Sunflower seeds originated in South America and were used by Native Americans more than 5000 years ago. Today, the leading producers of this popular seed are Russia, Peru, Argentina, Spain and China.
Nutrition & Health
Seeds are a nutrient-dense food so just by adding a little bit to your diet they can contribute to a wide range of potential health benefits. They are naturally cholesterol free, gluten free, low in saturated fat and are a low glycemic-index food.
They are good sources of fiber, antioxidants, phytosterols, heart healthy fats, plant protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. Sunflower seeds are:
- One of the finest sources of the B-complex group of vitamins Such as niacin, folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), pantothenic acid, and riboflavin which all have very important and vital functions in metabolism. For example, Niacin helps reduce LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood and it enhances GABA activity inside the brain, which in turn helps reduce anxiety and neurosis. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and it may prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
- High in Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant Required for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes and protecting them from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Studies have shown it is especially useful for maintaining youthful, strong, healthy skin. 80% of your daily recommended value in every ¼ cup of sunflower seeds can help to reduce dangerous inflammation in the body that could lead to various diseases.
- Good source of Selenium Selenium is a key component necessary for your body to be able to create and use thyroid hormones. Including selenium and iodine in your diet, among other beneficial changes can help in controlling thyroid disorders. Selenium is also an antioxidant that in studies has shown to help with DNA repair and for detoxing the body of harmful, damaged cells as well as helping prevent breast cancer.
In summary, sunflower seeds supply a high amount of B vitamins, vitamin E, and selenium. They are rich in health benefiting polyphenol compounds that also act as natural antioxidants which help remove harmful oxidant molecules from the body. These seeds provide a good source of magnesium which helps balance the calcium/potassium ratio within cells and is crucial to overall cardiovascular health, healthy blood pressure and helps combat osteoporosis, bone loss, muscle cramps, chronic fatigue and even symptoms associated with mood disorders like depression and anxiety. So why not include them as part of your healthy diet?
Buying Tips and Storage
Sunflower seeds can be found in either shelled or unshelled varieties, look for the kinds that are uniform in color without any major yellow spots, firm and plump and avoid thin, broken or shriveled seeds.
Store whole unshelled kernels in an airtight container in a cool, dry place but preferably in the refrigerator for up to three months and store shelled seeds for up to one year. Store roasted seeds at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.