Mother Nature has endowed all things in nature with nutritional and natural healing properties. The vivacious, rich golden hued sunflower blooms with their trailing blaze of yellow are in no way an exception. Besides being a visual treat, they are also an important food source containing health-benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.
The Sunflower has been associated with people for long. With their origin from North America dating back to over 5,000 years,the sunflower was used as a source of food and oil.Parts of the flowers, roots and stems have been used for diverse reasons including pigment dye. However, the bright yellow petals of the sunflower are considered poisonous to humans.Today sunflower oilis nevertheless anappreciated healthy vegetable oil and the crunchy sunflower seeds,a product of sunflower,are enjoyed as a healthy, tasty and nutritious snack.
Recognized worldwide for its effervescent beauty, the sunflower known as Helianthus annuus in Latin scientific term denotes their representation of the sun on earth, for ‘helios’in Greek means ‘sun’ and ‘anthos’ stands for ‘flower’.
The best things in life come in tiny packages… similarly the greyish-green, black coloured sunflower seeds, with their black and white stripes, sheathed in tear-dropped shaped shells containing very high oil content are nutrient dense. Laden with healthy fats, protein, fibre, minerals, vitamin E and phytochemicals, the seeds are used to make cooking oil, feeding birds besides imparting a host of benefits to most people due to their high levels of some of the most vital nutrients required for a healthy life.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||51.46 g||172%|
|Dietary Fiber||8.6 g||23%|
|Pantothenic acid||1.130 mg||22%|
|Vitamin A||50 IU||1.6%|
|Vitamin E||35.17 mg||234%|
Nutritional Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are an excellent whole food source of vitamin E, the body’s main lipid soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E travels throughout the body to locate damaging free radicals preventing fat containing molecules from being damaged protecting against premature ageing. Vitamin E contains anti-inflammatory properties that prevent risk of inflammatory diseases generally caused by free radicals damage such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes and osteoarthritis.
Being an excellent source of vitamin E, sunflower seeds prevent occurrence of cardiovascular diseases and helps prevent oxidation of cholesterol caused due to damage of free radicals. Cholesterol oxidation results in clogging of arteries leading to atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. Consumption of a quarter cup sunflower seeds provides over 90% of the daily-required value of vitamin E.
Vitamin E has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, bladder cancer and prostate cancer.
Described as the “lightning rod” of the cell, Vitamin E permits reactive molecules to crash into the cell, like lightning, without causing damage. Vitamin E directly protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation. A diet containing vitamin E-rich foods promotes this same protective effect.
According to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Research, sunflower seeds are high in many phytochemicals like choline, lignan, phenolic acids, and betaine, as well asthe amino acid arginine.
Phytochemicals or beneficial plant chemicals have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol. Therefore,they combat with cholesterol to be absorbed into the small intestine. Hence, less cholesterol gets absorbed and there is a marked reduction in the body’s level of blood cholesterol.
Chlorogenic acid helps reduce blood sugar levels by limiting glycogen breakdown in the liver.
Loaded with magnesium, Sunflower seeds are beneficial for maintaining bone health. In humans,majority of the magnesium is present in the bone, along with calcium content. Some amounts of the magnesium present in the bones is responsible for giving the bones their shape and the remaining quantities of magnesium found on the surface is stored to be utilized by the body as and when required.
Various studies indicate that Magnesium helps prevent frequent migraine attacks. Magnesium also helps lower blood pressure levels and helps maintain healthy readings.
Magnesium provides a calming effect on the nerves and blood vessels, by protecting against calcium seeping into the nerve cells and activating them.
Copper helps the body carry oxygen to red blood cells and produce energy in the cells.
Copper is also an important part of some antioxidant enzymes thus protecting from oxidative stress in the body.
Copper found in sunflower seeds is vital for the function of enzymes involved in cross-linking collagen and elastin, providing strength and flexibility to bones and joints.
Selenium works with vitamin E as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage that lead to cancer, heart disease, and other health problems.
Selenium protect the body against cancers by promoting DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, by impeding the production of cancer cells, and by causing cancer cells to die. Besides selenium is integrated at the effective site of various proteins, including glutathione peroxidise, one of the most dominant antioxidant enzymes found naturally in the body, that plays an important role in prevention of cancer. Glutathione peroxidase is for the most part used by the liver to detoxify numerous harmful molecules. However, low levels of glutathione peroxidise, show an inability to neutralize toxic molecules, leaving them in the body to create disaster damaging DNA and promoting cancer.
Folate part of B vitamins plays an indispensable role in production of new body cells such as RNA, DNA and haemoglobin. Hence, folate is highly essential for expectant mothers for healthy development of the foetus in the womb.
Folate along with vitamin B-12 helps form haemoglobin in the red blood cells, allowing them to carry optimal amounts of oxygen.
Folate is involved in the removal of an amino acid known as homocysteine, from the blood, which is one of the main causes for the incidence of heart disease.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of plant protein, providing 6 grams or 12 percentage of the Daily Value per ounce. Protein supplies amino acids, the building block that builds, maintain and repair body tissues.
They are also a very good source of proteins with fine quality amino acids such as tryptophan that are essential for growth, especially in children.
An ounce of sunflower seeds is a good source of iron, providing 10% of the Daily Value. Iron is essential for carrying oxygen to the lungs, through the blood, and to every cell in the body. Deficiency in iron can lead to anaemia, fatigue and infection.
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of manganese, containing 37% of the daily value per quarter cup. Manganese is crucial for the breakdown of enzymes, in the body, which would otherwise remain unused. Some of these include bone formation and production of thyroid hormones. An element of nerve-health Manganese helps defeat depression. Manganese also aids the process of synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol and assist in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins.Insufficient levels of manganese in the body lead to hearing loss, dizziness, skin rash, bone loss and osteoporosis, extremely low cholesterol levels, and health factors related to reproduction.
A rather significant source of zinc, sunflower seeds enhance immune health and attack any type of infection invading the body.
Sunflower seeds and oil contain types of unsaturated fat that may protect the heart like monounsaturated oleic acid and polyunsaturated linoleic acid, Studies confirm that higher unsaturated fat diets may be preferable to low-fat diets because they lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) known as bad cholesterol and triglycerides, maintaining positive high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, improving lipid profile.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of B-6, which is required to alleviate depression.
Sunflower seeds contain fibre in abundance promoting good health by helping to lower blood cholesterol, control blood glucose levels and prevent constipation.
Due to their high mineral content Sunflower seeds act as a natural pH defense. One the best method for protecting the body against the negative effects of Morgellons disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases is by maintaining optimal pH levels that is to some extent on the alkaline side.
- The Black Oil Sunflower Seeds are commonly used for feeding birds. Seeds used as bird food are known as Sunflower Hearts.
- The inedible shell or hull of these fruits is used for production of biomass fuel.
- According to researches, Sunflower oil can be used as a renewable bio-source for producing Hydrogen.
- Sunflower Seeds make a healthy substitute for chewing tobacco.