The 14 proven health benefits of sunflower seeds

Sunflower Seeds benefits

In the healthcare industry, there is little attention to natural ingredients due to the ever growing supplement and medication market. Amongst all the new trends and products to try for attaining their health benefits, many forget that the simple ingredients can aid a healthier body and help with numerous health concerns, like sunflowers seeds.

Sunflower seeds have been around for centuries and have a long history of studies, proven results and numerous health benefits. This superfood have health reports and studies dating back as early as 3000BC in North America. They are one of the most popular and in demand seeds in the world due to their abundance of health properties, of which you can find out about today.

Sunflower seeds are available across the world and it is now that you can find out about their history, why they are so beneficial to your health and why you should add them to your diet today:

What are sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds are the fruit which comes from the sunflower plant. There are around 70 species of sunflowers and are all from the same genetic family known as Helianthus annuus. 

There are three types of sunflower seeds, linoleic, high oleic and mid-oleic. They are different due to their chemical makeup of lipids. Linoleic are polyunsaturated, mid-oleic are low in saturated fat and high oleic are made up of unsaturated and trans-free fats. 

The two major uses for sunflowers seeds are as oils and food. You can tell the difference between the two seeds due to their colour. The kind we eat, which come from the confection crop, have white stripes on them. Oil seeds are black and are typically smaller than confection crop seeds. 

According to Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute, around 10-20% of the crop consists of the confection crop. The rest is mainly oil seeds which are the preferred type for birds, who are the main consumer of sunflower seeds. For human consumption, sunflower seeds are commonly eaten in trail-mix, nutrition bars, in multi-grain bread or on their own. The richness of fats, minerals and vitamins are the reason behind them being so beneficial to your health. 

Here, is a list of the 14 proven health benefits that sunflower seeds can provide:

A list of the 14 proven health benefits of sunflower seeds

Sunflowers seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. They also contain a high source of plant compounds such as flavonoids and phenolic acids which are powerful antioxidants. Once sprouted, the compounds and their effectiveness increases. These beneficiary compounds and nutrients are effective for the following health concerns:

1 – Regulates blood pressure

Sunflower seeds are a great source of magnesium, which is a chemical known to lower blood pressure. Research suggests that the magnesium content along with other nutrients in the sunflower seeds works by dilating blood vessels, and therefore regulating the flow of blood to lower blood pressure. 

Similarly, more research shows that sunflowers seeds contain a healthy amount of linoleic acid, which is a hormone compound which also relaxes blood vessels, furthering the proof that these seeds can help lower blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, just a handful of sunflower seeds, around 80 grams, a day may lower your blood pressure and help regulate it. 

2 – Lower blood sugar levels

Studies have found that sunflower seeds contain a blood sugar lowering compound called chlorogenic acid. The research suggests that someone who eats a serving of around 30 grams per day can lower their blood sugar level up to 10 percent within six weeks. 

They are a seed highly recommended to diabetic patients, especially those with type 2 diabetes. You can consume them in a number of ways and when consumed with carbohydrates, it can decrease their effect on your blood sugar. 

For more information on other products that can lower blood sugar level, read our article on Vega Sports Protein here.

3 – May prevent heart disease

Sunflower seeds are proven to be the seed with the highest amount of phytosterols, which is a plant molecule closely associated with heart health. They have a superior profile in comparison to other seeds.

They are also loaded with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E. Vitamin E has strong anti-inflammatory properties which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Research suggests that foods rich in vitamin E can be benefi-cial to heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. 

4 – Helps with inflammation

Sunflower seeds have a high monounsaturated and omega-6 content, which are known for their inflammation fighting benefits. There is an abundant amount of research for sunflower seeds and their anti-inflammatory effects. Regular consumption of the seeds shows to reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a key chemical linked with inflammation. 

A study on over 6,000 adults found that high consumption of nuts and seeds, including sunflowers seeds, showed 100% positive results for the reduction of inflammation. The sunflower seeds exceeded other nuts and seeds that were involved in the study, including almonds. 

