Article by Alison Cole, recipe by RawRose, used with permission.
As innocuous as it may seem, the little gray kernel of a beautiful yellow flower actually leads as a super food when it comes to boasting high nutritive values as well as being a convenient and tasty snack. That’s right, the sunflower seed is all that and deserves some attention when considering the addition of health benefits to one’s diet, packing in vitamins, protein, and more.
This gift from the sunflower is one of the first plants to be ever cultivated in the United States, and today the world’s leading suppliers of the sunflower seed include the Russian Federation, Peru, Argentina, Spain, France and China. Sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world, and the seeds themselves are easily available and very affordable.
When examining the nutritional worth of the sunflower seed, it has many benefits to offer. Sunflower seeds provide an excellent source of vitamin E, which is the body’s principle fat soluble antioxidant. The seeds also provide linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), and some amino acids, especially including tryptophan. Tryptophan aids in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin, which transmits nerve impulses to regulate mood, appetite and sleep and to improve memory and learning.
Sunflower seeds are also rich in phytosterols, which lower LDL cholesterol in the body, and several B vitamins. And if that weren’t enough, these powerhouse particles additionally provide an excellent source of fiber, as well as protein, with 7 grams of protein in a small ¼ cup serving. There are many reasons to eat these tasty morsels, nutrition-wise alone!
As with nuts and other seeds, because sunflower seeds are high in fat, they are prone to rancidity, so it is best to store the dehulled seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They can also be stored in the freezer if you prefer. Whole seeds (with the shell) may be stored at room temperature in a container, without the risk of going rancid.
The most simple (and perhaps enjoyable) way to eat sunflower seeds is straight from the package, whether you are dehulling them in your mouth or have purchased the seeds already without shells. You can also garnish your salads and cereals with them, or use them in recipes to make delightful desserts, dips and pâtés.