Despite being a key ingredient in a plethora of health foods, such as granary-breads, trail mixes and energy bars, sunflower seeds' benefits aren’t as commonly discussed as those of flax or chia seeds. But these snackable treats are packed with healthy fats, minerals and vitamins that will greatly benefit your body and mind.
Here at OriGym, we are prepared to sing the praises of sunflower seeds by discussing their various benefits and exploring the following topics:
- What Are Sunflower Seeds?
- 13 Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
- Nutritonal Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
- Disadvantages of Eating Sunflower Seeds
But just before we start, if you’re a foodie with a passion for all things health and fitness, why not check out OriGym’s sports nutrition courses. Here you’ll be taught by industry experts who will help you launch your career immediately following graduation.
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What Are Sunflower Seeds?
Before dissecting sunflower seeds' benefits, we must first explain what the seeds actually are. Simply put, they are the fruit of the sunflower plant, and are harvested through the flower's head.
One of the benefits of sunflower seeds actually arises during the harvesting process, as the head of the sunflower can grow up to 30.5cm in diameter, and can hold up to 2,000 seeds. This is incredibly beneficial for the manufactures who can potentially get thousands of seeds from just a few plants, meaning fewer heads have to be harvested.
When discussing sunflower seeds benefits ,we must also acknowledge the fact that they are multifunctional. Some sunflowers are grown specifically for the purpose of harvesting their seeds to eat, whereas others are grown to have their seeds compressed into oil.
The ones which we eat are encased in a black and white shell referred to as the hull, and have a mild nutty flavour. In order to enhance this flavour many manufacturers sell their sunflower seeds pre-roasted, however you can also buy the seeds raw.
The 13 Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
If you’re questioning ‘what are the benefits of eating sunflower seeds?’, this list will be your guiding compass. Here OriGym has covered 13 ways in which sunflower seeds benefit your everyday life.
#1 - Immunity Booster
When discussing sunflower seeds health benefits we felt it best to open our list by explaining how the seeds can be used to boost your immune system.
If the way in which nutrition can benefit our bodies is an area of fitness in which you feel particularly passionate about, may we direct you to our article on the 21 best immune boosting foods. Here you will find more information regarding how you can boost your immune system with foods in your diet.
Eating sunflower seeds benefits your immunity thanks to high levels of Vitamin E it features, which helps to regulate and maintain the functionality of your immune system. Vitamin E achieves this by supporting the growth of T-cells, which fight off infections within your body by producing multiple immune cells.
The lower your levels of Vitamin E, the slower the production of immune cells; hence why it is important to ensure you are feeding your body with an adequate amount of this compound.
There are multiple immunity-related nutritional benefits of eating sunflower seeds, including the high levels of selenium. In just 30g of sunflower seeds you can get up to half your daily intake of selenium, which can help to combat diseases and infections throughout the body.
For example, one study in particular noted that by consuming high levels of selenium helped patients to combat swine flu.
Whatsmore, when referring to the nutritional benefits of sunflower seeds, we can also attribute their high levels of Zinc to the maintenance of bodily protection. Zinc helps our body fight off inflammation, allergies and invading pathogens, allowing us to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Overall, there are multiple health benefits of sunflower seeds extending far beyond the three vitamins and minerals we mentioned above. By incorporating just one ounce into your daily diet you’ll be protecting your body from anything that may try to attack it.
#2 - Reduces Cholesterol
Reducing high levels of cholesterol is another example of the health benefits of sunflower seeds which can impact the quality of your overall lifestyle.
Sunflower seeds benefits your cholesterol through its fiber content, which lowers the production of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), otherwise known as the ‘bad cholesterol’. Having high levels of this type of cholesterol can cause serious health issues, such as heart disease, heart attacks and high blood pressure, therefore it is important to keep track of your cholesterol levels and be aware of aids which can help lower it if need be.
