Sunflower Seeds: Health Benefits in a Nutshell

Sunflower seeds are basically the fruit of the sunflower. Whether you prefer to purchase them shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted, they are healthy alternatives to some of the processed snacks of today.

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Below are some of the reasons you should make sunflower seeds an addition to your diet.

Inside Sunflower Seeds

The ingredients in sunflower seeds are what make them so good for you. They contain an abundance of potassium, calcium and folate primarily. They are excellent sources of protein; vitamin E (providing nearly 2 ½ times your daily requirement); thiamine, or vitamin B1 (providing nearly twice your daily requirement); panthothenic acid, or vitamin B5 (providing nearly 1 ½ times your daily requirement); magnesium, manganese and phosphorus (each of which provide 100% of your daily requirement); and vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9), iron and zinc (each of which provide at least half your daily requirement). Sunflower seeds are also a good source of dietary fiber, with over 10 grams per 3.5 ounce serving. The seeds also contain good amounts of riboflavin and niacin, and trace amounts of vitamin C.

Like nuts, sunflower seeds contain lots of fat, but the good thing is that it’s mostly unsaturated fat. This is the fat that’s actually good for you, that won’t send your cholesterol soaring or your heart into the danger zone. That being said, fat is still fat. While unsaturated is better for you healthwise, your body weight is another issue. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, you’ll want to eat sunflower seeds in moderation.

What’s So Great About Sunflower Seeds?

The heavy fiber content in sunflower seeds will assuage your hunger in no time and aid in digestion.

Vitamin E is known to seek out and destroy free radicals that could damage your body’s healthy cells. This boosts your immunity and keeps down inflammation, illness, and injury. Vitamin E also plays a part in keeping cancer from invading or progressing in the body, helping to regulate cholesterol, hormones and blood sugar, and preventing heart disease and stroke. Research shows that ingesting more vitamin E significantly lowers your risk of dying of a heart attack or stroke.

The magnesium in sunflower seeds helps to regulate blood pressure and asthma, as well as reduce the severity of migraines. Magnesium further strengthens bones, provides the body with more energy, and keeps us more relaxed (thus better able to deal with stress).

The selenium in sunflower seeds helps to detoxify the body and also prevent cancer, by helping to regenerate new cells and repair damaged ones.

Uses for Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds can be used in a variety of ways in your meals. They’re usually not a standalone meal, but rather a little something to add flavor and texture to your foods or just as a light snack every now and then. For example, sprinkle them on your yogurt, cereal or salad when you want a little flavor variety. Substitute them for potato chips and cookies, or even peanut butter since they are available at local health food stores in a delicious, nutty spread called sunflower butter.

Drop them in your favorite bread or cake mixtures for a pleasant taste as well. You can use them in place of walnuts or other nuts that you normally bake with. Some people even grind up unshelled sunflower seeds to use in place of flour when cooking meat.

Eaten plain, they’re just as good. However, because the unshelled ones are so tiny, people may tend to overindulge, not realizing how much fat they are ingesting. All you need is a small handful or maybe a tablespoon or two sprinkled over your dishes in one sitting.

You should also avoid the salted and flavored varieties that come in shells, because the sodium levels are through the roof and can be detrimental to those who already suffer from high blood pressure or other heart-related issues. As always, use moderation.

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