5 – Improves bone health

Sunflower seeds contain a health amount of fats, minerals, vitamins and proteins which are key for bone health. In particular they are high in vitamin E, B-complex and magnesium which are beneficial for osteoporosis patients, therefore can help anyone without bone disease. The magnesium content found in sunflower seeds promotes bone elasticity which is good for joints and bones to become more flexible

The seeds are also extremely high in phosphorus, which works alongside the calcium in your body to promote and strengthen bones. Phosphorus helps maintain bone mineral density and prevents loss of these essential bone minerals. 

6 – Improves cholesterol

A study by Science Daily found that sunflower seeds are among the top seeds for lowering cholesterol. Therefore, phytosterol compounds found in sunflower seeds not only help reduce heart disease, but also hold benefits for reducing cholesterol. 

Those with a high cholesterol may benefit from daily consumption of sunflower seeds as they have proven to lower the bad cholesterol, known as LDL which will help regulate cholesterol levels and therefore balance the LDL with the good cholesterol, HDL. 

7 – Supports your nervous system

The high magnesium content also provides benefits for the nervous system. Magnesium is naturally found in the neural receptors in your nerve cells and for them to function properly, and if not better, more magnesium is welcome. 

Neural receptors are also known as NDMA which are required for good memory, learning and brain development. Research shows that magnesium is an essential compound for the nervous system to function properly.

8 – Reduces the risk of a stroke

The main reason for a stroke occuring is due to high blood pressure, and as sunflower seeds have shown results for reducing the risk of heart disease, the same goes for reducing the risk of a stroke. An enzyme found on sunflower seeds stops blood vessels from constricting. Its high vitamin E content is beneficial for those prone to strokes.

9 – Source of antioxidants

The body is forever grateful for an abundance of extra antioxidants and sunflower seeds are packed full with them. Vitamin E is one of the most well known and popular anti-oxidants and this vitamin is one of the main vitamins in the seed. Research found that vitamin E is a fat-soluble compound which has shown to help with anti-aging and fight off free radicals to protect cells against damage. 

10 – Helps with muscle contractions

Sunflowers seeds are high in vitamin B, especially vitamin B5. This is also known as pantothenic acid which helps synthesis coenzyme A. The coenzyme A compound that comes from the vitamin synthesis is essential for the breakdown of fatty acids in the body. This process helps with muscle contractions. 

Muscle contractions are essential for good movement of the body, as almost all movement involves a contraction of the muscles. A stronger body and stronger muscles are beneficial for healthier living and bodily function. 

11 – Can improve skin health

The vitamin E content found in sunflower seeds have amazing benefits for the appearance of the skin, its elasticity and can also help reduce scarring and signs of aging. The antioxidant selenium found in sunflower seeds is what assists the vitamin E is doing a good job in repairing the skin. Vitamin E contains fatty acids which improve the collagen in the skin which is how the elasticity improves. 

Sunflowers seeds are also packed with copper which increases the production of melanin, the pigment that enhances glowing skin

12 – Reduces the risk of cancer

A number of vitamins and minerals found in sunflower seeds have properties to aid better function of the body, skin, bones and heart but there is one that stands out for reducing the risk of cancer. Vitamin E is once again the graceful ingredient here. 

Research suggests that vitamin E along with the fiber and selenium content found in the seed has benefits for preventing colon cancer. Results showed to be positive in that sunflower seeds and its nutrients may be chemopreventive. 

13 – Aids gastrointestinal health 

As sunflower seeds hold great nutritional fiber value, which is beneficial for digestion. The fiber in the seed helps add substance to the stool and facilitates its movement. As well as this, its many other nutrients are beneficial to your gut health. 

Studies show that the high amount of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are great for balancing bacteria in the gut.

14 – Reduces anxiety and depression

Magnesium has been studied for many years for its effect on mood. Sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium, the mood boosting chemical, and therefore can help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression with a small amount per day. 

