Sunflower seeds are a healthy and delicious treat when eaten in moderation. Eating too many, however, may cause some potential health challenges.
Sunflower seed serving sizes vary by product, but a typical serving of shelled seeds is around one to two ounces (approximately 1/8 to 1/4 cup of kernels or 1/2 to 3/4 cup unshelled seeds). This serving is fine, even if eaten daily as part of a balanced diet. But going over this amount on a regular basis may contribute to the following:
Too Many Fat Grams
Sunflower seeds are high in fat, which, according to McKinley Health Center, is necessary for some vitamin absorption, proper growth, maintaining cell membranes and to help give your body energy. The good news is that sunflower seeds contain healthy poly and monounsaturated fats which can help maintain good cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health. The bad news is that even healthy fats can cause unwanted weight gain.
Self's Nutrition Data website lists a typical one ounce serving of raw sunflower seed kernels as having 14 grams of fat or 22 percent of your daily recommended allowance. Eating too many sunflower seeds could have you going over your daily recommended allowance very quickly. Sunflower seeds that have been cooked in oil may have even higher percentages of fat as well.
In addition to being high in fat, sunflower seeds are also high in calories. One serving contains 164 calories. While this is fine in moderation, eating too many seeds over a long period of time could lead to excess weight gain.
If you eat raw, unflavored and untreated seeds, you won't need to worry about anything else going into your diet than the seeds you are eating. But if you enjoy your seeds dry roasted or flavored, they may contain unwanted and controversial additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) or "natural" or artificial flavors that might include a number of unspecified chemical ingredients. You can view ingredient lists of popular flavored and roasted sunflower seeds at Foodfacts.com.
According to an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, many people are sensitive to MSG and the substance is linked to many adverse symptoms including obesity, headaches, depression, fatigue, chest pain and rapid heartbeat. To avoid unwanted ingredients, read labels carefully and consider choosing organic options.
Sunflower seeds by themselves are naturally low in sodium, but those that have been roasted and salted can have very high salt levels. In fact, according to the USDA's National Nutrient Database, one ounce of toasted, salted seeds has 174 milligrams of sodium. While this amount falls short of the American Heart Association's (AHA) recommended salt intake level of 1,500 milligrams, eating several servings of salted seeds a day quickly adds up.
Too much sodium in your diet has the potential to raise your blood pressure, which can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease, reports the AHA. To avoid consuming too much salt in sunflower seeds, stick to eating raw, unsalted seeds.
Tooth and Gum Damage
The method of eating unshelled sunflower seeds requires you to crack the shells between your teeth. If you have weakened tooth enamel or dental work, this action may cause damage to your teeth and gums, especially if you crack the seeds in large quantities. In addition, sharp hull slivers may get caught between the teeth and gums or irritate your mouth.
Too Much Selenium
Selenium is a critical mineral that helps fight free radicals in the body. A one ounce serving of shelled sunflower seeds contains 21% of the daily recommended selenium allowance. Eating several servings of sunflower seeds a day can put you at risk of ingesting too much selenium.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), taking in more than the recommended serving of selenium each day may increase your risk of diabetes. In addition, UMM reports that high doses of selenium over time can be toxic.
Check With Your Doctor
If you think that your sunflowers consumption is to blame for any of the symptoms above, or if you want to find out if the benefits of sunflower seeds will be helpful to you, speak to your physician.
Everything in Moderation
Eaten in moderation, sunflower seeds can be a healthy addition to many diets. They are full of beneficial vitamins, healthy fats and antioxidants. They also satisfy the need for a delicious, crunchy snack.
While occasionally splurging on a few extra servings of sunflower seeds in one day isn't likely to derail your healthy lifestyle or cause health problems, regularly over-indulging can contribute to an expanding waistline and increase your sodium intake. Stick to one serving of sunflower seeds a day to reap their benefits and limit your risk of unwanted side effects.