Sunflowers are praised for their glorious beauty by artists and filmmakers. Then we move to sunflower oil – a familiar household ingredient. However, the less known powerhouse ingredient is sunflower seeds. Nutritionists link eating these seeds to various beneficial properties.
For example, they can regulate blood pressure and improve heart health. They are energy boosters and build robust immune systems. Sunflower seeds improve your overall wellbeing.
Sunflower seeds have become a health staple in the recent past. In addition to that, it makes it a perfect snack for weight loss. High in fat and calorie-dense, they are a good aid for weight loss because these seeds contain protein, healthy fats, and fibre. In addition, they have a range of essential minerals and vitamins.
What are Sunflower Seeds?
Their name rightfully suggests sunflower seeds (Helianthus annuus) come from their flower. There are around 70 species of sunflowers recognised worldwide in the Asteraceae family. It includes the genus Helianthus.
Sunflower is the fourth most significant oilseed crop globally. It trails right after soybeans, rapeseed, and safflower as the most lucrative economic oilseed. When the sunflowers are dried, and the backs of the blooms turn brown, farmers harvest the seeds. As a result, sunflower seeds become plump and loose. It is time to collect them from the flower head easily.
Sunflower seeds are white and delicate, despite being enclosed in a black-and-white striped shell. You can consume the seeds raw, roasted, or add them into other dishes. They have a distinct nutty flavour and excellent nutritional content.
Can sunflower seeds help you lose those extra inches?
Weight reduction is all about finding the appropriate calorie balance. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you gain weight. Conversely, while being in a calorie deficit will result in weight loss.
The number of calories you should consume daily varies. It depends on various factors. The parameters are age, gender, activity level, and general health. You can use our app to help you figure out how many calories you need to lose weight.
If only weight loss was as simple as adding a food item into your diet. No food can burn your fat away. But the type and amount of food you eat will assist you in your journey to weight loss. At the same time, sunflower seeds make an excellent addition to your weight-loss diet. It provides you with healthy calories.
A study found that consuming sunflower seed extract for 12 weeks helped reduce BMI, waist circumference, and body weight. Furthermore, the result showed a decrease in fat volume rather than muscle mass. Thus, sunflower may help reduce weight by lowering fat mass but preserving muscle mass. In addition, these modifications had a positive change in the lipid profile. Thus, it can help prevent heart diseases. Furthermore, it positively impacts obesity-related disorders like type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Benefits of Adding Sunflower Seeds Into Your Diet
Sunflower seeds are high-calorie, but regulated consumption helps lose weight. That is because they are rich in essential macro and micronutrients. In addition, they include fibre to help you lose weight.
#1 High Fibre: Adding extra fibre to your diet is a simple alteration. This addition significantly supports weight loss. Fibre is a form of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. It helps you feel satiated for a prolonged time without adding calories. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) suggests taking 30gm of fibre daily. And sunflower which are high in fibre, can undoubtedly help you hit your daily fibre mark for a healthy weight loss.
#2 Additional Protein Source: Protein is a macronutrient abundant in sunflower seeds. It acts as a great companion for weight loss. Protein has a unique capability. It helps regulate your satiety levels. It means that you can go on long periods without eating and automatically be in a calorie deficit. The output of this is weight loss. Additionally, adding a good amount of protein to your diet helps preserve your lean body mass. This factor is pretty handy when you are in fasting periods to achieve your weight goals. Plant proteins are more environmentally friendly. That makes sunflower seeds, which are widely available and accessible, an excellent addition as a protein source to a weight-loss diet.
10 Tips/Ways to Consume Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds can be purchased in the shells or as open kernels. Break the shell with your teeth and munch on them. But one has to discard the cover. The open seeds are easy to eat. Therefore, these seeds can be a good snack while you’re binge-watching your favourite series, studying or simply leisure-snacking.
