Sunflower seeds – great at the ballpark, helpful during a long drive, and a native plant to North America that has become a staple to cultures worldwide. Despite their small size, sunflower seeds are a dense source of vitamins and minerals and essential oils. Not only are they a great snack, sunflower seeds offer several extraordinary health benefits.
Sunflower Seeds Health Benefits
1. Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Sunflower seeds contain two nutrients that promote cardiovascular health – vitamin E and folate.
A quarter cup serving of sunflower seeds contains over 60% of the daily value of vitamin E. This essential vitamin performs important antioxidant function and balanced levels of vitamin E have been linked to a lower overall reduced risk of early death from cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E helps neutralize free radicals to protect brain health and cell membranes against redness and swelling. Make no mistake about the benefits of vitamin E, it has been linked to protection from more than one serious health risk.
Additionally, folate has been shown to promote cardiovascular health from birth to old age. It metabolizes homocysteine, an indicator of cardiovascular concerns, into methionine, an essential amino acid. Folate and essential fatty acids naturally occur in sunflower seeds and have been associated with cardiovascular health.
2. Phytosterols Promote Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Sunflower seeds contain a high level of phytosterols. These phytosterols have physical properties similar to cholesterol; more than once, research has linked them to supporting healthy cholesterol levels.[4, 5]
3. Potent Source of Magnesium
Magnesium deficiency can lead to a variety of health concerns that affect the cardiovascular, nervous, and immune systems. The muscles and skeletal system also require magnesium for proper function. Homeopathic practitioners have long used magnesium to promote respiratory function, heart health, and reduced PMS tension.
And a quarter cup serving of sunflower seeds provides more than 25% of the recommended daily value of magnesium. That's protection for your brain, heart, muscles and more!
4. Supports a Healthy Mood
There's an added bonus to the magnesium in sunflower seeds, it promotes a healthy mood. Over one hundred years ago, magnesium sulfate was given to patients suffering from depression. Its success, as well as its safety, made it a valuable option. Today magnesium plays an essential role in homeopathic therapies for mental health.
5. Contains Selenium: A Powerful Antioxidant and Great for Thyroid Health
Sunflower seeds contain selenium, an essential nutrient. Studies have found it plays a role in antioxidant function and helps reduce redness and swelling in the body. It also has recently been identified for its critical role in thyroid hormone metabolism. Selenium has also been noted for its ability to encourage DNA repair in damaged cells.[8, 9]
The Best Way to Eat Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a great snack but it's important to keep it healthy. Many of the available-everywhere varieties are roasted and loaded with high-sodium flavorings. They're also probably not organic or GMO-free – two things you want to look for. I'd also recommend you give sunflower butter a try, similar to peanut butter, it's available in some grocery stores, it's not hard to make, and it's delicious.
- Goyal A, Terry MB, Siegel AB. Serum Antioxidant Nutrients, Vitamin A, and Mortality in US Adults. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Aug 8.
- Cardenas E, Ghosh R. Vitamin E: A dark horse at the crossroad of cancer management. Biochem Pharmacol. 2013 Aug 3. pii: S0006-2952(13)00454-1. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2013.07.018.
- McNulty H, Pentieva K, Hoey L, Strain J, Ward M. Nutrition throughout life: folate. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2012 Oct;82(5):348-54. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831/a000130.
- Phillips KM, Ruggio DM, Ashraf-Khorassani M. Phytosterol composition of nuts and seeds commonly consumed in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Nov 30;53(24):9436-45.
- Silbernagel G, Genser B, Nestel P, März W. Plant sterols and atherosclerosis. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2013 Feb;24(1):12-7. doi: 10.1097/MOL.0b013e32835b6271.
- Serefko A, Szopa A, Wla P, Nowak G, Radziwo-Zaleska M, Skalski M, Poleszak E. Magnesium in depression. Pharmacol Rep. 2013;65(3):547-54.
- Hawkes WC, Richter D, Alkan Z. Dietary Selenium Supplementation and Whole Blood Gene Expression in Healthy North American Men. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Aug 18.
- Alatise OI, Babalola OO, Omoniyi-Esan GO, Lawal OO, Adesunkanmi AR, Agbakwuru EA. Selenium levels in neoplastic breast lesions. Niger Postgrad Med J. 2013 Jun;20(2):91-7.
- Zeng GQ, Yi H, Zhang PF, Li XH, Hu R, Li MY, Li C, Qu JQ, Deng X, Xiao ZQ. The Function and Significance of SELENBP1 Downregulation in Human Bronchial Epithelial Carcinogenic Process. PLoS One. 2013 Aug 19;8(8):e71865. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071865.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.