Sunflower seeds make a great snack. But did you know that they’re chock-a-block with nutrients? These delicious seeds are a source of healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium, and protein.1 Let’s take a look at how this nutritious seed can benefit our health. Sunflower seeds can:
1. Keep Your Heart Healthy
Did you know that heart disease is the main cause of death in the United States for men and women?2 Sunflower seeds have nutrients that can help keep your heart healthy – after all, they are a source of good fats and beneficial phytosterols. While trans fats and saturated fat can be bad for your heart, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can do you good. They can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.3 4 Phytosterols have also been known to lower cholesterol. Together, these healthy fats and phytosterols in sunflower seeds can improve heart health.5 So, go ahead and snack on sunflower seeds to keep your heart healthy!
2. Improve Mood
Proteins are made up of amino acids and the protein in sunflower seeds contains an important acid known as tryptophan which can help improve your mood. Your body uses this amino acid to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter which is involved in the regulation of mood. Studies have found that tryptophan can help improve mood symptoms in women with premenstrual syndrome as well as help people with depression.6 But do keep in mind that you need to eat sunflower seeds along with a food that’s high in carbohydrates to improve its absorption in the brain. That’s because other amino acids can out-compete tryptophan for transport into the brain. Carbohydrates can, however, divert these amino acids and help increase tryptophan levels in the brain.7 So snack on sunflower seeds with a piece of fruit or a baked potato to enjoy the benefit of tryptophan.
3. Lower Risk Of Parkinson’s Disease
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, a nutrient that’s vital to your health. You can get 8.4 mg of vitamin E from ¼ cup of roasted sunflower seeds when the daily requirement for an adult is 15 mg.10 Vitamin E can in turn help protect against Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder that makes it difficult to do simple things like walking, talking, swallowing food, and talking. According to research, dietary vitamin E can have a neuroprotective effect, thereby lowering the risk of Parkinson’s disease.11
4. Improve Male Fertility
Sunflower seeds contain zinc, a mineral that’s important for male fertility. In fact, according to research, taking zinc can improve sperm count, quality, and motility in infertile men.12 About 100 gms of sunflower seeds can give you 5mg of zinc.13 So include these nutrient-rich seeds in your diet.
5. Promote Sleep
Along with factors like stress and your sleeping environment, diet also determines whether you get a good night’s sleep. Tryptophan, the amino acid that plays a role in the synthesis of serotonin, is particularly important for promoting sleep. That’s because your body converts serotonin into melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, at night. Now, 20 g of sunflower seeds contains 50 mg of tryptophan, but remember to combine sunflower seeds with some carbs for a restful night’s sleep.14
6. Help Prevent Birth Defects
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of folate. This B vitamin is required by our bodies for cell division and for making genetic material. And it’s vitally important during pregnancy. Low levels of this vitamin increase the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida in your baby and raise the chances of a low-weight baby or premature birth.15 About 1½ ounces of sunflower seeds can give you 101 mcg of folate. Remember, though, it’s also recommended that you get 400 mcg of folate from supplements or fortified foods in addition to the folate that you get from dietary sources if you’re planning to have a baby.16 Do speak to your doctor about your folate requirements if you’re planning a baby. You may need to start increasing your folate amounts before conceiving because a deficiency in this vitamin can have an impact very early in your pregnancy.
7. Help Manage Weight
Tryptophan, in sunflower seeds, helps to regulate appetite – when we are satiated with this amino acid we don’t crave carbohydrates.17 Sunflower seeds also contain chlorogenic acid and some evidence suggests that this component can be helpful in inducing weight loss.18 19
Substituting sunflower seeds for unhealthy fats and including them as part of an overall calorie reduced diet can be helpful in managing your weight. But do keep in mind that sunflower seeds are a fatty, calorie-dense food – 100 gm gives you 584 kcal of energy.20 So, you have to adjust the total amount of calories that you consume to lose weight.
8. Benefit Your Hair
100 gms of sunflower seeds have 66 mcg of biotin, a B vitamin that’s needed to metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and protein.21 There is some evidence that biotin can help improve the condition of your hair, which is made of protein. In fact, animal studies have even found that supplementing the diet of dogs with sunflower seeds improved the condition of their hair coat.22
So include delicious sunflower seeds in your diet and your hair will thank you for it! 30 mcg of biotin per day is considered to be sufficient for adults.23
9. Moisturize Skin
The seed oil can do you good too. Did you know that sunflower seed oil can keep your skin from drying out? Sunflower oil improves hydration by forming a protective barrier on your skin, preventing moisture from escaping. One study that compared the topical application of sunflower oil and olive oil found that over a period of four weeks, olive oil reduced the integrity of the outermost layer of skin and resulted in mild reddening of the skin while sunflower oil preserved the integrity of the skin and improved hydration. So if you’re looking for an effective natural moisturizer, look no further than your kitchen shelf.24
10. Treat Fungal Nail Infections
Fungal nail infections are pretty difficult to treat and they also have the habit of coming back after you’re finally rid of them. But ozonized sunflower oil, sunflower oil through which ozone has been bubbled for a while, might be your secret weapon against these nasty infections. According to one study, 90.5% of people who applied ozonized sunflower oil twice a day for three months were cured of their fungal nail infection. Also, only 2.8% of the people who used this treatment experienced a relapse during the year after their treatment. So if you’ve been searching for an effective remedy for that fungal nail infection, sunflower oil could be it!25
Munch On Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds can be had raw or cooked. You can sprinkle them on your cereal or salad and cook them into bread and cakes.
