Sunflower seeds are technically the fruits that come from the head of the sunflower plant, also known as Helianthus annuus. The term "sunflower seed" is actually a misnomer, as the dehulled seed would actually be called the kernel, or heart. These kernels need to be dehulled from their shells before they are considered edible.
Despite their small size, sunflower seeds are packed full of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients, as well as bringing a healthy source of essential fatty acids. Sunflower seeds are also an excellent plant-based protein source for anyone on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
In this article, we’re taking your through six highlights of the great health benefits that sunflower seeds provide - and why they’re the seeds, that you need!
May Improve Heart Health
Some studies have shown that people with a higher risk of heart problems who regularly ate sunflower seeds retained better heart health over those who did not. Sunflower seeds are rich in ‘healthy’ fats, including monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Unlike saturated fat, moderate unsaturated fat consumption has shown to actually improve one's heart health. Sunflower seeds also contain magnesium, potassium and fibre which lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All of these effects can help to defend the body from cardiovascular disorders.
Can Reduce Inflammation
For people suffering with chronic or long-term inflammation, sunflower seeds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits. The health benefits of sunflower seeds include vitamin E, flavonoids, along with other plant compounds that can help in reducing inflammation. Studies have found that eating sunflower seeds a few times a week notably lowered the vulnerability to chronic conditions such as joint pain or arthritis.
May Aid Weight Loss
Making sure you get enough fibre and protein is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight or if you’re looking to lose pounds. Luckily, sunflower seeds are a rich source of both! Fibre and protein are both nutrients that help keep you feeling fuller for longer, which in turn can decrease your chances of snacking or overeating. Fibre is also vital for aiding in good digestion, along with helping to regulate blood sugar, which can contribute to healthy weight loss.
Good For Your Skin
Adding sunflower seeds to your diet can help keep your skin glowing. They have fatty acids in them which can reduce dryness of the skin and improve skin condition. Sunflower seeds also contain Oleic and linoleic acids, that aid in the formation of collagen and elastin, which in turn speeds up wound healing. These acids can also benefit in preventing scars from forming.
Can Help Manage Diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes may find eating sunflower seeds to be useful as they help in reducing blood sugar. Chlorogenic acid, which is a plant compound found in sunflower seeds, may be the reason for their blood-sugar-lowering effect.
Studies also propose that adding sunflower seeds to foods such as bread may help decrease carbohydrates effect on your blood sugar. The fat and protein content in the seeds decelerate the rate at which your stomach empties, which allows a steadier release of sugar from carbohydrates.
Easy to Add to Your Diet
Another great benefit of sunflower seeds is how easy and simple they are to incorporate into your diet! Sunflower seeds can be eaten raw as a quick and healthy snack or try toasting them for some extra flavour and crunch. Sprinkle them over curries, soups and porridges to give your favourite foods a further nutrient boost. For baking, they can be added to bread, muffins and cakes for a delicious textural contrast.
Did you know, sunflower seeds can also be sprouted? Sprouting is an increasingly popular method of preparing seeds. The sprouted seeds can be used and eaten in salads, sandwiches, stir-fries or any other dishes that takes your fancy!