These sunflower seeds health benefits are supported by a 2012 study, which found that consuming 30g of sunflower seeds a day for three weeks successfully lowered the production of LDL cholesterol among women.
Additionally, eating sunflower seeds benefits your cholesterol as they also contain phytosterols, a plant compound which has been scientifically proven to lower levels of LDL production.
Phytosterols are considered to be one of the most notable health benefits of sunflower seeds, as they are effective in altering cholesterol metabolism in a dose-dependent manner. Meaning that even a moderate intake can reduce cholesterol absorption levels, without the need for added supplements.
Whatsmore, sunflower seeds also contain 50% of your recommended daily intake of pantothenic acid. Said acid can be viewed as another nutritional benefit of sunflower seeds, as it is known to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) otherwise known as ‘good cholesterol’.
Eating good fats is vital for maintaining a functioning body, if you need more information on what foods fall under this category, please click here for OriGym’s list of the 25 foods that are high in healthy fat.
#3 - Proven to be Cardioprotective
Whilst on the topic of sunflower seeds health benefits in relation to your heart, please note that these seeds are also cardioprotective.
When a food or supplement is described as cardioprotective, it simply means that they serve to protect your heart and coronary arteries from diseases and potential malfunctioning.
When researching sunflower seeds health benefits you will find that cardiovascular benefits link back to the inclusion of Vitamin E. This vitamin has been known to prevent the formation of plaque within arteries, as well as lower the risk of heart disease.
Humans cannot naturally absorb Vitamin E in ways which we do with other vitamins, Vitamin D for example. This is why it’s so important to incorporate sunflower seeds and other Vitamin E rich foods into your diet.
However, Vitamin E is not the only nutritional element of sunflower seeds that impact its heart-related advantages, as they also contain cardioprotective oleic and linoleic acids. These acids are responsible for building and maintaining cells and tissues throughout the body, therefore if you want strong protection around the heart, you’re going to want increased levels of said acids.
Additionally, as mentioned within the previous section, sunflower seeds have high levels of fiber, which aid in the management of cholesterol. Whatsmore, a further example of the cardioprotective benefits of sunflower seeds is that their potassium levels help to reduce the risk of arrhythmias.
The article cardio & aerobic exercises from OriGym is sure to be of interest to all of you who are looking to improve your cardiovascular system.
Therefore, if you want to feel the cardiprotecive benefits of sunflower seeds, you’re going to need to consume them regularly.
#4 - Reduces Risk of Cancer
Sunflower seeds benefits also extend to aiding in prevention of cancer forming in the body - talk about small but mighty. This in large part, is due to the fact that sunflower seeds contain beta-sitosterol, a plant membrane that is known to decrease the size of tumours and reduce the likelihood of spreading.
These health benefits of sunflower seeds can be supported by a piece of research conducted in 2014, which highlighted that sunflower seeds were shown to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Additionally, when analysing the benefits of eating sunflower seeds in relation to the prevention of cancer, it has also been noted that the chemical selenium can repair damaged cells. The selenium found within sunflower seeds helps to bring out the multi-organism apoptosis cells, which in turn help to kill off damaged cells, including cancerous ones.
Diets which are high in selenium and Vitamin B have also been known to reduce the likelihood of colon cancer developing. Eating sunflower seeds benefits your Vitamin B levels, as one ounce of seeds contains 11% of your recommended daily intake.
In order to maximize your protection against cancer, OriGym would recommend pairing sunflower seeds with other foods high in Vitamin D, such as milk, dark green leafy vegetables and shellfish.
Ryan Wetton-Bryne is a cancer survivor with an incredible story and unwavering passion for fitness. Check out Ryan’s story of how he inspired others through personal fitness here on the OriGym website.
#5 - Helps to Manage Diabetes
It may surprise many of you to learn that eating sunflower seeds benefits those suffering from type-2 diabetes, with ample recent evidence linking the consumption of sunflower seeds and blood sugar reduction.
