Nuts and grains

September 26, 2022 — 9:00 AM

Whether you live a plant-based lifestyle or are simply looking to eat a more varied diet, sunflower seeds are one powerhouse food to add to your plate. They can take the nutritional value of your meals to the next level, and they add a tantalizing crunch to any salad or snack. From their vitamin E content to plant-based protein, here are all the reasons to love these small but mighty seeds.

Health benefits of sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds are packed with a wide range of nutrients that offer a unique variety of benefits to the body. Here’s how they can improve your overall well-being when consumed regularly (about a handful a day):

1. They support heart health.

Eating for heart health is essential, and sunflower seeds can help you do just that. “Studies indicate that eating sunflower seeds, as well as other types of seeds, multiple times a week can promote heart health by supporting healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels,” explains registered dietitian Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN.

As for how many you should be consuming to reap the benefits, “About a handful a day of nuts and seeds, including sunflower seeds, is recommended for heart health and for supporting a good cholesterol profile,” adds registered dietitian Abby Cannon, J.D., R.D.

2. They have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Now, we know that sunflower oil doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to inflammation due to the refinement process, but this concern does not extend to sunflower seeds, notes Knudsen. The vitamin E and flavonoids within these seeds can provide anti-inflammatory benefits.

3. They offer immune support.

Need a little assistance with your immune health? Well, sunflower seeds are loaded with just the minerals for the job. “[Sunflower seeds] boost immune health by providing essential minerals like zinc and selenium,” Knudsen says.

This benefit will only come with regular consumption of sunflower seeds, so again, it’s useful to make a point of adding a handful to your daily routine.

4. Protection against free radical damage.

“[Sunflowers’] high vitamin E content along with selenium content provides your body with antioxidants that help protect your body’s cells against free radicals,” Cannon explains. Free radical damage can contribute to a wide range of health issues such as cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, so it’s worth targeting with your diet.

How to incorporate sunflower seeds into your diet.

Simply eating sunflower seeds from the bag will naturally make for a nourishing snack, but your options aren’t limited with this crunchy ingredient.

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“I always lightly toast sunflower seeds with a pinch of salt and sprinkle on salads or quinoa and veggie bowls throughout the week,” Knudsen shares.

Cannon’s approach is a little different: “You can use them in a pesto instead of pine nuts or to make a vegan alternative to Parmesan cheese,” she suggests. “I add them to cereal and oatmeal to boost the fiber, plant-based protein, and healthy fat content of those typically carbohydrate-heavy meals.”

Though they are safe for daily consumption, “Be mindful of the sodium content in packaged sunflower seeds,” Knudsen suggests. “There are unsalted options out there that are still tasty, and you can always sprinkle salt on them at home if you feel the flavor profile needs a little more oomph.”

Sunflower seed nutritional value.

Below is the nutrition information on 1 ounce (about a handful) of toasted, unsalted sunflower seeds as provided by the USDA Food Database.

  • Calories: 175
  • Fat: 16 g
  • Sodium: ~1 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.8 g
  • Fiber: 3.3 g
  • Protein: 4.9 g

Delicious and versatile, sunflower seeds make for a great addition to your diet and offer an extensive range of health benefits. If you’re looking for a simple, low-lift way to improve your eating habits, toss the magnesium-rich seed into your next zippy pesto or crunchy granola.

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