Sunflower Seeds

SUNFLOWER SEEDS  – Nutritional Profile

Sunflower seeds are a snack food that contains a real punch when it comes to nutrition.  Each 100g of seeds contains 584 calories due to the high content of fatty acids. Alongside this they are a great source of many health benefiting minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.

Fatty acids such as linooleic acid and oleic acid are present in significant quantities and they are at the centre of the Mediterranean type of diet that has been so popularised in recent years.  They are a good source of protein with 100g of seeds providing 21g of protein, much of which is in the form of the amino acid tryptophan which is especially important for children’s growth.

They also contain many compounds such as natural antioxidants which help remove harmful free radicals from the body and will also help reduce blood sugar levels by reducing the breakdown of glycogen in the liver.

They are also an excellent way of including vitamin E in your diet.  100g of seeds contains 234% or the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and a similarly good source of B group vitamins including niacin and folic acid, along with vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and riboflavin.

Sunflowers are probably one of the best sources of folic acid, 100 g of kernels contains 37% of RDA.

They can also be relied upon to provide many essential minerals such as calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper which are found in plentiful supply.


SUNFLOWER SEEDS  – Health Benefits

Sunflower seeds make an easy way to get vitamin E into the diet.  Vitamin E is one of the body’s best antioxidants.   It travels through the body and neutralises many free radicals which cause damage to membranes and brain cells.  Vitamin E has an anti-inflammatory effect on these cells that will lead to a less symptoms associated with such conditions as osteoarthritis, asthma, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis where the inflammation is a significant issue cause of discomfort.

Research has also shown that vitamin e can minimise the chance of developing colon cancer and helped to manage the symptoms associated with the menopause.

Vitamin E also has a central role in the prevention of arteriosclerosis.  Cholestorol can only attach to the sides of a blood vessel after if has been oxidised and Vitamin E is one of the main antioxidants that inhibits this process.  Blocked arteries with the ensuing heart attack or stroke are reduced significantly when the diet is rich in vitamin E.   A good regular supply of vitamin E has shown, in studies, to put people at significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease and a quarter of one cup of sunflower seeds, just enough for a  between meal snack, contains 67% of the RDA.

Sunflower seeds also provide a good source of phytosterols which are a compound that has structure similar cholesterol.  Ironically, when present in sufficient quantity they are believed to reduce cholesterol in the blood.  They also improve immune systems ability to respond to the risk of certain cancers

Selenium is a trace mineral found in Sunflower seeds that research has shown is  directly linked with  cancer.  Research has shown that it is critical in processes involved in reaping damage to DNA and cell structures and by doing so inhibits the number of cancer cells found in the body.  Further research has also shown that selenium is an important compound in the process of apoptosis, the process byt which the body rids itself of damaged cells that could become cancerous.

Selenium has an additional role in cancer prevention in that it functions in the liver to detoxify a range of harmful agents and where not present these agents can further damage the DNA of weakened cells leading to increased chance of cancer.

Sunflower seeds provide a good supply of magnesium to the diet. Studies have often shown that magnesium will minimise asthma attacks, help prevent migraines and reduce the risk of heart attack by reducing blood pressure.

Sunflowers provide an ample supply of magnesium which is necessary for healthy bones and energy production.   It works alongside calcium to manage nerve and muscle tone.  Where it is present in sufficient quantity blood vessels are more flexible leading directly to a reduction in blood pressure.  It achieves this by acting as a block to the calcium that will be present and ensuring no unnecessary nerve activity takes place.  Nerve cells avoid becoming over activated and therefore avoid sending out to many messages causing excessive contraction. So adequate levels of magnesium will assist with lowering of blood pressure and the avoidance of muscle spasms.

Niacin and pyridoxine are two  B-complex vitamins found in significant quantities in sunflower seeds.  52% of the RDA of niacin is found in just 200g of the seeds.  Niacin plays a significant role in the management of LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and also enhances certain brain activity bwhich reduces stress levels.



Sunflower seeds can be found, mainly in three different varieties.  The Linoleic, high oleic, and Nusun and all are differentiated by the levels of monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fats present.    Commercially they are usually identified and classed by the pattern on their husks. Where the husk is solid black they are labelled lack oil sunflower seeds and are usually cropped for oil production. Striped sunflower seeds are mainly used for food and so they may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.

In 2005, out of a world crop of 310,000,000 metric tons, Russia and Ukraine were the largest producers being responsible for 63,000,000 and 47,000,000 each.

Where sunflowers are harvested for oil production the cellulose husks are sometimes used as a biomass fuel in power generation.