The health benefits of sunflower seeds are plentiful, yet many people aren’t aware of them. We simply enjoy eating them, whether at a ballpark, on a road trip, or just sitting outside on a summer’s day.
Though small, the seeds are a nutrient-dense source of essential vitamins and minerals vital to maintaining good health, including selenium and vitamin E, which may have anti-cancer properties both in the formation of tumors and possibly in slowing down the progression of the disease.
Try to choose sunflower seeds that are free from salt and other added flavorings; no need to add excess sodium and chemicals into your body, after all. Buy them bulk at a health food store or at a grocer who carries a variety of seeds and nuts. Are sunflower seeds healthy? Yes, because they are high in vitamin E, copper, vitamin B1, manganese, and selenium.
Top Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Are sunflower seeds good for you? They are, but because they are high in fat and calories (100 grams has 587 calories) they need to be eaten in moderation. Feel free to toss them in salads, on yogurt, or eat them by the handful. A hundred grams is about three quarters of a cup, which is quite a lot of seeds, so stick to about one ounce per day on average instead. Below are some sunflower seed benefits.
1. Abundant in Healthy Fats
They are a main source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, two fats that are excellent for overall health.
2. Encourages Cardiovascular Health
Two nutrients that improve cardiovascular health are vitamin E and folate, both of which are found in sunflower seeds. A quarter-cup of the seeds provides up to 60% of the recommended daily values needed for vitamin E.
3. High in Phytosterols
Sunflower seeds contain phytosterols that have been linked to healthy cholesterol levels. A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows that sunflower seeds had the highest levels of phytosterols of any nuts and seeds.
4. Lowers High Blood Pressure
The magnesium content in sunflower seeds can help lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but only if you eat them unsalted. Salt and hypertension don’t mix.
5. Can Help Prevent Cancer
Because of their high levels of antioxidants, nutrients, and other chemo-preventive compounds, sunflower seeds can help prevent cancer. This is supported by numerous studies, including one published in Nutrition Journal in 2004.
6. Supports Thyroid Function
Approximately 27 million Americans suffer from thyroid disorders, and one of the leading causes is a selenium deficiency. Sunflower seeds are very high in selenium, so munch on a handful to replenish your body.
7. Calms Nerves
One of the more peculiar health benefits of sunflower seeds is how they can help calm nerves and anxiety, and help reduce the pain associated with migraines. Again, this is thanks to the magnesium content of the seeds. Magnesium deficiency is linked to anxiety and nervousness, and a quarter-cup offers 28% of the daily recommended values of magnesium.
8. Aids Digestion
Sunflower seeds are high in fiber, and as a result, can help with constipation.
9. Decreases Bouts of Depression
Magnesium to the rescue again! The magnesium content in sunflower seeds can help improve overall mental health. Over a hundred years ago, magnesium sulfate was given to patients who were suffering from depression, and today it’s an essential element in treating patients homeopathically to promote good mental health.
10. Skin Protection
The vitamin E found in sunflower seeds can protect the skin from oxidative damage caused by the environmental exposure and can support the growth of healthy, new skin cells.
How Many Sunflower Seeds Are Too Many?
Sunflower seeds are incredibly good for us and provide many nutritional benefits, but like everything else in life, they do need to be eaten in moderation. A typical serving is about three-quarters of a cup of unshelled seeds, which is fine to eat every day without worry. The seeds are high in fat, and even though they are sources of good fat, they can still lead to weight gain if you have too many of them, regardless of how beneficial they may be for you.
Apart from being high in fat, they are also high in calories, and this can also lead to unnecessary and unwanted weight gain. If you eat unshelled sunflower seeds, you may potentially cause damage to the teeth and gums because of the action of cracking the shells, but this is really only a concern if you’ve had dental work done or if your enamel is weak. Try eating both shelled and unshelled to avoid any damage.
Sunflower seed health benefits cannot be disputed, but they should be enjoyed in moderation with other healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds for a well-balanced nutritional profile. Kids love the fun of cracking into the shells, so it’s an easy way to ensure children gain the benefits of sunflower seeds.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Donaldson, M. S, “Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet,” Nutrition Journal, 2004; doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-19, 2004
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“Sunflower Seeds,” The World’s Healthiest Foods web site; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=57, last accessed March 24, 2016.
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http://www.healthbeckon.com/benefits-of-sunflower-seeds/, last accessed March 24, 2016.
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Braverman, J. “What Are the Dangers of Eating Too Many Sunflower Seeds?” Livestrong web site, last updated April 16, 2015; http://www.livestrong.com/article/289308-what-are-the-dangers-of-eating-too-many-sunflower-seeds/, last accessed March 24, 2016.