Studies have shown that eating sunflower seeds benefits your blood sugar levels in as little as a six month time period; in order to achieve this goal you should be consuming 30g of seeds every day.
In addition to this, the research’s findings also suggest that the blood sugar benefits could be a result of a compound called chlorogenic acid. This is another example of the nutritional benefits of sunflower seeds, as chlorogenic acid regulates the concentration of blood glucose and reduces the risk of spiking levels of insulin.
Whatsmore, adding sunflower seeds to other foods such as bread has been known to decrease carbs' effects on blood sugar. Eating sunflower seeds benefits the carb levels within your body, as their protein and fat content slow down the rate in which your stomach empties, allowing for a gradual release of the sugar found in carbohydrates.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to manage diabetes, why not join OriGym’s Level 4 Diabetes Control & Weight Management course.
#6 - Aid in Weight Loss
Seeds have long been hailed by nutrition experts and enthusiasts for their slimming advantages; so sunflower seeds benefits for weight loss may not come as too much of a surprise. But here’s how they work to help our waistline.
Sunflower seeds help those looking to lose weight in a variety of ways, all of which seem to center around the idea of promoting satiety throughout the body.
As we all know, eating snacks helps to keep hunger at bay between meals, but choosing healthy snacks over the tempting unhealthy, high sugar/fat options is paramount. One of the benefits of eating sunflower seeds for snacks, is that they fulfill both of these criterias, not only will they reduce levels of hunger but they’re also good for you.
When looking into the health benefits of sunflower seeds, we can see that hunger is managed by the nutrients found within the seeds, namely fats, proteins and fiber, all of which are known to be very filling. For example, sunflower seeds contain soluble fiber which manages weight by adding bulk to your stools and slowing down digestion.
If you’re keen on nutrition and are looking for more foods to help you lose weight, our listicle on the 17 best herbs for weight loss is sure to be a must-read.
Sunflower seeds benefits weight loss as fiber in particular is known to compensate for lacking/absent calories. In a diet that’s fiber deficient your body will be noticeably craving food, whereas as mentioned above fiber will fill you up, preventing you from breaking your diet.
OriGym recommends that the average woman should be getting 25g of fiber per day, whereas the average man should be consuming 38g per day.
#7 - Boots Energy Levels
Connotations of many seeds often relate to their energy-boosting properties, and you’ll be pleased to know that sunflower seed benefits are no exception to this understanding.
Some of these energising properties are influenced by the amount of protein present, with 30g of sunflower seeds containing an impressive 5.5g of protein.
When protein is digested into our bodies it creates amino-acids, which slows down the absorption rate of sugar into your bloodstream. Having a high level of protein is another example of the nutritional benefits of sunflower seeds, as amino acids prevent sugar levels from abruptly crashing, ensuring you stay energised for a prolonged period.
In addition to this, eating sunflower seeds benefits your energy levels further through their high levels of Vitamin B1, otherwise known as thiamin. This vitamin is known to break down proteins and fats in order to convert them into energy.
But sunflower seeds are not the only foods which can provide you with this level of energy. For more nutritional knowledge in this area, OriGym has created a guide which lists the 37 best foods for boosting your energy.
#8 - Used to Treat Anemia
Another added benefit of eating sunflower seeds is that they’re rich in iron, with just 30g of sunflower seeds containing 6% of your recommended daily intake of iron; if paired with a fortified cereal, you can start your day with an impactful dose of iron.
It’s high iron content is yet another example of sunflower seeds health benefits, which is particularly useful to those suffering with anemia and other iron deficiency conditions. In short, anemia is a condition which halts your production of red blood cells, this affects the amount of oxygen that is carried to your bodily tissue and results in your body becoming tired and lacking energy.Iron is one of many vitamins that can help to boost your energy levels.
If you suffer from anemia, or just find yourself routinely tired we would recommend reading our listicle detailing the 13 best vitamins for energy deficiency.
