While many people associate sunflower seeds with a baseball game, and maybe even a salad, these little gems should become more than just an occasional snack. Not only are they rich in vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, but sunflower seeds taste good, too!
Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Read on to learn about some of the health benefits of these little seeds and the many ways they can be incorporated into your diet.
1. Healthy Heart
Sunflower seeds contain phytosterols, which can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Lowering your cholesterol reduces your chances of having clogged arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The vitamin E in sunflower seeds also contributes to keeping your heart healthy by preventing cholesterol from being oxidized in the body. By preventing cholesterol oxidation, vitamin E prevent it from sticking to the walls of your arteries. Numerous studies have supported this concept and shown that those with more vitamin E in their diet drastically reduce their chances of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Sunflower seeds also contain polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated oleic acid, which together help lower the bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol, further supporting a healthy cardiovascular system.
The powerhouse here is again the vitamin E found in these little seeds. This vitamin travels through the body neutralizing free radicals, thereby protecting the integrity of your cells. By preventing these free radicals from inflicting damage, vitamin E helps prevent and reduce inflammation related to arthritis, asthma, and other conditions.
3. Full of Magnesium
The high amount of magnesium that is found in sunflower seeds contributes to your health in multiple ways. First of all, magnesium can help reduce asthmatic symptoms. Combined with the vitamin E, sunflower seeds make a great dietary addition for those suffering from asthma. Magnesium also supports healthy bones and protects the integrity of our bones.
In addition to keeping bones strong and healthy, magnesium also regulates our nerves and muscles, keeping them properly toned and balanced. Having plenty of magnesium in your diet can help prevent/address migraines, muscle spasms, high blood pressure, and more.
4. Cancer Protection
Because they are rich in selenium, sunflower seeds help protect you from cancer. Studies suggest that selenium is able to promote DNA repair and synthesis in cells; this directly inhibits the growth and replication of cancerous cells. Selenium is also required for many enzymes to do their job; these enzymes help detoxify the body and eliminate toxins, thus further protecting the body from cancer.
5. Vitamin B
Sunflower seeds are also rich in B-complex vitamins. This includes niacin, folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. Not only do these B-complex vitamins provide your body with energy, but they also help support your nervous system and immune system in various ways.
One of these vitamins, folic acid, is also crucial in DNA synthesis, and therefore supports the health of your cells. Folic acid is especially crucial during pregnancy as it helps ensure the healthy formation of the fetus’ brain and spinal cord. Another B-complex vitamin, niacin, helps reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood and can help reduce anxiety.
6. Essential Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to B-complex vitamins, magnesium, and selenium, sunflower seeds are also good source of zinc, iron, calcium, manganese, and copper. Copper contributes to the production of healthy red blood cells. Calcium supports healthy bones, as does manganese. Zinc contributes to healthy skin and hair. Sunflower seeds are also great sources of protein and a variety of amino acids.
How to Use Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet, and after reviewing this list of benefits, you can see now that you should be enjoying these little seeds often. You can find them shelled or unshelled; the shelled are good if you’re going to a baseball game, otherwise the unshelled ones are easier and more convenient. You can throw a handful into your salads, muffins and other bake goods, oatmeal, cereal, pastas, trail mix, granola bars, or just munch on a handful.
Sunflower seeds can also be used in place of breadcrumbs or other items to add a little crunch to your dishes. Opt for cold-pressed sunflower seed oil for a healthier alternative for your cooking and reap some of the benefits mentioned above. If you’re lucky enough to find it in your local health-food store, you can even enjoy sunflower seed butter or flour. No matter who you are or what your taste buds prefer, you can find a way to incorporate sunflower seeds into your diet.