Are sunflower seeds good for you? Of course! Many seeds are good for you, but you should watch out for the salt and learn some other things about sunflower seeds that you probably didn't know.
If you look at the list of “most nutritious foods” chosen by scientists for the BBC, you’ll find chia seeds in the top five. Flax, pumpkin, and hemp seeds are also popular health food items. Seeds are good for you. Are sunflower seeds good for you, too? Yes, absolutely. And sunflower seeds are among the easiest to find and use in recipes. Just watch out for the salt in a package from the store.
How to eat sunflower seeds
Rather than buying a salted package, look for unsalted seeds, or buy them in bulk and make your own baggies to carry around as a snack.
Sunflower seeds are an easy way to add fiber and protein to your breakfast. Stir them into your morning oatmeal, or sprinkle them on yogurt.
But don’t mix seeds into muffin or bread batters with baking soda — the chlorophyll in the seeds interacts with the soda and tints your food blue-green. Instead, sprinkle the seeds on top.
For lunch, you might try sunflower butter in a sandwich, or eat it on celery and carrots.
Sunflower seeds easily substitute for bread crumbs, when you want to add crunch to a soup or salad. You can toss them in olive oil and spices before toasting.
The health benefits of sunflower seeds
These tiny morsels can help give you a good lipid profile. In a study of postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes, eating a handful of sunflower seeds every day for three weeks cut triglycerides and LDL “bad” cholesterol.
One reason: They contain a healthy amount of phytosterols, the plant version of cholesterol in animals, including us. Phytosterols act in the intestine to lower cholesterol absorption, and they have been extracted and added to processed butter replacement products touted as “cholesterol-lowering.” (Pistachios and pumpkin seeds are also high in phytosterols, by the way.)
Another way sunflower seeds help heart health: they’re rich in vitamin E, which is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and many other potential benefits. These seeds also contain a good dose of folate, which promotes cardiovascular function.
Sunflower seeds may bring down your body’s overall inflammation, which is especially important if you are overweight, or suffer from arthritis or allergies. In one study, people who ate sunflower seeds more than five times a week had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a key marker for inflammation.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium, which mostly lives in our bones. Magnesium counterbalances calcium, which can cause muscles to contract unnecessarily. So, magnesium deficiency can contribute to asthma (a spasm of the airways) and muscle cramps, as well as migraines.
Sunflower seeds are also rich in selenium, a trace mineral. You may read that taking selenium supplements or eating more selenium could help prevent cancer. In a 2018 Cochrane survey of 83 studies, however, researchers concluded that there is no good evidence to back up that claim so far.
Should anyone stay away from sunflower seeds? You may have heard that people with diverticulitis, an intestinal problem, should avoid nuts and seeds. But more up-to-date research shows that these foods do no harm.
April 25, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN