Sunflower Seeds: Calories, Are They Good for You, Side Effects, Proven Benefits
Sunflower seeds are a tasty and healthy snack packed with nutrients and antioxidants that are very good for you. Sunflower seeds also contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and keep your heart healthy. Consuming sunflower seeds every day also helps to improve your digestion, lower your blood pressure, and calm your nerves.
Although sunflower seeds contain fat, most of the fat content is polyunsaturated fat. A 1 oz. serving of sunflower seeds will provide you with vitamin E, B-group vitamins, copper, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. Eating an ounce of sunflower seeds every day won’t make you fat because they contain 164 calories.
In this article, you will learn about scientific studies that show why sunflower seeds are good for you.
What Are Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds come from the sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus). Sunflower seeds or kernels have black or stripped hulls around them. You can enjoy sunflower seeds without their hull as a delicious snack, sprinkle them on salads, or add to other foods to give them a crunchy texture.
Sunflower seeds are also pressed to extract the oil from them. Sunflower oil has become popular because it is high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. However, you will find out at the end of this article why many people tend to avoid sunflower oil now.
Sunflower seeds are also good to eat if you have a nut allergy because they are seeds and not nuts. You get many of the same health benefits from sunflower seeds as you would from nuts.
Are Sunflower Seeds Good for You?
Consuming sunflower kernels or seeds is a great way to help boost your health and strengthen your immunity.
The Chemistry Central Journal reports that sunflower seeds contain phenolic acids, flavonoids, and tocopherols. These are important antioxidants that help to keep you healthy and free from disease.
Sunflower seeds are easy to consume regularly and can give you a good energy boost. For example, 2 oz. (56 g) of sunflower seeds contain 328 calories. However, this also gives you 5 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein which is around 20% of your daily requirements.
An ounce (28 g) of sunflower seeds contain 5.6 grams of carbs and also have a very low glycemic index.
Eating sunflower seeds regularly can help to strengthen your immune system due to the high levels of antioxidants. For example, a 1/4 cup serving (35 grams) of sunflower seeds contains 12 mg of vitamin E which is over half of your recommended daily intake (RDI).
In fact, sunflower seeds contain significantly higher levels of vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids than linseed (flaxseed) and sesame seed. Vitamin E and other antioxidants help to keep your heart healthy and your skin looking great.
It’s good to eat sunflower seeds every day because they contain trace minerals that are important for your health: A 1 oz. serving of sunflower seeds contains 91 mg magnesium which is 23% of your RDI. This small serving of sunflower seeds also contains copper, manganese, selenium, iron, and phosphorus.
How Many Calories Are in Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are not fattening for you if you consume them in reasonable quantities. Because sunflower seeds are so small and very delicious, it is very easy to eat too many of them.
Like most nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds do contain a lot of calories. A 1/4 cup serving of sunflower seeds contains just over 200 calories which is about 10% of your daily requirements.
Are Sunflower Seeds Fattening?
When it comes to fat content, the good news is that sunflower seeds mainly contain unsaturated fats. Sunflower seeds can only make you fat if you eat too many of them regularly.
The fat content in 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds is about 18 grams. However, from this, only 1.5 grams are unhealthy saturated fat.
Even though they contain a lot of fat, sunflower seeds are certainly not bad for you because they mainly contain healthy fats.
Another reason why you can eat moderate amounts of sunflower seeds without worrying about becoming fat is that they have complex carbs that release energy slowly. This will also help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
So, consuming a handful of sunflower seeds will help to fight hunger pangs and prevent you from snacking on unhealthy snacks.
To help prevent weight increase from eating sunflower seeds, weigh out appropriate portions beforehand.
Nutritional Value of Sunflower Seeds
The many benefits of sunflower seeds become apparent when you view the nutritional value of sunflower seeds.
