Sunflowers aren’t just a great background for Instagram photos. They also grow something delicious and nutritious: sunflower seeds.
Here are the biggest benefits of this small snack.
5 benefits of sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds have a lot to bring to your table. They’re:
- have lots of antioxidants
- may stabilize blood sugar
- full of important minerals
Sunflower seeds are pretty high in calories per serving, so keep this in mind. Pre-packaged seeds also tend to contain a lot of salt. If you’re sensitive to this, look for “unsalted” or “lightly salted” options.
Munching on sunflower seeds can benefit more than just your taste buds. Here are some ways that adding sunflower seeds to your diet may benefit your health.
1. Good for your heart
Sunflower seeds are high in nutrients that your heart loves. This includes fiber, vitamins, healthy fats, and minerals. Research suggests that a diet high in seeds can help keep your heart healthy and may protect against heart disease.
Plus, snacking on sunflower seeds may help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check. A 2012 study in 22 women with type 2 diabetes found that eating 30 grams of sunflower seed kernels per day for 3 weeks helped significantly reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
2. High in antioxidants
Sunflower seeds are chock-full of compounds (like antioxidants) that help keep your bod healthy.
A diet high in antioxidants is linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases. For example, a 2018 review of 69 studies found that having higher blood levels and dietary intake of vitamin E was associated with a lower risk of cancer, stroke, and death from all causes. That means it may even help you live a longer life.
3. May help promote healthy blood sugar levels
Eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet is one of the best ways to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.
Some nutrients (like protein, fiber, and magnesium) are especially important for blood sugar regulation. Sunflower seeds are a great source of these nutrients and make a healthy choice for peeps both with and without diabetes.
Try sprinkling sunflower seeds on top of a green salad or pair sunflower seed butter with apple slices for a blood sugar-friendly snack.
4. Rich in minerals
Sunflower seeds are packed with important minerals like magnesium, zinc, copper, and selenium. Making sure you get enough mineral-rich foods in your diet is important because these nutrients do a lot for your bod.
For example, zinc is important for a healthy immune response. Want well-functioning antioxidant enzymes? (Hint: yes, you do.) Selenium is essential. Magnesium is a superstar mineral that’s essential for healthy stress response, blood sugar regulation, and more.
Adding mineral-rich foods like sunflower seeds to your diet can help ensure you’re getting the recommended amount of these nutrients on the reg.
5. Convenient and filling snack
Sunflower seeds are portable and super filling thanks to plenty of protein, fat, and fiber. That means they’re a smart snack if you’re on the run.
Protein is the most filling of the macronutrients and sunflower seeds provide 5.4 grams per ounce, which is pretty good for a plant-based protein source. Plus, they pack in fiber and healthy fats, making them a balanced snack.
Try keeping a pack of sunflower seeds in your bag or backpack so you have a healthy option when hunger strikes.
Though they’re teeny tiny, sunflower seeds are loaded with nutrients. Even a small portion can make a big impact on your nutrient intake.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown for one package (50 grams) of plain, salted sunflower seed kernels.
- Calories: 288
- Protein: 9.55 grams (g)
- Fat: 24.6 g
- Carbs: 11.9 g
- Fiber: 5.5 g
- Vitamin E: 12.0 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin B6: 0.397 mg
- Magnesium: 63.5 mg
- Phosphorus: 570 mg
- Zinc: 2.62 mg
- Copper: 0.904 mg
- Folate: 117 micrograms (mcg)
- Selenium: 39.2 mcg
Sunflower seeds are a good source of lots of vitamins and minerals. They’re especially high in vitamin E, folate, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Vitamin E actually refers to a group of nutrients that play many important roles in the bod. They act as a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from damage. These nutrients are also involved in immune function, cellular signaling, and more.
Selenium is another mineral concentrated in sunflower seeds that acts as an antioxidant. It’s also needed for thyroid function and reproductive health.
Zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese are all needed for healthy bones and immune function. The B vitamins folate and B6 are essential for metabolism, enzymatic reactions, and other important processes.
You can buy sunflower seeds raw or roasted. They come in kernels (for peeps who like immediate gratification) or in their shell (for those who like a challenge).
Either form will work just fine as a snack. If you’re using sunflower seeds in recipes, to top salads, or to mix with other ingredients to make a delish trail mix, though, you’re better off buying the unshelled version.
Keep in mind that salted or flavored shelled or unshelled sunflower seeds can be super high in added salt. They can also contain additional ingredients like added sugar, so it’s important to read labels.
Sunflower seeds have a mild taste and go with just about anything. Here are a few ways to use sunflower seeds in meals and snacks:
- Sprinkle shelled sunflower seeds on your salad for a crunchy boost of fiber, fat, and protein.
- Make your own sunflower butter by blending the seeds in your food processor.
- Add sunflower seeds to your oatmeal, yogurt, or chia pudding.
- Mix salted sunflower seeds, almonds, cacao nibs, and dried cherries together for a salty and sweet trail mix.
- Use sunflower seeds in baked goods like muffins and bread.
- Top grain bowls and pasta dishes with salted sunflower seeds for a unique texture and taste.
As wonderful as sunflower seeds can be for your health, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to eating them.
Like all nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds are high in calories. This doesn’t mean they’re bad for you, but it’s something to be aware of. Just one ounce contains 163 calories, so a couple handfuls of sunflower kernels will deliver a pretty hefty calorie load.
If you’re salt sensitive or have high blood pressure, it’s a smart idea to avoid high salt foods like salted sunflower seeds as foods high in salt can contribute to high blood pressure. Choose unsalted or lightly salted sunflower seeds instead.
Also, if you’re allergic to sunflower seeds, avoid them. You should also stay away from any products that contain sunflower seeds.
Can you eat the shells of sunflower seeds?
Your body can’t digest sunflower seed shells, so don’t eat them. In fact, eating too many sunflower seed shells may cause a serious issue called a rectal seed bezoar. This blocks your rectum and may require surgery to remove.
If you’re munching on sunflower seeds in the shell, make sure you’re only swallowing the kernel.
Sunflower seeds may be tiny, but they offer some impressive benefits.
They’re packed with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. This means they may help keep your heart healthy, promote healthy blood sugar levels, and keep you from getting hangry midday.
Try adding sunflower seeds to your meals and snacks for a tasty boost of nutrients.