Sunflower seeds mostly gain popularity for its use in the production of edible oils. But do you know that you can snack on these humble seeds too? From trail mixes to nutrition bars, these sweet-nutty seeds have now found their place everywhere for high nutrition profile and awesome benefits. Even more, interestingly, they may take the greatest care of everything in your body including your health, skin, and hair. Let us explore more about sunflower seeds benefits along with their side effects and uses.
What are Sunflower Seeds?
There are two types of sunflower crops. The first type is mostly farmed for extracting edible oils while the second type is grown for edible seeds (1). Harvested from the huge heads of the flowers, sunflower seeds are basically the fruits of the sunflower plant named Helianthus annuus. Edible sunflower seeds come encased in ‘hulls’ or black-and-white striped shells, which need to be removed before consumption. Seeds that come with solid black shells are used for oil extraction. Typically, sunflower seeds are characterized by a mild, nutty flavor and a firm yet tender texture. Shelled and dry-roasted sunflower seeds are not only nutritious but also quite good for our overall health and appearance.
The diameter of one sunflower head can be even more than 12 inches and it can contain as many as 2,000 seeds.
Nutritional Profile of Sunflower Seeds
Tiny seeds of sunflower pack tons of nutrients. Their main constituents are 20% protein, 35-42% oils, and 31% unsaturated fatty acids. The seeds are very high in vitamins (A, B3, B5, B6, E, folate), essential minerals (copper, manganese, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, selenium), dietary fiber, and essential fatty acids (linoleic acid, oleic acid). They also have abundant plant compounds like flavonoids and phenolic acids, which contribute to its strong antioxidant properties (2). Other elements present in these seeds include alkaloids, tannins, saponins, terpenes, steroids, tocopherols (alpha, beta, and gamma), etc. Above all, sunflower seeds have 163 calories and absolutely no cholesterol.
Sprouted sunflower seeds have more nutrients and plant compounds than the regular ones. Sprouting of the seeds also facilitates mineral absorption by reducing the factors inhibiting it.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
The highly nutritious sunflower seeds can make us healthy in the following ways:
1. Improves Digestive Health
Being very high in insoluble dietary fibers, sunflower seeds may support digestion to a large extent. The raw seeds boost the functionalities of our gastrointestinal system and keep constipation away.
2. Prevents Free Radical Damage
Sunflower seeds are loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E (3), copper, selenium (4), etc. These antioxidants keep free radicals away and prevent blood cholesterol from oxidizing so that the blood vessels do not get blocked and we not end up suffering from ailments like atherosclerosis, blocked arteries, stroke, heart block, heart attack, etc.
3. Keeps Bad Cholesterol Away
While averting cholesterol oxidization, sunflower seeds also lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream (5). They come packed with dietary fiber, phytosterols and unsaturated fats (both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats), which all together work against bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
4. Regulates Blood Pressure Levels
Intake of sunflower seeds is known to have a great impact on our blood pressure levels. It is very high in potassium and magnesium, which easily offset the drastic effects caused in our body due to spikes in sodium level (6). As a result, our blood pressure doesn’t go up and we can stay away from the risk of hypertension.
5. Inhibits Cancerous Growth
The antioxidant properties of sunflower seeds are excellent for decreasing cellular damage and sometimes even putting a stop to this completely. They also contain a few naturally occurring anti-carcinogenic compounds, such as phytosterols, lignans, etc., which play key roles in providing protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells as well as destroying them totally to avoid further growth. (7)
6. Controls Blood Sugar Levels
The antioxidant properties of sunflower seeds are also beneficial for diabetic people. The raw seeds keep our blood sugar levels under check and help our body maintain it steadily so that we do not experience hyper- or hypoglycemia. (8)
7. Maintains Bone Health
Sunflower seeds take great care of our bones. Thanks to their high calcium and magnesium content that is essential for maintaining the physical structure of bones, making them strong and keeping the joints healthy. It has also been discovered that the copper present in raw sunflower seeds is crucial for activating the enzymes, which increase the strength and flexibility of our bones as well as joints by cross-linking elastin and collagen (two active components of connective tissue).
8. Steer Clear of Inflammatory Diseases
The vitamin E present in sunflower seeds has amazing anti-inflammatory effects on our body. Being a fat-soluble antioxidant, it protects us from oxidative damage, which eventually keeps us safe from various inflammatory diseases like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc.
9. Relaxes the Nervous System
The high magnesium density in sunflower seeds is good for our nerves too. It puts calcium off from rushing into the neurons and also triggers their normal activities. These are crucial for keeping the muscles as well as blood vessels relaxed leading to a calm and relaxed nervous system.