According to the United States Department of agriculture, 1 oz. (28 g) of sunflower seeds contain the following vitamins, minerals, and nutrients:
- 164 calories
- 6 g of carbohydrates
- 4 g of fiber (10% RDI)
- 7 mg omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 mg vitamin E (47% RDI)
- 4 mg vitamin B6 (19% RDI)
- 6 mcg folate (16% RDI)
- 5 mg copper (25% RDI)
- 5 mg manganese (27% RDI)
- 91 mg magnesium (23% RDI)
- 5 mg iron (8% RDI)
Sunflower seeds also contain trace amounts of vitamin C, B-group vitamins, zinc, calcium, potassium, and zinc.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Let’s look in more detail at the amazing health benefits of sunflower seeds.
Sunflower Seeds are Good for Your Heart
The high levels of healthy fatty acids and antioxidants in sunflower seeds mean that they can help keep your heart healthy.
Scientific research has shown that a diet for good heart health should include nuts and seeds. One study involving postmenopausal women supplemented their diet with 30 g of sunflower seeds every day. At the end of the trial, scientists found that consuming sunflower seeds helped to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women.
Minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium are also abundant in seeds such as sunflower seeds. Research has found that these minerals help to boost cardiovascular health and reduce blood pressure. This means that consuming sunflower seeds can help to lower your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.
Sunflower Seeds Can Help Lower Cholesterol
One of the ways that consuming sunflower seeds promotes good heart health is that they help reduce cholesterol.
Researchers have found that sunflower kernels contain the highest levels of phytosterols among seeds and nuts. These beneficial compounds are known to help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Sunflower Seeds May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Eating a handful of sunflower seeds every day is good if you have high blood pressure because the seeds have an anti-hypertensive effect.
Research into the beneficial properties of sunflower seeds has found that they act in a similar way to anti-hypertension medication. Certain compounds act as ACE inhibitors that can help to lower blood pressure.
Other studies have shown that amino acids in seeds help to lower blood pressure and have a positive effect on cardiovascular health.
Sunflower Seeds Strengthen Your Immunity
Another reason to eat a serving of sunflower seeds daily is that the high levels of antioxidants in sunflower seeds have immune-strengthening properties.
Scientists say that sunflower seeds are a nutrient dense food that help to boost the body’s defenses. Phytosterols, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, as well as unsaturated fatty acids help to strengthen the immune system. This can assist in preventing various chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Sunflower Seeds Are Good for Your Skin
Eating more sunflower seeds in your diet will also improve the appearance of your skin in general.
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E which is an essential component for healthy skin. In fact, consuming 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds a day (approximately 35 grams) will give you nearly 60% of your daily vitamin E requirements!
The polyunsaturated fatty acid content of sunflower seeds also helps to boost skin health. In animal models, scientists found that consuming sunflower seeds can improve skin condition.
You can also use sunflower seed oil as a natural moisturizer to help keep your skin healthy. A review of many studies on the effects of sunflower oil found that antioxidants in sunflower oil benefit the skin. Sunflower oil applied topically can help to treat various inflammatory skin conditions and protect the skin from photoaging.
Minerals in Sunflower Seeds Help Keep Your Bones Strong
Strengthening your bones is another great reason to start consuming more sunflower seeds daily. The mineral content in sunflower kernels may also help to prevent osteoporosis.
Consuming 1 oz. (28 g) of sunflower seeds daily give you 23% RDI of magnesium, 25% RDI of copper, 27% of manganese RDI, and 8% of your iron RDI. According to the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, these mineral elements are necessary for good bone health and to prevent the loss of bone mass.
Sunflower seeds also contain compounds that can help prevent osteoporosis. Sunflower seed extracts help to enhance bone formation and help prevent inflammatory bone disease or osteoporosis.
Sunflower Seeds Are Good for Healthy Digestion
Eating sunflower seeds every day will also give you a good amount of fiber that will help keep your digestive system working well.
For example, consuming 2 oz. (56g) of sunflower seeds will give you 5 grams of fiber which is 20% of your daily fiber requirements.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that seeds are among the best types of dietary fiber that you can get. Fiber helps food to pass through your digestive system and make stool easier to pass. Getting enough fiber daily helps to reduce your risk of bowel-related problems like hemorrhoids and can help prevent constipation.