Whilst it’s high iron content is regarded as one of sunflower seeds' health benefits, it’s important to remember that different populations require different dosages of iron. For example, grown men will require 8 mg of iron per day, whereas grown women will require 18mg of iron per day, this again differs amongst pregnant women, those taking certain medications, etc.
If you’re a woman aged 19-50 who is looking to feel sunflower seeds benefits, you need to consume more iron per day than men, due to the fact that 1 mg of iron is lost everyday during the menstruation period. However, when implementing any new supplement or medication into your diet, we always advise you to speak to a GP or medical expert prior.
#9 - Improves Mood
So far we have explored many of the physical health benefits of sunflower seeds, so let us divert our attention over to their mental health aids and how they can contribute towards our everyday mood.
The mental health benefits of sunflower seeds derive from their Vitamin B12 content. Research has found that this one vitamin can boost our serotonin levels, whilst also improving our memory and concentration.
Sunflower seeds benefits your serotonin levels further through their amino acid and selenium contents. Serotonin is a chemical that is released from the brain in order to ease tension and relax nerves, it has also been shown to reduce depression-related symptoms.
In addition to this, we have indirectly discussed sunflower seeds benefits in relation to mental health within the previous section. Due to it’s magnesium content sunflower seeds can also have relaxing properties, so if you are someone who suffers from anxiety try to incorporate the seeds into your meals or snacking routine whenever possible.
If you’ve been personally affected by mental illness within your lifetime and would like to help others, please click here for OriGym’s recommendations on how you can start a career as a wellness coach.
#10 - Good for Expecting Mothers
Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is essential, not just for the expecting mother but for their unborn baby too. If you’re an expecting mother researching sunflower seeds health benefits then you’ll be pleased to know that these tasty snacks are rich in folic acids.
For more information relating to foods rich in folic acids, check out our article on the matter, where we discuss the various benefits of folic acids and what foods you should be eating.
Folic acid is used in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs around the body. When a woman is pregnant there is an increased quantity of blood in her body, meaning that their bodies require more folic acid.
Sunflower seeds health benefits not only extend to the mother, but the growing baby inside her body. A folate deficiency can lead to problems in the foetus’ development causing conditions such as spina bifida and cleft lips.
However, relying solely on the sunflower seeds health benefits won’t benefit your child, instead you should try to incorporate foods that are high in folic acids wherever possible into your diet. Leafy greens such as lettuce and kale are packed with folic acids, so adding sunflower seeds to a salad will be incredibly beneficial.
#11 - Acts as a Natural Body Detox
Consuming sunflower seeds benefits your entire body, as 30g contains 9% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium.
When it comes to the health benefits of sunflower seeds, its magnesium content will detox your body getting rid of any harmful bacterias. This process is achieved through cell stimulation, which flushes the bacteria and toxins from the body through the bloodstream.
Fun Fact: Magnesium also has nerve-calming properties which can help to manage and lower blood pressure.
In addition to this, sunflower seeds benefits the body’s detoxification process further with it’s high levels of zinc. When looking at 30g of sunflower seeds we can see that it contains 10% of your recommended daily zinc intake.
Zinc is another strong antioxidant that works to destroy heavy metals in the body. This removal process demonstrates the health benefits of sunflower seeds, as the metals are known to disrupt the function of vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys to name but a few.
Another popular method of detoxification is saunas. We have covered this topic and how it benefits your body in an article entitled the 9 sauna benefits.
#12 - Good for Your Skin
Now that we have discussed the health benefits of sunflower seeds, we can now turn our attention to some of the cosmetic benefits of this snack.
Sunflower seeds benefits the skin through its contents of zinc and Vitamin E. These two vitamins work together in order to protect our skin from any unwanted blemishes or bacterias.