10. Promotes Weight Loss
Munching on sunflower seeds make your weight loss journey easy and smooth. It is quite nutritious and keeps us full for a longer period of time, which is very much required for effective weight loss. (9)
11. Enhances Mental Health
Consumption of sunflower seeds is closely linked to our mental health and that too in a positive manner. They contain an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which helps us get rid of stress, tension, and anxiety by facilitating the release of a neurotransmitter named ‘serotonin’ in our body. It promotes brain relaxation, lowers depression and makes our mood better.
Skin Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
When your nutrition is adequate, you can easily get flawless gorgeous skin. Here is how sunflower seeds give you one:
1. Fights Premature Aging
The vitamin E-rich sunflower seeds are considered as a potent natural remedy for premature aging. They provide protection to our skin from free radical damages, sun damages and environmental damages, which is essential for averting signs of aging and keeping the vitality of skin intact.
2. Averts UV Damage
The copper in the seeds facilitates melanin production in our body, thereby shielding our skin against the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays of the sun and maintaining them as healthy as possible.
3. Keeps Skin Bacteria-Free
The essential fatty acids (linoleic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, etc.) in the seeds have powerful anti-bacterial properties, which wards off breakouts, infections, and other skin issues.
4. Makes Skin Healthy
Being rich in nutrients, sunflower seeds are a superfood for our skin. It provides enough nourishment and moisture to our cells to keep our skin soft, supple, smooth and healthy.
Hair Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Our dream of getting healthy luscious mane can be true with the proper use of sunflower seeds. We tell you how:
1. Stimulates Hair Growth
Sunflower seeds promote the growth of our hair dramatically, thanks to its zinc and vitamin E content. Both of these components are capable of boosting blood circulation throughout our scalp, thereby stimulating the follicles to a large extent.
2. Stops Extreme Hair Fall
The seeds are enriched with vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, which increases zinc absorption in our body and supplies much more oxygen to our scalp. These cause lesser hair fall and give us relief from acute hair loss.
3. Moisturizes Hair Fibers
The essential fatty acids, especially omega-6 fatty acids, make sunflower seeds a good natural hair moisturizer. It restores the lost moisture of hair strands, prevents them from turning dry and reduces split ends, thereby promoting healthy hair.
How to Eat Sunflower Seeds
Versatile sunflower seeds can be eaten raw, dry-roasted, or fried in butter. They can even be added to muffins, cookies, salads, smoothies, and various cooked dishes for added flavor. The recommended daily allowance of these seeds is 42 grams and you should not consume it more than this.
Sunflower seeds are a versatile healthy snack with tons of essential nutrients in them. They not only keep us healthy from inside but also improve the health of our skin and hair. Hence, including them in our daily diet can enhance our overall well-being by inducing a number of amazing benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Happens If You Eat a Lot of Sunflower Seeds?
Consuming too much sunflower seeds can lead to adverse reactions like constipation, diarrhea, allergic reactions, severe acne, etc.
Is Chewing Sunflower Seeds Bad for Your Teeth?
The habit of chewing raw sunflower seeds can put undue stress on your teeth, thereby causing enamel loss and even fractures (in the worst case of scenario).
Is Sunflower Seeds High in Uric Acid?
No. Rather, consuming sunflower seeds can help you lower your uric acid levels significantly as they are very high in dietary fiber.
- “Evaluating Modern Techniques for the Extraction and Characterisation of Sunflower (Hellianthus annus L.) Seeds Phenolics“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “A Review of Phytochemistry, Metabolite Changes, and Medicinal Uses of the Common Sunflower Seeds and Sprouts (Helianthus annuus L.)“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Vitamin E“, ods.od.nih.gov
- “Selenium“, ods.od.nih.gov
- “Synergistic Effect of Phytochemicals on Cholesterol Metabolism and Lipid Accumulation in HepG2 Cells“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Markers of Cardiovascular Risk in Postmenopausal Women with Type 2 Diabetes are Improved by the Daily Consumption of Almonds or Sunflower Kernels: a Feeding Study“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Chemopreventive Potential of Sunflower Seeds in a Human Colon Cancer Cell Line“, SciAlert.net
- “Antidiabetic Effect of Helianthus annuus L., Seeds Ethanolic Extract in Streptozotocin- Nicotinamide Induced Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus“, InnovareAcademics.in
- “Helianthus annuus Seed Extract Affects Weight and Body Composition of Healthy Obese Adults during 12 Weeks of Consumption: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov