Sunflower seeds: components, uses and more
The beautiful bright yellow sunflowers are the origin of sunflower seeds. The seeds are the fruit of the sunflower plant (helianthus annuus). The best time to harvest them is when the yellow petals fall off and the back of the head of sunflowers turn dry and brown.
A fascinating fact is that a single sunflower head may contain up to 2000 seeds. They are encased in inedible black and white striped shells also called hulls. The seeds have firm but tender texture with a nutty flavor.
There are three types of commonly used sunflower seeds : linoleic, high oleic and sunflower oil seeds. Each one has its own level of Monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
Oil made from sunflower seed is the most popular in the world. Now, the raw seeds are also getting popular as they are considered as world's healthiest foods, binging on them can be great for your bones, heart, liver, and overall health. They are available raw, roasted, coated, dried and sprouted.
Nutritional facts of Sunflower Seeds
1 oz (28g) of raw sunflower seeds contains:
- Protein – 5.8g (12% of RDA)
- Carbohydrates – 5.6g (2.4% of RDA)
- Fat, total – 14.4g
- Dietary fiber – 2.4g (9.6% of RDA)
- Vitamin B1 – 0.4mg (36% of RDA)
- Vitamin B6 – 0.36mg (22.4% of RDA)
- Folate – 64mcg (16% of RDA)
- Vitamin E – 10mg (66.4% of RDA)
- Copper – 0.48mg (64% of RDA)
- Magnesium – 90.4mg (22.4% of RDA)
- Phosphorus – 184mg (26.4% of RDA)
- Selenium – 14.84mcg (28% of RDA)
- Zinc – 1.4mg (12.8% of RDA)
RDA – Required Daily Amount
The above table show that sunflower seeds contains all the vitamins and minerals that are needed for a healthy living. Some components are in really high quantities, which makes these seeds the best choice if you are looking to acquire those specific nutrients.
Some of the nutrients, present in exceptionally high quantities in sunflower seeds, with several benefits are:
Vitamin E is group of fat-soluble compounds with powerful antioxidant abilities. Sunflower seeds are extremely rich in vitamin E.
Vitamin E helps prevent free radicals from damaging healthy cells in your body. Lack of vitamin E can result in neurological problems, such as balance problems, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, and eye damage.
Selenium is a mineral that is very important for human health. It is strongly related to lowering the risk of cancer. Selenium prevents the damage of cellular DNA through oxidative damage and synthesis in damaged cells. Sunflower seed being rich in selenium provides numerous health benefits.
B vitamins are a class of water soluble vitamins that play an important role in cell metabolism. Sunflower seeds are a splendid source of vitamin B group. As mentioned in the table above, they consist following types of vitamin B .i.e. Vitamin B-6, vitamin B-1, folate and pathogenic acid.
Vitamin B-1 helps repair DNA. It reduce your risk of heart disease as well. Vitamin B-6 helps ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Folate gives your memory a boost.
Pantothenic acid helps your body metabolize fats, carbs, and proteins into energy. This B vitamin helps to heal wounds and also helps to reduce cholesterol.
Magnesium is a mineral that a lot of people are not getting enough of from their diet. Low intake of magnesium can lead to symptoms like fatigue and muscle cramps. It is an important mineral that helps in providing structure to the bones, lowers blood pressure and decreases risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Sunflower seeds are very versatile and very healthy consumption choice. You can eat them both raw and roasted. While the raw seeds are healthier, roasted ones give you a nutty and crunchy element.
They are very nutritious snacks in themselves. They can keep you satisfied and make you feel fuller for a longer time, so 2 ounces of them in morning and in afternoon can curb your appetite.
They can be easily added into your diet. You can throw them into a salad or ground them into creamy butter. You can use the seed butter as a dip to eat fruits.
They are often used in baking as well. You can use them in making muffins or cakes, homemade granola or nutritious bars.
The best way to add them is to sprinkle them in your breakfast cereal or use them in your oatmeal. sunflower seeds can be an ideal keto-friendly snack, You can even use them in making gluten free bread.
They can add a healthy element in your tasty dishes also. You can add them into smoothies or sprinkle onto yogurt or ice-cream.How to store them
Sunflower seeds are sold either shelled or unshelled and are generally available in packets or containers. While buying them in bulk make sure that :
- the shells of the unshelled seeds are not broken or dirty
- they are firm and not limp
- the color of the seeds (they shouldn't be yellow)
- smell them to ensure if they are still fresh
If you want to store them then put them in the air tight container, as the fatty acid in them gets oxidized by the oxygen in the air. It should be a glass or ceramic container as the seeds can easily absorb harmful chemicals from plastic. Store them in any cool or dark place with constant temperature.
Refrigerating them can prolong their shelf life, but if they start smelling rancid then it means they have gone bad.
Organic Sunflower seeds are very nutritious snacks, high in vitamins like vitamin E and vitamin B-complex. They have several health benefits like fighting inflammation, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases. They are a great source for energy and helps with overall health.
Making them a part of your diet can benefit you in numerous ways. Since they have high oil content as almonds, it will be wiser to choose organic seeds. The high oil and fat content in them absorbs pesticides easily.