The seeds also contain an amino acid known as tryptophan. This amino acid aids the release of serotonin in the brain, which is a mood enhancer and helps a person feel content, calm and balanced.  

Now that you are aware of the amazing health benefits sunflower seeds can offer, let’s discuss a bit more about how they are manufactured so you know exactly what you are eating:

The manufacturing process of sunflower seeds

The seeds of the sunflower plant are harvested from the head. Most sunflowers have large heads of around 30cm and contain up to 2,000 seeds each. Once harvested, they are sent for processing and roasted to reduce their moisture level. The packaging process is important to keep the sunflower seeds fresh. They are packed air tight and if done so correctly can have a shelf life of up to 3 months. 

These seeds are then sent out to shops, markets and farms for consumption as food, oil or food birds. For human consumption they have a nutty flavour and firm texture and are always the white striped kind. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Database, sunflowers seeds differ on calorie intake depending on if they are raw for bird consumption or roasted for human consumption, one quarter of a cup of raw sunflower seeds contain 204 calories and half a cup of roasted seeds contain 67 calories. The roasting process drains excess moisture and therefore drains calorie content.

For dosage recommendations are as follows:

Recommended dosage of sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are a tasty snack and are great to add into your daily diet for all of their health benefits on offer. Like all foods, nutrients and dietary substances, there is a daily recommended amount to consume. You do only need a small amount of foods like sunflower seeds to reap the benefits, which is as follows.

When to start and stop

Like any food, you can start and stop consuming sunflower seeds as and when you wish to. If you find they upset your stomach or notice any other side effects, then you should stop consuming them immediately. 

How many is recommended per day

Sunflower seeds are quite high in calories, therefore it is recommended to consume just a small amount per day. Around 30 grams, quarter of a cup, daily is considered to be a healthy and balanced amount and is enough to gain from the health benefits.

If you are watching your salt intake, then be aware that the shells contain a high sodium content. You can purchase sunflower seeds without the shell which will lower in the salt intake.

Can you overdose on sunflower seeds

You cannot overdose on sunflower seeds but it is highly recommended to not over consume then. As well as them being high in calories and sodium (if it their shell), sunflower seeds may also cause stool blockages. If you eat them with the shell on, some parts of the shell can sometimes be hard to break down during digestion, especially for children. To prevent this from happening, try eating the unshelled version. 

Precautions to take

As well as what has been discussed above, a main precaution to take is allergies. Whilst allergies to sunflower seeds is rare, it can happen. If you notice any symptoms such as mouth swelling, skin rashes, lesions, vomiting and nausea then stop consuming them immediately and seek medical help. 

Over consuming sunflower seeds can also result in weight gain, to prevent this it is advised to stick to the daily recommended amount. 

Whilst there is little precaution to take, always be sensible and stick to the daily recommended dose. You can add them to foods or eat them alone to attain their health benefits:

Can you mix sunflower seeds with other ingredients for added health benefits?

You can consume sunflower seeds on their own or with other ingredients. Eating them alone provides you all the health benefits discussed above, but adding them into meals with other health boosting ingredients is good too. 

You can add sunflower seeds into your meals such as smoothies, bakes and more. Or, you can consume them alongside other nutritional foods such as fruits, vegetables, spices and other nuts and seeds. 

There is no strict information to prove that sunflower seeds have extra benefits when added to other ingredients. Instead, it is suggested that you can eat them alongside other foods in your diet to reap the benefits with them.  

Adding them to meals is a great way to introduce them into your diet and help you consume a healthy amount of them on a daily basis to reap the health benefits. For example you can add them to a trail mix, sprinkle on salads, add to stir frys and add them to your breakfasts. There are so many ways to eat sunflower seeds and all adding them to your meals is an easy way to get them into your daily diet.

Risks and side effects of sunflower seeds

There is little to no reports on side effects of sunflower seeds. They are a natural food and the manufacturing process does not add any harmful substances nor does it alter the contents of the seed.