Sunflower seeds contain healthy fats that are excellent for you. But you may gain weight if you eat too many of them. Because these seeds are tiny, there is a tendency to overeat them. However, if you’re not cautious, you could eat more than the required portion in one sitting. To avoid overindulging these seeds, measure them.
You can incorporate these nutritious seeds into your weight-loss diet in various delicious ways.
1. Stir into your Oatmeal
You can add sunflower seeds into your favourite breakfast oatmeal. That not only adds the benefits of the seeds to your oats, but it also adds a wonderful nutty flavour and a happy crunch.
2. Sprinkle on your Salad
Are you thinking of making your regular vegetable or fruit salad? Well, add in a spoonful of sunflower seeds and up your salad’s nutritional value.
3. Add to Trail Mix
Trail mix is a fantastic way to eat your favourite nuts and seeds. It is a terrific approach to ensure that you get the most out of your munchies. And sunflower seeds are an excellent addition to your healthy trail mix.
4. Sprinkle it on your Meals
Adding these seeds to your salad is not the only way to eat it with veggies. You can also incorporate sunflower seeds into your stir-fry or sabzis.
5. Add them into your Atta
Are you bored with the same ol’ rotis? Sunflower seed can be powdered and added to your regular/ multi-grain atta. There is no need to worry about ways to consume sunflower seeds if you add them to your atta mix. You can try making delectable preparations using this mix.
6. Add them to your Curry
Curries are consumed pretty frequently in Indian households. You can add sunflower seeds to your daily curry. It imparts a beautiful creamy texture to your regular curry if you add its paste to the curry.
7. Blend them with your Chutneys and Sauces
Who doesn’t love chutneys and sauces? They make a perfect companion to any food. Add sunflower seeds into them, and voila, your chutney/ sauce will be twice as delectable.
8. Sunflower Butter
We are sure you’ve heard about peanut butter. Now that you know about the wonders of sunflower seeds, why not try sunflower butter!
All you need is 3 cups of sunflower seeds and coconut sugar (optional). First, you need to roast the seeds until golden brown. Make sure not to burn them!
Next, let them cool and toss them into the blender. Pulse it a few times. You will get ground powder in the first few pulses. Be patient and blend them for the next 4-5 minutes, checking the texture in between.
Once they reach a creamy-buttery texture, you can add in coconut sugar, as per your preference. And there you go; your sunflower butter is ready to side with your meal.
Sunflower butter is super simple to make, and your body will thank you for it. After all, the list of benefits these seeds provide is rather lengthy.
9. Add Sunflower Seeds to Your Baked Goodies
Are you a fanatic of healthy baked snacks? You can add sunflower seeds to your cookies, low-cal cakes, baked Namak-Para or even your burger buns!
10. Switch to Sunflower Oil
We have mentioned earlier the healthy MUFAs and PUFAs in healthy sunflower seeds. You can switch your regular oil with sunflower seed oil to maximise its benefits in your every meal.
A tip to remember: Sunflower seeds are vulnerable to turning rancid due to their high-fat content. Store them in an airtight container in your refrigerator or freezer to avoid rancidity.
8 Proven Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
The seeds contain numerous essential vitamins and minerals. For example, sunflower seeds have vitamin E (with strong anti-inflammatory qualities and a reduced risk of developing heart disease). In addition, it has folate for DNA synthesis and phosphorus for improving bone health.
They are also abundant in selenium, an antioxidant that protects against cell damage, Vitamin B6, essential for cognitive development and function. Zinc that helps in metabolism and immune function can also be found in sunflower seeds.
Here are some health benefits of sunflower seeds:
1. Sunflower Seeds Promotes Heart Health
Sunflower seeds are good for ‘healthy fats like polyunsaturated (PUFA) and monounsaturated (MUFA) fats. In addition, studies show that sunflower seed consumption is related to decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
As per nutritional composition, sunflower fat contains:
10.3% saturated fat
19.5% monounsaturated fat
65.7% polyunsaturated fat
Studies show that the fatty acid content of high oleic acid sunflower oil seems to have a favourable impact on cardiovascular risk. In addition, it has a positive influence on factors such as lipid profile and blood pressure.