Vitamin E protects our body from any unwanted bacterial pathogens, whereas zinc cleanses the body should any somehow get inside us. As discussed within the previous section, zinc detoxes our bodies of heavy metals, which escape our bloodstream through the pores on our skin leaving us with a healthy glow.
Whatsmore, sunflower seeds benefits the skin through its contents of oleic and linoleic acids. These nutritional benefits help in the formation of collagen and elastin, both of which are known to reduce definition of wrinkles, and prevent the appearance of scars.
Want to learn more about the benefits of collagen, then check our OriGym’s article on the topic where we also recommended dosage and potential side-effects.
#13 - Good for Your Hair
Sunflower seeds benefits your hair in a similar way to skin, however we should note that this benefit specifically relates to sunflower seed oil. If you’re looking to improve your hair in the following ways, then OriGym recommends seeking out a treatment plan that is rich in sunflower seed oil.
Sunflower seeds benefits for hair can also be traced back to the following ingredients:
- Vitamin E
- Oleic acid
- Linoleic acid
- Sesamol (sesame oil)
In order to truly understand how sunflower seeds benefits hair, we must break down each component in order to understand how they benefit you. Firstly, Vitamin E and sesamol are both known to reduce free radicals, which can cause damage to your hair and scalp.
Furthermore, oleic and linoleic acids can stop any breakages that may occur in the hair, whilst also helping it grow faster. They both also have anti-inflammatory properties, which help to relieve dandruff and itchy scalp.
From this we can take away that sunflower seeds benefits the hair in multiple different ways, so if you’re looking for a new treatment why not experiment with sunflower seed oil!
If you’re enjoying this article on the benefits of sunflower seeds, we think you’ll also enjoy these other OriGym articles:
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Sunflower Seeds Nutritional Properties
Now that we have discussed the many benefits of sunflower seeds, we felt it vital to share with you the full scope of the seeds’ nutritional properties.
Please note that the information displayed here is a nutritional guide for 30g of sunflower seeds.
Disadvantages of Eating Sunflower Seeds
Before incorporating sunflower seeds into your regular diet it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of what they can do to your body. We have spent the majority of this article focusing on the health benefits of sunflower seeds, however we would be remiss if we didn’t inform you of some of the negative side-effects that could arise.
#1 - High in Calories and Sodium
Despite being rich in numerous nutrients and vitamins, sunflower seeds are relatively high in calories, especially when compared to other seeds. For comparison, you could eat 100g of flax seeds and consume only 35 calories, compared to 163 calories found in just 30g of sunflower seeds.
Likewise, if you’re someone who enjoys eating sunflower seeds shells,your salt intake will increase, as the shells hold higher levels of sodium. If we use the same example of 30g of sunflower seeds, this contains 2,500mg of sodium alone, taking up a massive 108% of your recommended daily intake.
Most people like to suck the seed’s shells before breaking them to get this salty taste, however if you’re watching your sodium intake we would recommend buying seeds that have already been shelled, or resisting temptation entirely and cracking them before consumption.
#2 - Stool Blockages
Eating a large number of sunflower seeds has also been known to cause stool blockages in both adults and children. This has been reported to happen more frequently with people who consume the shells of the seeds, as your body cannot physically digest shell fragments.
If you suffer from this side effect we’d strongly advise that you consult a medical professional in order to receive the appropriate treatment for said condition.
#3 - Contaminated Raw Seeds
If you’re a fan of raw sunflower seeds you may want to read this section, as bacteria (particularly salmonella) will often form on raw seeds that have been kept in warm, moist conditions.
It’s strongly recommended that you dry sunflower seeds at a temperature of 50℃ or slightly above, in order to reduce the risk of salmonella contamination.
If bacteria continues to be discovered within a specific brand or product, then it will likely be recalled. OriGym strongly advises all our readers to do their research when choosing a sunflower seed brand to follow, if any of their products have been recalled, purchase with caution or swap to a different supplier.
