Sunflower Seeds

Eating Healthy - Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are seeds of the sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus). There are three popular varieties of sunflower seeds: linoelic, high oleic, and sunflower oil seed, with the linoleic being the most popular. Sunflower seeds are popularly roasted, or dried and eaten as a snack either plain, salted or mixed with other seeds or nuts. They can also be eaten as part of a meal or used as an ingredient or garnisher in several recipes. Sprouted sunflowers seeds make a good addition in salads. Besides the seeds can also be processed into sunflower butter, making it a great alternative to peanut butter for those suffering with peanut allergies (1).

Common sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients, with a 100g serving supplying 47g of total fat, 17g of carbohydrate (of which 10g is dietary fiber), and 20g of protein, with an overall calorie load of 550 calories. They are also very rich in vitamin E (234% daily value, DV), vitamin B1 (129% DV), vitamin B6 (103% DV), phosphorus (94% DV), manganese (93% DV) and magnesium (92% DV) (2).

Health benefits

Sunflower seeds are rich in healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, and other phenolic compounds that have bestowed on them many health benefits.

  1. Protect the body against oxidative stress. Sunflower seeds contain high levels of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant, that captures free radicals (bad atoms) that cause excessive oxidation reactions which eventually cause cell destruction. Free radical damage of cells is implicated in the onset of the development of many diseases like cancer and arthritis amongst others. Vitamin E also plays a crucial role in immune function, vision, and reproduction (3, 4).

  2. Enhance heart health. Vitamin E present in sunflower seeds plays a vital role in preventing platelet hyper aggregation by reducing the production of prostaglandins like thromboxane which cause platelet to clump together. Platelet hyper aggregation causes blood clotting in the arteries of the heart which can progress to atherosclerosis, a risk factor for development of cardiovascular disease (5).

  3. Lower blood pressure. Sunflower seeds have a high magnesium content and magnesium has been proven to have blood pressure lowering activities in many research studies. Magnesium increases the concentrations of nitric oxide in the blood, which dilates (widens) the blood vessels both directly and indirectly easing blood flow (6). Furthermore, sunflower seeds are rich in linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated fat), a healthier fat than saturated fat. The consumption of linoelic fat rich seeds like sunflower seeds has been associated with a reduction in blood pressure and consequently a reduction in the risk or coronary heart disease in many studies (7, 8).

  4. Antidiabetic effects. The main polyphenolic compound found in sunflower seeds is chlorogenic acid, which is reputed for its blood sugar lowering effect. Chlorogenic acid increases insulin sensitivity, potentiating its action in a similar manner as does the therapeutic medicine, metformin does. It directly inhibits the pathways that cause increase in blood glucose concentrations (9).

  5. Promotes good skin. Vitamins E has a great reputation of promoting skin health, the reason it has incorporated in the manufacture of many beauty and skin care products for decades. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities help prevent the oxidative and inflammatory damages of ultraviolet light, thus slowing down the aging process (10).

Sunflower seeds are nutrient rich seeds that impart great healthy benefits. They are definitely a great addition to the any healthy diet plan. However, consumption should be done with moderation as they are high in calories due to their high fat content and may contain more cadmium (as they them from the soil during cultivation) than other plants (11).

 

REFERENCES

  1. Zoumpoulakis, P., Sinanoglou, V. J., Siapi, E., Heropoulos, G., & Proestos, C. (2017). Evaluating modern techniques for the extraction and characterisation of sunflower (hellianthus annus L.) seeds phenolics. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 46. doi:10.3390/antiox6030046

  2. FoodData central. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2022, from Usda.gov website: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/593068/nutrients

  3. Vitamin E. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2022, from Nih.gov website: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/

  4. Vitamin E. (2020, November 13). Retrieved August 9, 2022, from Mayo Clinic website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-e/art-20364144

  5. Rizvi, S., Raza, S. T., Ahmed, F., Ahmad, A., Abbas, S., & Mahdi, F. (2014). The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 14(2), e157-65.

  6. Houston, M. (2011). The role of magnesium in hypertension and cardiovascular disease: Magnesium, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Journal of Clinical Hypertension (Greenwich, Conn.), 13(11), 843–847. doi:10.1111/j.1751-7176.2011.00538.x

  7. Dietary linoleic acid and risk of coronary heart disease. (2014, November 5). Retrieved August 9, 2022, from The Nutrition Source website: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2014/11/05/dietary-linoleic-acid-and-risk-of-coronary-heart-disease/

  8. Farvid, M. S., Ding, M., Pan, A., Sun, Q., Chiuve, S. E., Steffen, L. M., … Hu, F. B. (2014). Dietary linoleic acid and risk of coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation, 130(18), 1568–1578. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.010236

  9. Rehman, A., Saeed, A., Kanwal, R., Ahmad, S., & Changazi, S. H. (2021). Therapeutic effect of sunflower seeds and flax seeds on diabetes. Cureus, 13(8), e17256. doi:10.7759/cureus.17256

  10. Nachbar, F., & Korting, H. C. (1995). The role of vitamin E in normal and damaged skin. Journal of Molecular Medicine, 73(1), 7–17. doi:10.1007/bf00203614

  11. Reeves, P. G., & Vanderpool, R. A. (1997). Cadmium burden of men and women who report regular consumption of confectionery sunflower kernels containing a natural abundance of cadmium. Environmental Health Perspectives, 105(10), 1098–1104. doi:10.1289/ehp.971051098

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