2. Sunflower Seeds Reduces Inflammation
The right amount of inflammation can help the body fight some infections. While on the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to various diseases. Sunflower seeds have anti-inflammatory properties for people who suffer from short-term or chronic inflammation. They include vitamin E, flavonoids, and other plant components that have anti-inflammatory properties. Meaning, these seeds will help lower the inflammation in your body.
A study has found that sunflower head can reduce ankle swelling in acute gout inflammation. These actions are most likely due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the seeds. In addition, sunflower seeds have a high pharmacological action. Hence, they can potentially help with hyperuricemia and gout arthritis.
4. Sunflower Seeds Strengthens Immune System
Sunflower seeds include a variety of vitamins and minerals. It helps in boosting your immune system and improves your ability to fight infections; zinc and selenium are two examples. Zinc is essential for the immune system since it supports the maintenance and development of immune cells.
Selenium also helps in the reduction of inflammation, the battle against infection. Both these minerals found in sunflower seeds can help in boosting your immunity.
5. Sunflower Seeds Improves Energy Levels
While the high protein content of sunflower seeds already helps raise energy levels, additional minerals such as vitamin B and selenium can also help keep you energised. In addition, these seeds contain vitamin B1 (also known as thiamin). This vitamin can help our body turn food into energy, keeping us energetic throughout the day.
Selenium in sunflower seeds can boost blood flow and oxygen delivery to your body. It is another way it can boost your energy levels.
6. Anti- Diabetic Effects
Studies have also shown the anti-diabetic effects of these seeds. That is because the seeds include beneficial nutritional components: fibre, protein, MUFAs and PUFAs, selenium, zinc, vitamin E, and antioxidants. All these play a crucial role in the protection or management of diabetes.
Despite being dense in calories and fat, sunflower seeds are abundant in fatty acids essential for the body’s proper functioning, such as PUFAs and MUFAs. In addition, these seeds also contain natural antioxidants, which are bio-actives. Therefore, pumpkin seeds can minimise the risk of cancer development when consumed in appropriate amounts.
These seeds are a rich source of selenium, a micronutrient. This component is critical for boosting human defence against cancer. In addition, sunflower seeds help repair DNA and inhibit cancer cell growth. All these functions sum up the cancer-protective effect of these seeds.
8. Effect on Nerves, Muscles and Bones
Sunflower is high in magnesium, which helps to lessen the severity of migraine headaches and the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Our body needs magnesium for strong bones and energy generation. Magnesium contributes to the formation of the physical structure of bones. In addition, it stays on the surface of bones for future use. Magnesium also acts as a calcium counter-balancer, assisting in regulating neurons and muscles. It makes sure your body is functioning normally.
Potential Drawbacks of Sunflower Seeds
While sunflower seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients providing various health benefits, you cannot overlook these downsides.
It probably comes to you as a shock that sunflower seeds are calorie-dense. But, as we mentioned earlier, these seeds are categorised as oilseeds. That means that it is full of calories. It, therefore, becomes essential to keep track of the number of seeds you eat daily.
Store-bought sunflower seeds usually have kernels coated with salt. It can raise your sodium level, which you would want to avoid. So, it becomes essential that you ask for unsalted packs when you purchase these seeds.
3. Cadmium and Nickel
Research has found that sunflower kernels for human consumption carry high cadmium and nickel levels. The concentration of these heavy metals in sunflower seeds varies depending on the region. However, you cannot overlook that the cadmium concentration in sunflower kernels may endanger human health.
However, the threat of getting toxicity of either of these metals will only arise if you binge on a bag full of these seeds daily. At the same time, a tbsp of these seeds are safe for human consumption. So, make sure to stay within the safe limits of seed consumption.
