Sunflower Seeds: Benefits, Nutrition Facts And How To Eat Them

Are sunflower seeds good for you? What are their benefits? Find out how to eat these healthy seeds.
Sunflower seeds are edible and they have many benefits
Sunflower seeds are edible and they have many benefits

Although the popular belief is that the consumption of fat can lead to an unwanted weight gain and an increased risk of suffering a variety of physical conditions, the truth is that  there are healthy fats that can be extremely beneficial.

One of the main sources of these healthy fats is sunflower seeds, commonly related to the health of the heart, the thyroid gland, the bones or the skin. Throughout this article, we will find out how to eat them, their nutrition facts and what the benefits of sunflower seeds are.

What are sunflower seeds?

As its name suggests, sunflower seeds are the fruit of the flower that bears the same name. These large yellow flowers produce small edible seeds that lodge within their distinctive gray husk.

According to historical data, sunflowers are natives of the lands of North America, where it is said that Native Americans cultivated them since the times of Mesoamerican civilizations (2500 BC).

With the arrival of the colonists in America, sunflower seeds were taken to Europe, where they were commercialized and harvested as food and as a potential source of oil.

There are three different varieties of sunflower seeds in everyday use, each with its levels of monounsaturated, saturated and polyunsaturated fats. These three varieties are the linoleic sunflower seeds (the most common ones), the oleic ones and the NuSun variety, which are used mostly to produce sunflower oil.

How to eat sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are usually eaten as a snack. However, in recent years its consumption has become very popular as an  ingredient in all kinds of recipes, especially salads, and as part of the garnish on other dishes.

When the sunflower seeds that are still in the husk have been processed for consumption as a snack, they go through  a drying and roasting process, and they are finally sprinkled with salt or other flavorings. Also, the seeds are often sold without a husk or integrated into other baked goods such as cereal bread.

Sunflower seeds can produce other elaborations such as sunflower oil or margarine, widely used as ingredients in kitchens around the world.

Sunflower oil is produced from sunflower seeds and it is used around the world
Sunflower oil is produced from sunflower seeds, and it is used around the world

Nutrition facts

Many people wonder if sunflower seeds are healthy or if they contain a lot of calories. Well, sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamins and minerals. A portion of sunflower seeds (recommended ration) provides the following nutrients:

  • 190 kilocalories
  • 16 gr of fat
  • 4 gr of proteins
  • 4 gr of fiber
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B1 or thiamin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B3
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Phosphorous
  • Folate

Sunflower seeds benefits

All elements in the previous list, present in sunflower seeds have very beneficial properties for the human organism. Specifically, these are associated with cardiovascular health, the thyroid gland, bones, and skin, among many others.

1. They enhance cardiovascular health

The consumption of sunflower seeds promotes cardiovascular health  thanks to the vitamin E and folic acid they contain. Vitamin E has a strong antioxidant value, and balanced levels of this vitamin have been linked to a lower risk of premature death and heart diseases.

Also, folate or folic acid promote the health of the cardiovascular system throughout the person's life as it metabolizes homocysteine, an indicator of cardiovascular problems.

2. They help reduce levels of "bad" cholesterol

Phytosterols or plant sterols that sunflower seeds contain in large quantities have similar properties to those of cholesterol.

Although at first glance this may seem harmful, the truth is that phytosterols or plant sterols help reduce levels of "bad" cholesterol  thanks to three metabolic actions:

  • They inhibit the intestinal absorption of cholesterol
  • Decrease cholesterol synthesis
  • They stimulate the flow of cholesterol

3. They have beneficial properties of magnesium

Sunflower seeds are a source rich in magnesium; a single portion provides more than 25% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium.

The deficiency of this mineral can lead to the appearance of a variety of health problems related to the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the nervous system. Also, both the muscles and the skeleton also need magnesium to function properly.

4. They regulate the functioning of the thyroid

One of the leading causes of thyroid problems is the deficiency of a mineral called selenium, which we can find in large quantities in sunflower seeds.

Grosso modo,  the thyroid is a gland that maintains the chemical balance of the body  through the regulation of body temperature and heart rate, the production of proteins and the control of metabolic rate. Any alteration in its functioning can suppose the appearance of diseases such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

A recommendation to control thyroid problems naturally is including more food rich in selenium and iodine in our diet; sunflower seeds are a good option.

5. They benefit the health of the bones

Sunflower seeds provide our body with a large amount of magnesium. This essential mineral carries out a lot of vital functions in our body, for example, it helps to maintain a healthy bone structure  and to prevent diseases related to the loss of mineral density, such as osteoporosis.

Also, magnesium favors the blood coagulation and enhances the calcification of bones.

6. They help prevent diabetes

Diets rich in nuts, such as sunflower seeds, help to maintain balanced blood sugar levels, thus reducing the risk of hyperglycemia in cases of diabetes mellitus, as well as the risk of developing this disease.

More specifically, the nutrients of the sunflower seeds help to stop the peaks and drops of blood sugar.

7. They improve the quality and health of the skin

Studies suggest that thanks to vitamin E and antioxidants, sunflower seeds are especially  useful for maintaining the health and strength of the skin.

Likewise, the fatty acids in these seeds help to keep the skin hydrated and protected from sun damage and pollution.