Sunflower Seeds Have a Calming Effect and Help You Sleep Better
The high levels of magnesium in sunflower seeds may also have a calming effect on your mind.
A lack of magnesium in your diet can result in increased stress levels and feelings of anxiety. The journal Nutrients reports that magnesium deficiency is common in Western diets. Magnesium affects your central nervous system and can also reduce depression-related behavior. Researchers have found that increasing magnesium in the diet can have a beneficial effect on the mind.
Other studies have shown that magnesium can help elderly people sleep better and prevent early morning awakening.
There is no evidence to suggest that consuming sunflower seeds alone can help relieve anxiety. However, 1 oz. of sunflower seeds contains 23% of your daily magnesium needs.
If you suffer from stress and anxiety, try out some of these 14 effective remedies for anxiety issues.
Sunflower Seeds Can Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms
If you suffer from diabetes, then regular consumption of sunflower seeds can help to manage your symptoms.
Researchers have discovered that sunflower seed sprouts have natural antioxidants that help to treat and prevent diabetes. A compound in sunflower seed spouts called cynarin helps to lower blood glucose levels. This is even more potent than artichoke leaves that are sometimes used to lower blood glucose levels.
Sunflower seed extract has also shown to reduce plasma glucose levels and help prevent some of the diabetes-related complications.
Did you know that sunflower seeds are just one of the many foods that help control type 2 diabetes?
Sunflower Seeds Have Anticancer Potential
There is growing evidence to suggest that sunflower seeds have compounds that can help to treat and prevent certain types of cancer.
Although sunflower seeds are small, they are jam-packed with antioxidants. For example, just 1 oz. (28 g) sunflower seeds contains nearly half of your daily vitamin E requirements. According to the International Journal of Biomedical Science, vitamin E may help prevent cancers such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
Other studies show that oleic acid in sunflower seeds may have a protective effect against breast cancer.
Scientists say that seeds such as sunflower seeds have a high antioxidant content and can help in preventing cancer. Compounds in sunflower seeds can help protect cells against DNA damage and also prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
Of course, more research has to be done in clinical trials to see how antioxidants in sunflower seeds can be used for treating cancer.
Side Effects and Allergies Related to Eating Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower kernels are a delicious snack with a nutty flavor that can be enjoyed by most people but some people are allergic to them.
Allergic reactions to sunflower seeds
One of the benefits of consuming sunflower seeds is that they can be enjoyed by people who suffer from tree nut allergies. However, some people are allergic to sunflower seeds.
The International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology reports that sunflower seed allergies are rare but may affect bird breeders.
Could make acne worse
If you suffer from acne, you may be advised to refrain from consuming sunflower seeds.
One randomized controlled trial on 50 people with acne found that eating sunflower seeds had a negative effect on acne symptoms. It was observed that consuming 25 g of sunflower seeds per day aggravated acne vulgaris.
High in omega 6
Consuming too many sunflower seeds every day could increase levels of omega-6 and result in inflammation in your body.
Scientists say that you need a proper ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to prevent inflammation. A low ratio in your body will help reduce the risk of developing chronic disease due to your body’s inflammatory responses.
However, unlike sunflower oil which is very high in omega-6 and may make inflammation worse, studies have shown that consuming sunflower seeds has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
How to Eat Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are incredibly versatile. They are very tasty so you can snack on them just as they are with no further modification.
Alternatively they add a lovely crunchy texture to salads – consider using them in place of croutons! The seeds work well in rice dishes such as pilafs (they are a good alternative to pine nuts) and can be used to add crunch to baked goods. The only limit is your imagination.
How To Store Sunflower Seeds
You can buy sunflower seeds unshelled (they will still have their characteristic black and grey striped husk) or already shelled. If your seeds still have their shells on, they can be kept in a cool dry place. If they have been shelled, it’s best to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This will prevent the fat inside from turning rancid.
When choosing your seeds avoid any batches that look dull, withered or smell slightly off.