Allergic reactions from sunflower seed consumption are rare. The allergens are proteins found in sunflower seeds. In addition, sunflowers can trigger allergic contact dermatitis in people who harvest or come in contact with these seeds or sunflower oil.
Asthma, mouth swelling, itching, hay fever, skin rashes, lesions, vomiting, and hypersensitivity are all potential outcomes of such an allergy from this seed.
While rich in calories, sunflower seeds are full of nutrients that could aid in weight loss. They are high in protein, fat, and fibre, making them an excellent snack. In addition, sunflower seeds come with several health benefits, including boosting immunity, protecting your heart, and having anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties.
Bear in mind that many processed sunflower seeds include a lot of salt. Excessive salt in your diet can be detrimental to your heart and kidneys. It may also induce water retention and high blood pressure. Consume raw, unsalted sunflower seeds to keep sodium levels low.
You may eat sunflower seeds in several healthful ways as long as you control your portion sizes. Sunflower seeds, when consumed in moderation and substitution of higher-calorie, unhealthy snacks, can be a component of a balanced diet.
Sunflower Seeds – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are the benefits of sunflower seeds?
A. Sunflower seeds are known to reduce inflammation, protect the heart, have anti-gout and anti-diabetic effects, boost energy levels and promote weight loss when eaten in adequate portions.
Q. How many sunflower seeds should you eat in a day?
A. You can eat 15- 30 gm of sunflower seeds daily. However, it can depend on your weight, health goals, and calorie needs. Consult your dietitian for a more individualised plan.
Q. Why should you not eat sunflower seeds?
A. Sunflower shells may harm your digestive tract since they are fibrous and indigestible. Spit out the shells if you want to eat whole sunflower seeds first. Most sunflower seeds sold in the market are shelled.
Q. Which is healthier, pumpkin or sunflower seeds?
A. Both pumpkin and sunflower seeds are dense in calories and have similar nutritional values. However, sunflower seeds are slightly higher in fat and protein. It also contains more B vitamins, Vitamin C, E, selenium and zinc. On the other hand, pumpkin seeds are richer in b- carotene, Vitamin K, choline, and potassium.
Q. Is sunflower seed good for hair?
A. Yes, sunflower seeds are good for hair. That is because they are a good source of zinc, and zinc is essential to keep your hair healthy and lustrous. It may also help boost your hair growth.
Q. Are raw sunflower seeds good for you?
A. Raw sunflower seeds are good for you; however, they may contain some toxins or bacteria. Therefore, it is safer to roast them before consuming them.
Q. Do sunflower seeds burn belly fat?
A. Sunflower seeds may aid with weight loss. It is because they contain a decent amount of protein and fibre. These two nutrients help you feel fuller and consume lesser calories, leading to weight loss.
Q. Are sunflower seeds a superfood?
A. Yes. Since sunflower seeds have an exceptional nutritional value, they are considered a superfood.
Q. What are the side effects of eating sunflower seeds?
A. Sunflower seeds are calorie-dense. Hence, if you don’t eat them in advised portion sizes, they may add to your daily calories. Additionally, packed sunflower seed snacks may contain added sodium, which is not beneficial. Therefore, you should opt for plain sunflower seeds over salted ones. Some people may also be allergic to sunflower seeds, though this allergy is quite rare.
Q. Are sunflower seeds bad for your diet?
A. Sunflower seeds, when eaten in adequate amounts, can provide you with an array of health benefits and also help in weight loss. However, since these seeds are also rich in fats and calories, special care should be taken while selecting their portion size.
Q. Should sunflower seeds be soaked before eating?
A. You can soak sunflower seeds before eating. If present, soaking neutralises the inhibitors in the seeds and may also get rid of the toxins.
Q. Do sunflower seeds make you gain weight?
A. Sunflower seeds are calorie-dense and contain lots of healthy fats. However, they can make you gain weight if you overindulge.
Q. How many calories are in a pack of sunflower seeds?
A. 100 gm of raw, plain sunflower seeds contains 586 kcal.