The Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
When it comes to nutritional value, sunflower seeds are hard to beat. They offer a rich source of vitamins B and E and plenty of important nutrients like copper, selenium, phosphorus and thiamine. While nuts tend to get a bit of a bad rap because of their high fat and calorific content, sunflower seeds deliver most of their fat in the shape of healthy polyunsaturated fats that our bodies need in order to function healthily.
Sunflower seeds are a great source of the essential fatty acids especially linoleic acid and also amino acids and fiber. Sunflower seeds are an incredibly popular snack option in my part of the world; the family loves hem but I find them a bit fiddly to eat and find all that nibbling a bit of an effort but there are plenty of very good reasons that you should be eating them.
They have a range of well-known medicinal benefits, can improve the health of your heart, promote thyroid health and even improve your skin. Vitamin E is a well understood and potent antioxidant that can help fight cellular damage resulting from exposure to free radicals; indeed a quarter cup serving of sunflower seeds will give you over 80% of the recommended daily dose of Vitamin E. This article will take a more detailed look at the many reasons that you should be adding sunflower seeds to your diet.
1. Heart Health
Because sunflower seeds are a rich source of antioxidants in the shape of Vitamin E, they not only regenerate damaged cells but also help reduce problematic inflammation all over the body. Inflammation is dangerous and can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as other complications like diabetes and cancer.
The frequent consumption of sunflower seeds also helps reduce cholesterol level and lower blood pressure which can help prevent heart disease. Moreover the antioxidants found in Vitamin E prevents dangerous free radicals from oxidizing the body’s cholesterol; when oxidation is kept in check atherosclerosis is less likely to occur and the risk of cardiac arrest is reduced.
What’s more, the folate present in sunflower seeds is known to support cardiovascular health by metabolizing homocysteine into an essential amino acid called methionine.
2. Healthy Thyroid Function
Countless people around the world suffer from thyroid diseases and it is estimated that nearly 30 million people in the US alone have some form of thyroid condition such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. A deficiency in selenium is thought to be one of the major causes of thyroid disease and sunflowers are a rich source of this mineral.
Thyroid issues are not always obvious and it is certain that many people are not even aware that they have a problem. Early indicators include fatigue, weigh gain, palpitations and irregular body temperature. It is important to see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis but one of the methods of controlling thyroid conditions is to increase your selenium intake and sunflower seeds offer a great source of this mineral.
3. Cancer Prevention
Many types of food are lauded for their ability to ward off cancer but there is good reason for this. There is little doubt that lifestyle and diet play a huge role in the development of certain forms of cancer and studies have demonstrated that sunflower seeds can play useful role in the prevention of the disease as part of a nutritional and healthy diet. The high quality antioxidants as well as other vitamins and trace minerals present in sunflower seeds effectively reduce oxidative stress which can lead to many diseases including cancer.
Some studies have actually demonstrated just how important the role of sunflower seeds can be. They have preventive compounds which hinder the early stages of cancer cell development and help stall the growth of tumors. (1) Significantly, the antioxidants present in the seeds help repair DNA and slow down the growth and development of cancerous cells.
Several other studies have demonstrated that Vitamin E plays a vital role in prostate cancer prevention while a study by the Texas Woman’s University exploring the role of Vitamin E in pistachio nuts found that it could help prevent lung cancer and other malignancies. (2)
According to research I is not only the Vitamin E content of sunflower seeds that can help in the battle with cancer. Selenium also has a major part to play in the prevention of breast cancer. Selenium aids the repair of DNA and damaged cells. It helps prevent the progress of cancerous cells and slows tumor growth through a process known as apoptosis. (3)
4. Skin and Hair Care
Because of its powerful antioxidant properties, Vitamin E is vital for anybody that wants to maintain healthy, strong and youthful looking skin. Adding a daily dose of sunflower seeds to your diet will considerably increase your Vitamin E intake and help your skin stay hydrated while protecting it against damage from free radicals, exposure to the sun and other damaging environmental factors.
And that is not all; it is quite possible that the same essential compounds found in sunflower seeds can have a similar effect on your hair making it look shinier, stronger and generally more healthy. Studies on dogs given flaxseed and sunflower seed supplements demonstrated that their skin remained free of damage and their coats improved temporarily. (4)
5. Bone Strength
The magnesium found in sunflower seeds has an important role to play in many bodily functions. It is a mineral that the modern diet tends to lack and magnesium deficiency can lead to numerous medical issues. Magnesium regulates calcium and potassium ratios inside cells which is important to cardiovascular health but is also at least partly responsible for maintaining bone strength. Magnesium can prevent conditions associated with aging such as the loss of bone density which can lead to osteoporosis.
6. Blood Sugar Levels
By studying cultures that eat a diet rich in nuts and seeds we can demonstrate the correlation between nut intake and diseases related to blood sugar levels such as hyperglycemia. A diet rich in nuts reduces the risk of developing disease related to blood sugar levels such as diabetes. A modern diet high in sugars, sweet drinks and processed food is responsible for many blood sugar related conditions and when blood sugar levels are out of sync, inflammation, fatigue and weight gain can occur. Studies have actually demonstrated that magnesium which is present in sunflower seeds can protect against type 2 diabetes. (5)
7. Mental Health
The magnesium found in sunflower seeds does not only play a role in our physical wellbeing but is also responsible for mood elevation. Magnesium has long played a role in the treatment of mental health issues and it is known to treat a number of conditions including fatigue, migraine, anxiety and depression.
How to Enjoy Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are readily available and can usually be found in either the shelled or unshelled form. I personally prefer them to be shelled before I buy them as I find the shelling process very annoying and a bit frustrating.
- You can simply eat them plain or add them to your burger or meatball recipe.
- You could also add them to your salad recipe to give your dinner more snap.
- I like to add them to my oatmeal at breakfast and throwing a handful into your smoothie recipe is another option. If you want to get adventurous there are many sunflower seed recipes online for you to try.
Enjoy them however you see fit but try to make sure that you get enough of this wonderful food into your diet.
I assume you can find them at a nearby store. But if you can’t or just really love to shop online here are some good sunflower seeds.