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Small But Mighty: 8 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are great for snacking. They’re convenient and tasty, and they’re also fantastic sprinkled on salads, in homemade granola, and mixed into trail mixes. But did you know that these versatile, delicious seeds are also incredibly healthy? Turns out, the sunflower oil found in these seeds provides a ton of excellent health benefits. Let’s take a look.

Sunflower Seeds:

1. Reduce the Chances You’ll Develop Heart Problems

Sunflower seed oil is rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce the chances you’ll have heart issues.1 One of the reasons antioxidants are so important is that they fight the negative effects of oxidation. While oxidation is a natural process that helps the body in many ways, it can also harm your body. When “bad” cholesterol is oxidized, for example, hardening of the arteries can result.2

In addition, sunflower seeds are also high in phytosterols – molecules that help regulate bad cholesterol levels in your blood. This is one of the best defenses your body has against heart problems.3

2. May Improve Thyroid Function

Your thyroid gland helps to regulate a lot of vital bodily functions. It not only controls your metabolic rate, it also controls protein production and your heart rate. If you have a thyroid problem, you’ll have symptoms such as extreme fatigue, body temperature fluctuation, and weight issues.

Selenium is a mineral that helps keep your thyroid functioning properly. For this reason, you need to get plenty of selenium in your diet. Fortunately, sunflower seed oil is a great source of selenium.5

Benefits of Sunflower Seeds3. Keep Your Bones Strong

As you age, your bones become more brittle, putting you at risk of suffering injuries if you fall. Sunflower oil is rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps keep your bones healthy and strong. But magnesium performs many other important functions as well. For example, it helps to keep your blood pressure at a safe level, and it helps reduce the occurrence of problems such as fatigue, constipation, and migraine headaches.6

4. Boost Energy

Sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of vitamin B5, which helps your body metabolize energy and also regulates the way your hormones work. A B5 deficiency could result in muscle cramps and fatigue.7

5. Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

Getting a good supply of seeds and nuts in your diet may help keep your blood sugar at a safe level. If your blood sugar levels aren’t properly balanced, weight gain and immune system problems may result. Sunflower seed oil is high in nutrients that help prevent spiking and dipping. For example, magnesium, which is found in sunflower seeds, helps inhibit the development of conditions associated with blood sugar fluctuations.8

6. Enable Healthier Blood

The vitamin E found in sunflower seeds is extremely important. It’s not only an antioxidant, it also helps your body produce red blood cells. In addition, it enables your body to use vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting. If you don’t get enough vitamin E, you could suffer from balance issues, muscle weakness, kidney and liver problems, and vision issues.9

7. Ensure a Good Supply of Omega Fatty Acids

Sunflower oil is a good source of linoleic acid, which is a building block of the omega fatty acids that are vital to your health. Not getting enough omega fatty acids could lead to a weakened immune system, kidney or liver issues, or even depression.10,11

8. Maintain Your Metabolism

Folate is a form of vitamin B. It not only helps to form new cells, it also plays a role in keeping your metabolism running the way it should. Folate is especially important for pregnant women, as it helps ensure that a fetus develops normally.12

What to Know When Buying Sunflower Seeds

Benefits of Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds are extremely popular in the U.S. You can eat them straight out of the bag or use them in recipes.

If you plan on purchasing sunflower seeds, you might want to consider buying them in bulk. Many health food stores will sell them by the pound. This is not only an affordable way to buy them, but it will also mean you’re getting the freshest seeds possible. Look for seeds that are plump, intact, and don’t have any yellow spots. All of the seeds should also be the same color.

Storing Sunflower Seeds

Be careful how you store sunflower seeds. They contain a lot of polyunsaturated fats – so if they’re left in a warm room for too long, they could spoil fairly easily. You can keep this from happening by putting them in an airtight container and then storing them in your refrigerator. That way, they’ll remain fresh for several months and will maintain their taste.

Sunflower Seed Butter

If you’d rather not eat sunflower seeds, you can find sunflower seed butter in stores. Be careful when buying it, though, and look carefully at the label. Avoid buying any sunflower seed butter with added ingredients such as thickening agents, hydrogenated fats, or any extra flavoring.

Wrapping it Up

Benefits of Sunflower SeedsSome people want to go the all-natural route and harvest their own sunflower seeds. If you’re growing sunflowers in your yard, the best time to harvest edible seeds will be when the back of the flower turns yellowish-brown. In order to get to the seeds, you’ll have to thoroughly dry out the flower. When the seeds become plump and a black-and-white stripe appears on their shells, they’re ready to eat!

As you can see, there are a lot of good reasons to start introducing sunflower seeds to your dietary regimen. The health benefits are plentiful, and there are so many ways to use them. Don’t hesitate to grab a handful of these nutritious seeds the next time you need a snack!

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About the Author

Dr. Amy Lee

Dr. Amy Lee has board certifications in internal medicine, physician nutrition and obesity medicine specialty. She practices internal medicine with a heavy emphasis on nutrition, wellness and weight management. Her Clinical nutrition fellowship training at UCLA has allowed her to incorporate realistic lifestyle modification in all her medicine patients.