Are Sunflower Seeds Good For You

People with diabetes can produce advanced glycation end products that can cause damage to the body. Sunflower seeds contain compounds that can inhibit these substances.

Are Sunflower Seeds Good for You? Nutrition, Benefits and More

Are Sunflower Seeds Good For You

Sunflower seeds are popular in trail mix, multi-grain bread and nutrition bars, as well as for snacking straight from the bag.

They’re rich in healthy fats, beneficial plant compounds and several vitamins and minerals.

These nutrients may play a role in reducing your risk of common health problems, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Here’s everything you need to know about sunflower seeds, including their nutrition, benefits and how to eat them.

Are Sunflower Seeds Good For You

Sunflower seeds are technically the fruits of the sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus) ( 1 ).

The seeds are harvested from the plant’s large flower heads, which can measure more than 12 inches (30.5 cm) in diameter. A single sunflower head may contain up to 2,000 seeds ( 2 ).

There are two main types of sunflower crops. One type is grown for the seeds you eat, while the other — which is the majority farmed — is grown for the oil ( 1 ).

The sunflower seeds you eat are encased in inedible black-and-white striped shells, also called hulls. Those used for extracting sunflower oil have solid black shells.

Sunflower seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and a firm but tender texture. They’re often roasted to enhance the flavor, though you can also buy them raw.

Summary

Sunflower seeds come from the large flower heads of the sunflower plant. The edible variety has a mild, nutty flavor.

Sunflowers pack many nutrients into a tiny seed.

The main nutrients in 1 ounce (30 grams or 1/4 cup) of shelled, dry-roasted sunflower seeds are (3):

Sunflower seeds
Calories 163
Total fat, which includes: 14 grams
• Saturated fat 1.5 grams
• Polyunsaturated fat 9.2 grams
• Monounsaturated fat 2.7 grams
Protein 5.5 grams
Carbs 6.5 grams
Fiber 3 grams
Vitamin E 37% of the RDI
Niacin 10% of the RDI
Vitamin B6 11% of the RDI
Folate 17% of the RDI
Pantothenic acid 20% of the RDI
Iron 6% of the RDI
Magnesium 9% of the RDI
Zinc 10% of the RDI
Copper 26% of the RDI
Manganese 30% of the RDI
Selenium 32% of the RDI

Sunflower seeds are especially high in vitamin E and selenium. These function as antioxidants to protect your body’s cells against free radical damage, which plays a role in several chronic diseases ( 4 , 5 ).

Additionally, sunflower seeds are a good source of beneficial plant compounds, including phenolic acids and flavonoids — which also function as antioxidants ( 6 ).

When sunflower seeds are sprouted, their plant compounds increase. Sprouting also reduces factors that can interfere with mineral absorption. You can buy sprouted, dried sunflower seeds online or in some stores ( 6 ).

Summary

Sunflower seeds are excellent sources of several nutrients — including vitamin E and selenium — and beneficial plant compounds that can help prevent chronic diseases.

Sunflower seeds may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar as they contain vitamin E, magnesium, protein, linoleic fatty acids and several plant compounds ( 1 , 6 , 7 , 8 ).

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Furthermore, studies link sunflower seeds to multiple other health benefits.

Inflammation

While short-term inflammation is a natural immune response, chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many chronic diseases ( 9 , 10 ).

For example, increased blood levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes ( 11 ).

In a study in more than 6,000 adults, those who reported eating sunflower seeds and other seeds at least five times a week had 32% lower levels of C-reactive protein compared to people who ate no seeds ( 11 ).

Though this type of study cannot prove cause and effect, it is known that vitamin E — which is abundant in sunflower seeds — helps lower C-reactive protein levels ( 12 ).

Flavonoids and other plant compounds in sunflower seeds also help reduce inflammation ( 6 ).

Heart Disease

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, which can lead to heart attack or stroke ( 13 ).

A compound in sunflower seeds blocks an enzyme that causes blood vessels to constrict. As a result, it may help your blood vessels relax, lowering your blood pressure. The magnesium in sunflower seeds helps reduce blood pressure levels as well ( 6 , 7 ).

Additionally, sunflower seeds are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, especially linoleic acid. Your body uses linoleic acid to make a hormone-like compound that relaxes blood vessels, promoting lower blood pressure. This fatty acid also helps lower cholesterol (14, 15 ).

In a 3-week study, women with type 2 diabetes who ate 1 ounce (30 grams) of sunflower seeds daily as part of a balanced diet experienced a 5% drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) ( 7 ).

Participants also noted a 9% and 12% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, respectively ( 7 ).