#4 - May Trigger Allergies
Whilst being allergic to sunflower seeds specifically is relatively uncommon, reactions still occur with symptoms ranging from:
- Hay Fever
- Mouth Swelling
- Itching in the mouth
- Skin Rashes
The thing that triggers the allergic reaction to sunflower seeds is their various proteins. However, refined sunflower seed oil is less likely to trigger these reactions, as they don’t contain enough of said proteins.
These allergens don’t just extend to people who consume sunflower seeds, as handling the seeds can also cause rashes and inflammation to the hands.
How Do You Harvest Sunflower Seeds?
In order to receive the most nutritional benefits of sunflower seeds you have to wait until the head begins to wilt. Sunflower seeds will have grown and ripened all throughout summers, so as the plant is dying it’s the perfect time to retrieve your snack.
When the seeds are ready to be harvested they will look plump and feel hard. They will simply come away easily from the head, when you brush your hand across it. Once harvested you should store the seeds in a dry place, until you are ready to eat or plant them.
Be aware that when trying to harvest the sunflower seeds you may notice that they are coated in a layer of pollen, this isn’t anything to worry about simply brush it away. Furthermore, if your sunflower has been outside, there may be bugs living among the head, so be sure to always wash your seeds before consumption.
What Are Some Popular Ways to Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Within this article we have tackled the question ‘what are the benefits of eating sunflower seeds?’, but many of you may be wondering how you even eat them and implement them into your diet.
Typically, sunflower seeds are sold inside their shells and can be eaten roasted or raw, however please be aware that eating shelled sunflower seeds will require you to crack them open with your teeth and spit the shells out.
Some of the popular ways to eat sunflower seeds are:
- On top of a salad
- Added to trail mix
- Mixed into overnight oats
- Sprinkled into stir frys
- Baked into bread
Should I Buy Roasted or Raw Sunflower Seeds?
The only noticeable difference you’ll be able to recognise between roasted and raw sunflower seeds is their taste. Roasted sunflower seeds have much richer flavour, whilst raw seeds are much more understated.
Many individuals pose questions online relating to roasted sunflower seeds health benefits, however when discussing the benefits of raw vs roasted seeds, the answer to the debate is hard to define.
Some may say that the benefits of raw sunflower seeds far outweigh that of roasted, as 80% of nutritional benefits are lost during the roasting process, a big price for a higher quality in flavour.
However, a disadvantage of eating raw sunflower seeds as previously discussed is that it can leave you exposed to dangerous bacterias such as salmonella. Therefore some may argue that in order to protect your body, roasting the sunflower seeds is a must.
There are multiple different benefits and downsides to both variations, all that matters is your personal preference. Just ensure that you’re eating the seeds in a safe manner, like all snacks eat them in moderation.
Before You Go!
To summarise, sunflower seeds benefits the body in multiple different ways, from ensuring that we stay healthy and fit, to making our hair and skin look flawless.
Here at OriGym we hope that you have found this article insightful and informing. If your research is complete and you’re ready to implement this highly effective product into your diet, we hope you’ll reap all the aforementioned benefits in this guide.
If you’ve found this article to be engaging and have an existing passion for all things food and health, we would strongly recommend checking out OriGym’s sports nutrition courses. If you sign up our incredible team will be on hand to provide everything you’ll need to start a career in nutrition.
Check out our comprehensive prospectus, in order to get a better understanding of the course, or to see if anything else catches your eye!
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Used by Fitness Professionals
- Holger Steinbrenner et al (2015). Dietary Selenium in Adjuvant Therapy of Viral and Bacterial Infections. Advances in Nutrition.
- Korina Richmond et al. (2012) Markers of cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes are improved by the daily consumption of almonds or sunflower kernels: a feeding study. PubMed.
- Ruchika Nandha, (2014). Therapeutic Potential of Sunflower Seeds: Overview, ResearchGate
- Hanjo Hellmann, (2010) Vitamin B6: A Molecule For Human Health. ResearchGate