeds contains seven grams of protein, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. This protein will give your body energy throughout the day, making these seeds a filling and healthy snack.
Cautions About Sunflower Seeds
While eating sunflower seeds clearly has many benefits, it's still important to be cautious about eating too many sunflower seeds. Specifically, these seeds are high in calories, packing a whopping 818 calories and 72 grams of fat per the USDA National Nutrient Database. Also, they can sometimes be high in salt, although there are brands that have little or no sodium.
It's also important to remember not to eat the shells of sunflower seeds. The hulls of the sunflower seed can puncture the digestive tract or cause impaction, especially in children that may not chew them fully.
When you eat them in small quantities, sunflower seeds provide healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and other beneficial minerals. They are touted as lowering bad cholesterol, decreasing heart disease risk, and possibly even helping depression. If you remember to eat these little nutrient-dense gems in moderation, you too can reap the many health benefits of these amazing seeds.