Furthermore, in a review of 13 studies, people with the highest linoleic acid intake had a 15% lower risk of heart disease events, such as heart attack, and a 21% lower risk of dying of heart disease, compared to those with the lowest intake ( 16 ).

Diabetes

The effects of sunflower seeds on blood sugar and type 2 diabetes have been tested in a few studies and seem promising, but more research is needed ( 7 , 17).

Studies suggest that people who eat 1 ounce (30 grams) of sunflower seeds daily as part of a healthy diet may reduce fasting blood sugar by about 10% within six months, compared to a healthy diet alone ( 7 , 18).

The blood-sugar-lowering effect of sunflower seeds may partially be due to the plant compound chlorogenic acid ( 19 , 20).

Studies also suggest that adding sunflower seeds to foods like bread may help decrease carbs’ effect on your blood sugar. The seeds’ protein and fat slow the rate at which your stomach empties, allowing a more gradual release of sugar from carbs ( 21 , 22 ).

Summary

Sunflower seeds contain nutrients and plant compounds that help reduce your risk of inflammation, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Sunflower seeds: Nutritional and health benefits

Sunflower seeds are popular health foods that people commonly consume in trail mix, breakfast cereals, or straight from the bag as a snack. They contain beneficial nutrients, including healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidant compounds.

Are Sunflower Seeds Good For You

Sunflower seeds have a tough outer shell with a striped appearance. As the shell is difficult for humans to digest, they usually eat the hulled seeds. People can also grow sprouts from the sunflower seed kernels, which can increase the seeds’ nutritional benefits.

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A 1-ounce (oz) portion of hulled sunflower seeds provides the following nutrients:

Nutrient Amount per oz of hulled seeds
Calories 165
Protein 5.48 g
Fat 14.1 g
Carbohydrate 6.82 g
Fiber 3.15 g
Vitamin E 7.4 g
Niacin 2 mg
Calcium 19.8 mg
Magnesium 36.6 mg
Zinc 1.5 mg
Selenium 22.5 mcg
Iron 1.08 mg

According to a 2017 review , sunflower seeds have the following nutritional value:

  • sulfur-rich proteins valuable for many biological processes, including muscular and skeletal development
  • amino acids including glutamine, arginine, and cysteine
  • 55–70% linoleic acid and 20–25% oleic acid
  • higher amounts of vitamin E than linseed, sesame seed, and peanuts
  • antioxidants including flavonoids and phenolic acids
  • high concentrations of niacin, and vitamins A, B, and C
  • rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium

The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) is a species of the Asteraceae family. The plant seeds are edible, and manufacturers use them for foods and producing sunflower oil. As such, sunflower oil ranks as the fourth most produced oil in the world.

As well as providing human food sources, farmers use sunflower seeds for livestock food. The germination of the seeds also has essential secondary roles in ecology and the lifecycle of organisms.

Including sunflower seeds in the diet can offer health benefits. The following sections discuss these potential benefits in more detail.

Anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial

Research suggests sunflower seeds are:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antifungal
  • antibacterial
  • wound healing

The beneficial effects are due to compounds such as phenols, tannins, and saponins.

However, many of the studies involve animals or laboratory research, so scientists need to conduct more studies to draw firm conclusions about the effects on humans.

Cardioprotective and anti-tumor effects

Sunflower seeds are a rich source of carotenoids and tocopherols that act as antioxidants, which help prevent damage from free radicals.

A 2020 review indicated that sunflower seeds and oil might be beneficial for:

People can not synthesize tocopherol or vitamin E in the body and need to obtain it through their diet. Therefore, including sunflower seeds in the diet is a suitable way to increase a person’s vitamin E.

Antidiabetic and cholesterol-lowering effects

Studies indicate that sunflower seeds may be effective against diabetes and high cholesterol.

People with diabetes can produce advanced glycation end products that can cause damage to the body. Sunflower seeds contain compounds that can inhibit these substances.

Cynarin in sunflower seeds can lower triglycerides and cholesterol, an effect that may potentially benefit people with hyperglycemia or hyperlipidemia.

A small pilot study of 50 adults with obesity found that sunflower seed extract reduced blood cholesterol and benefited body weight and fat mass.

However, as participants took a concentrated extract, this may not yield the same effects as consuming sunflower seeds. Additionally, researchers instructed participants to consume 500 fewer calories than their usual diet, which would also result in weight loss.

Healthy skin and bones

Sunflower seeds contain omega-6 fatty acids, which people require for healthy skin.

Research indicates that essential fatty acid deficiency significantly affects skin function and appearance. With this in mind, including sources of essential fatty acids in the diet may help prevent skin conditions, such as dermatitis, and reduce the effects of aging on the skin.

Sunflower seeds also contain zinc, an essential mineral for skin health, and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous for healthy bones.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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