4 Amazing Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Find out why these tasty little seeds deserve a spot on your grocery list.
Sunflower seeds may conjure up memories of baseball games growing up, but they are actually a much more wholesome food than the hot dogs and other foods that may also remind you of ballpark fare. Adding sunflower seeds to your diet could do wonders for your skin, heart, immunity and overall health. Read below to find out four good reasons to start adding them to your favorite snacks for a serious health boost.
Sunflower Seeds Nutrition
- Calories: 165
- Total Fat: 14 grams
- Saturated Fat: 1.5 grams
- Monounsaturated Fat: 3 grams
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 9 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
- Sodium: 1 milligram
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugars: 0 grams
- Protein: 5.5 grams
- Vitamin A: 2.5 IU (0% Daily Value)
- Vitamin C: 0.5 mg (4% DV)
- Calcium: 20 milligrams (2% DV)
- Iron: 1 milligram (6% DV)
While sunflower seeds are pretty high in fat for a one-ounce serving, they are made of mostly mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are a great anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy source of fats our bodies need. Additionally, they are a good source of fiber and protein, adding a nice nutrition boost to your favorite granola bars, salads and other recipes.
Sunflower seeds are also almost negligent in sodium on their own, but many packaged sunflower seed products are loaded with salt—one popular brand packs 79% of your daily sodium limit per serving! It’s important to be mindful of the nutrition label whenever you’re stocking up on sunflower seeds to use for snacking or in a recipe.
Sunflower Seeds Boast Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
You don’t just have to eat the trendy seeds—like chia and hemp—to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits they have to offer. A study out of Columbia University found consuming sunflower and other seeds five or more times per week to be associated with lower levels of inflammation—which the authors of the study may be why consumption of them is also related to a reduced risk for several chronic diseases.
Sunflower Seeds Boost Your Heart Health
Unlike saturated fat, moderate unsaturated fat consumption has actually shown to improve one’s heart health. A study out of Harvard University found increased seed consumption—sunflower seeds included—to be associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as CVD risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure. Making the effort to consume more heart-healthy fats, like the mono- and polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower seeds, can make a huge impact on your heart health (learn more about the best and worst foods to eat for heart health).
Sunflower Seeds Help to Prevent and Fight Sickness
Sunflower seeds are a good or excellent source of nearly a dozen essential vitamins and minerals, two of them being zinc and selenium. Zinc is an integral part of the immune system, as it helps both to develop and maintain proper function of immune cells. Additionally, zinc functions as an antioxidant to fight off free radicals.
Selenium also plays a role in fighting inflammation and infection, along with boosting immunity, to ensure our bodies are producing a proper response to any intruders in the body. This mineral is an important part of achieving mental health and preventing neurodegenerative disorders (like Alzheimer’s) as well.
Sunflower Seeds Are a Great Food for Expecting Mothers
Whether you’re hoping to have a baby, are pregnant or are just trying to follow a well-balanced diet, sunflower seeds have a lot to offer. These seeds are a good source of zinc and folate, while being an excellent source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is essential for prenatal health, as it helps the fetus develop and use red blood cells and muscles. Folate supports the placenta and helps prevent spina bifida, while zinc helps produce insulin and enzymes.
Vitamin E is also a key nutrient for achieving that “pregnancy glow.” You’ve likely purchased a skincare product that touts having vitamin E in it, as it fights against UV damage and nourishes your largest organ. Sunflower seeds pack more than one-third of your daily needs.
Find out why these tasty little seeds deserve a spot on your grocery list.
Are Sunflower Seeds Healthy? Here’s What Experts Say
C ertain seeds, like chia and flax, tend to hog the nutritional spotlight. But the less-trendy sunflower seed has plenty of qualities worth highlighting. Here are the health benefits of sunflowers seeds, according to dietitians.
Are sunflower seeds healthy?
Sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients. One serving of shelled sunflower seeds is usually an ounce, which is about 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons (one to two thumb-sized portions.) They’re particularly high in healthy fat: A serving delivers 14 grams of fat with a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. “The mono- and polyunsaturated fats in sunflower seeds show a clear health benefit, especially related to heart health and risk of cardiovascular disease,” says registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey.
A serving of the seeds also contains about 6 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fiber. “Fat, fiber and protein play an important role in satiety, the feeling of fullness,” says Rumsey.
The seeds are also loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E (which has strong anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce risk of heart disease), folate (important for DNA synthesis), phosphorus (key for bone health), selenium (an antioxidant that protects against cell damage), manganese (which helps with bone production), copper (which helps with heart health and immune function), B6 (good for cognitive development and function) and zinc (important for metabolism and immune function), says registered dietitian Maxine Yeung.
Sunflower seeds are notably rich in magnesium, a mineral involved in more than 300 different bodily functions—and one that most Americans don’t get enough of. “Magnesium can lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” says registered dietitian Brian St. Pierre. “It’s also a vital component of bone and helps to regulate our nerve and muscle function and contraction.”
How healthy are sunflower seeds compared to other seeds?
Some seeds have an advantage over sunflower when it comes to certain nutrients. Chia seeds are packed with plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (with 5 grams for a one-ounce serving) and fiber (10 grams per serving). Hemp seeds and flax seeds are also higher in omega-3 fatty acids than sunflower seeds.
“However, sunflower seeds are richer in vitamins and minerals,” says St. Pierre, “and generally provide a superior flavor profile to the neutral chia seed.” Sunflower seeds also have some of the highest concentrations of phytosterols, plant molecules that are good for reducing cholesterol and promoting heart health, says Yeung.
In general, though, all seeds provide a good mix of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which is why it’s important to incorporate a variety of seeds into your diet.
What’s the healthiest way to eat sunflower seeds?
Sunflower kernels can be roasted with or without the shell on, and are most commonly eaten after removing the shell. “Shells have a lot of fiber and can be eaten, but are very hard, and if not chewed well may harm the digestive tract,” Yeung says.
You can eat sunflower seeds raw or buy dry roasted seeds with or without the shell. They also come in flavored varieties. Unsalted, raw kernels are the least processed versions of the seeds, says Yeung, but pick a seed that you’ll enjoy so that you’ll actually eat them. Eat them on their own or sprinkle them on oatmeal, yogurt, soups and salads, says Yeung.
Just remember they’re a high-fat food. Portion control is key so that you reap the health benefits while avoiding excess calories, says Yeung. And since sunflower seeds have a good amount of fat, they can go rancid, so make sure to store them in an airtight container.
Here's what to know about the health benefits of sunflower seeds, including how their nutritional content stacks up against chia seeds.