Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a plant which comes from Peru and Mexico. Sunflowers are the first plants cultivated in the United States. Today these plants are cultivated all over the world. A handful of sunflower seeds can be a great snack for you. These seeds will not only take care of your hunger, but also will give you all necessary nutrients. Despite their small size, these seeds are a big source of essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
You can buy sunflower seeds shelled or unshelled and you can find them in your local market, in any health food storage or online store (find your sunflower seeds on Amazon). In the text below you will see which are the health benefits of sunflower seeds and how much is important to make them part of your diet.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds contain many nutrients and they can help in preventing and treating many diseases. Sunflower seeds are one of the most important sources of polyunsaturated oil. Apart from high oil content, these seeds have a lot of other nutrients. Sunflower seeds are a big source of vitamin E, vitamin B1, magnesium, copper, folate, etc.
Also, these seeds contain a high amount of protein and fiber. Below you will see some of the most important nutrients in sunflower seeds and their effects on our health.
Treat Inflammations and Promote Cardiovascular Health (Vitamin E)
As we have already said, sunflower seeds contain large amounts of vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble antioxidant. Studies have shown that only one ounce of these seeds can give us half of a recommended daily value of vitamin E. Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals which can make a lot of damage in our body. Vitamin E travels through the whole body and protects our cellular and molecular components.
Also, it has anti-inflammatory properties and it can reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Vitamin E can also reduce the risk of colon cancer and it can relieve hot flashes in women who are going through menopause. Due to this powerful vitamin, sunflower seeds can also reduce the risk of some diabetic complications and they can prevent cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin E prevents free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol, which reduces the risk of artherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke or blocked arteries. Studies have shown that people who take vitamin E regularly have lower risk of a heart attack. It is also proved that vitamin E protects brain health and cell membranes.
Promote Cardiovascular Health (Folate)
Folate is another nutrient that promotes cardiovascular health from birth to old age. It has the ability to metabolize homocysteine into methionine, which is an essential amino acid.
Promote Healthy Cholesterol and Immune System (Phytosterols)
Due to high amounts of phytosterols, sunflower seeds can help in reducing blood levels of cholesterol. Also, these phytosterols boost our immune system and reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
Prevent Migraines, Stroke, Heart Attack and Protect Skeletal System (Magnesium)
Also, sunflower seeds contain large amounts of magnesium, which can help in preventing and treating many health problems. Due to this mineral, sunflower seeds reduce the risk of asthma and they prevent migraine headaches. Also, these seeds lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. It’s good to know that 2/3 of the magnesium in our body is found in bones. So, this mineral is vital for healthy bones.
Also, magnesium in sunflower seeds relaxes our nerves, so if we take enough magnesium, we will not be nervous and anxious. Insufficient amount of magnesium can lead to a high blood pressure, migraine headaches, muscle spams, muscle camps and fatigue. Magnesium is very important for muscles and skeletal system. Studies have shown that only ¼ cup of sunflower seeds can provide about 25% of the recommended daily value of magnesium.
Fight Cancer and Promote Thyroid Health (Selenium)
Selenium is one of the most important minerals for human health. It is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce swelling and redness in our body. It is also proved that selenium can treat cancer. It can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and it can induce DNA repair. Also, studies have shown that selenium has an important role in thyroid hormone metabolism. This mineral encourages DNA repair in all damaged cells.
Weight Loss (Fiber)
One more benefit of sunflower seeds is that they are not fattening at all, but it is very important how you use them in your diet. If you eat a handful of these seeds every day, it will not cause fat gain. But, if you consume them in enormous amounts, that is not good for your weight. The good news is that small portion of sunflower seeds is enough to satisfy your appetite and to make you full. If you exercise regularly, there’s no fear of weight gain.
Also, due to insoluble fiber, these seeds will prevent constipation and they will reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Now you know all the benefits of sunflower seeds and there’s no doubt about their positive effect on human health. But, some nutritionists talk about health risks and dangers related with sunflower seeds. As we have said, eating large amounts of sunflower seeds can make you fat. Some people also think that eating roasted sunflower seeds can damage your teeth or that their shells can stick in your throat and cause inflammation. Sunflower seeds can sometimes cause allergies in sensitive people. These are some of the side effects of sunflower seeds, but they are negligible in relation to all health benefits that we have mentioned.
So, it’s time to make sunflower seeds a part of your diet. You can eat sunflower seeds raw or roasted. These seeds can be a good snack, but you can also use them for preparing a lot of dishes. You can add sunflower seeds to your salad, to scrambled eggs or add them to your favorite tuna. Good idea is also to sprinkle sunflower seeds onto cereals.