[pullquote]So how much of these healthy seeds should you have? If you consume an average of 2000 calories per day, you can have 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds four to five times in a week.26[/pullquote]
Here are some interesting ways of including these seeds in your diet:
Spread Some Butter: Try some delicious sunflower seed butter today! In fact, they make a good alternative to peanut butter if you’re allergic to peanut.
Sunflower seed butter is easy to make at home. Toast the sunflower seeds and run it through a food processor. When the seeds are still powdery and dry, you can add a little coconut oil if you prefer a slightly thinner consistency. Continue processing till the seeds turn smooth and buttery. The processing stage can take between 8 to 15 minutes. You can also add salt, ground sugar, cinnamon powder, or vanilla while processing to boost flavor.
Snack On A Trail Mix: You can also combine sunflower seeds with other seeds and nuts to prepare a delicious and healthy snack trail. For instance, combining sunflower seeds with pumpkin seeds, which are also high in tryptophan, can make a powerful mood-boosting snack.
Make A Smoothie: Add sunflower seeds to your regular smoothie to boost its power. Try a delicious banana smoothie, for instance. Simply process one ripe frozen banana, a cup of soy or almond milk, and one tablespoon each of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds which have been soaked in water overnight. Add a teaspoon of honey and a spot of vanilla extract to sweeten the deal, top up with ice, and you’ve got yourself a lip-smacking smoothie!
|↑1||Basic Report: 12036, Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2||Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3||Facts about polyunsaturated fats. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Facts about monounsaturated fats. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑5||Phillips, Katherine M., David M. Ruggio, and Mehdi Ashraf-Khorassani. “Phytosterol composition of nuts and seeds commonly consumed in the United States.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 53, no. 24 (2005): 9436-9445.|
|↑6||L-Tryptophan. University of Michigan.|
|↑7, ↑14, ↑17||Get a Good Night’s Sleep. The Sleep Council.|
|↑8||Stahl, Lauren A., Denovan P. Begg, Richard S. Weisinger, and Andrew J. Sinclair. “The role of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders.” Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs 9, no. 1 (2008): 57-64.|
|↑9||Food and Your Mood. National Health Service.|
|↑10||Food Sources of Vitamin E. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑11||Etminan, Mahyar, Sudeep S. Gill, and Ali Samii. “Intake of vitamin E, vitamin C, and carotenoids and the risk of Parkinson’s disease: a meta-analysis.” The Lancet Neurology 4, no. 6 (2005): 362-365.|
|↑12||Male Infertility. University of Michigan.|
|↑13||Basic Report: 12036, Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑15||Folate. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑16||Keep the Multi, Skip the Heavily Fortified Foods. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑18||Pedrosa, Mercedes M., Mercedes Muzquiz, Concepción García‐Vallejo, Carmen Burbano, Carmen Cuadrado, Gemma Ayet, and Luz M. Robredo. “Determination of caffeic and chlorogenic acids and their derivatives in different sunflower seeds.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 80, no. 4 (2000): 459-464.|
|↑19||Thom, Erling. “The effect of chlorogenic acid enriched coffee on glucose absorption in healthy volunteers and its effect on body mass when used long-term in overweight and obese people.” Journal of International Medical Research 35, no. 6 (2007): 900-908.|
|↑20||Basic Report: 12036, Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried. Unites States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑21||Biotin. University of Utah Health.|
|↑22||Rees, C. A., J. E. Bauer, W. J. Burkholder, R. A. Kennis, B. L. Dunbar, and C. E. Bigley. “Effects of dietary flax seed and sunflower seed supplementation on normal canine serum polyunsaturated fatty acids and skin and hair coat condition scores.” Veterinary dermatology 12, no. 2 (2001): 111-117.|
|↑23||Vitamin H (Biotin). University Of Maryland.|
|↑24||Danby, Simon G., Tareq AlEnezi, Amani Sultan, Tina Lavender, John Chittock, Kirsty Brown, and Michael J. Cork. “Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care.” Pediatric dermatology 30, no. 1 (2013): 42-50.|
|↑25||Menéndez, Silvia, Leopoldina Falcón, and Yordana Maqueira. “Therapeutic efficacy of topical OLEOZON® in patients suffering from onychomycosis.” Mycoses 54, no. 5 (2011).|
|↑26||In Brief: Your Guide To Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH. National Institutes of Health.|