However, consuming too many sunflower seeds can cause damage to the kidneys. The high level of phosphorus found in sunflower seeds can impact kidney function. Those already with kidney disease should avoid foods high in phosphorus. 

Over consumption can also cause a spike in blood pressure as it increases the level of sodium in the blood. This can also increase the risk of an unhealthy heart and risks that come with poor heart function and health. 

To avoid side effects, it is best to stick to the daily recommended consumption amount. Side effects typically come with over consuming the seeds instead of side effects occurring as a result of regular consumption. 

For information on the pros and cons of sunflower seeds:

Pros and cons of sunflower seeds

PROS CONS
Can consume them in countless ways High in calories
Affordable Rich in saturated fat
Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals Can only consume a small amount to prevent side effects
Numerous proven health benefits
Versatile

If you are wondering where exactly to buy sunflower seeds, here are some tips:

Where to buy sunflower seeds: the complete guide

You can grow your own sunflower seeds by planting sunflowers in your garden or allotment. Growing them yourself will allow you to have the beauty of the plant and consume the seeds they grow. You can purchase planting kits and seeds in garden stores and online at Amazon.

Here is a video tutorial on how to harvest and make your own Sunflower Seeds :

Alternatively, you can purchase sunflower seeds for consumption from health stores and all grocery stores. Some retailers manufacture flavoured sunflower seeds which means they have added ingredients and may not have the same health benefits. If you wish to consume them for their health benefits, it is best to buy them plain. Check the ingredients list to ensure there are no added flavourings or other substances that may decrease their effectiveness.

If you have any more questions, here is some more information on sunflower seeds and what people are searching for most:

FAQ

What happens when you eat too many sunflower seeds?

There are a few reported issues with the over consumption of sunflower seeds. Eating too many can cause weight gain and affect the function of your kidneys. It is best to stick by the recommended daily dosage, as discussed above to prevent any issues from developing.

Do sunflower seeds make your hair grow?

Vitamin E is a nourishing vitamin which is good for your scalp and therefore hair growth. The vitamin works to nourish the scalp and strands to make them healthy. Healthy hair means your hair will grow quicker and thicker.

Can sunflower seeds be eaten raw?

It is safe to eat sunflower seeds raw, with or without the shell. Most varieties are sold roasted for human consumption, but there is no report of them being unsafe to eat raw. To keep them from rotting or going off, store them and consume from an airtight container.

Do sunflowers seeds make you gain weight?

Over eating sunflower seeds can cause weight gain as they are high in calories. Just half a cup contains around 200 calories. They are a healthy nutritious seed, but the calorie content is the biggest downside. Be sensible with your daily dosage to prevent unexpected weight gain. 

Are sunflower seeds good for your skin?

Sunflower seeds have proven to show results for anti-aging, scarring and improving elasticity. The copper and vitamin E content is great for boosting collagen to improve the skin’s appearance and slow down aging. Sunflower seed oil has been manufactured into skin care products due to their profoundness with improving skin. 

Are sunflower seeds bad for your liver?

Sunflower seeds are very high in antioxidants, such as vitamin E, which has shown to help protect the liver. Fatty liver disease is a kidney problem that can be reversed with the right chemicals and a study tested to see if sunflower seeds can help reverse the impact. The study involved 60 individuals who were fed sunflower seeds and overtime, the level of LFT decreased proving that the seeds help control the enzymes in the blood that cause liver disease. 

Conclusion

Sunflower seeds do not only hold great nutritional value, they promote, aid and help manage numerous health concerns. They should be considered an essential in everybody’s diet. The seeds are all natural, healthy and extremely versatile so that anyone can enjoy them on their own or in countless dishes. 

There is not yet any report of them being bad for your health when consumed in recommended portions, therefore they are a safe food that guarantees results. They are a readily available nutritious seed across the world and can help many conditions for all ages, genders and diversities.

If you liked this article, please share it with your peers so they can reap the benefits with you. Leave your feedback and comments to let us know what you will use sunflower seeds for.

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