What Are the Benefits of Eating Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds are not only a tasty snack, but are also healthy for you. They contain numerous vitamins and minerals that help your body maintain optimal functioning. The convenience of these seeds make it easy to add extra nutrients to many meals. Eat them alone, or add them to trail mix or sprinkle on top of cereals and salads.

Raw sunflower seed
Sprinkle inexpensive hulled sunflower seeds on food for a healthy addition. (Image: ajafoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamin E and Selenium

Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E. According to the National Sunflower Association, an ounce of sunflower seeds provides 76 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E. This vitamin is an antioxidant that helps protect cells against damage from free radicals. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, individuals who consumed more vitamin E had a lower risk of heart disease than those individuals who did not. This vitamin may also work with others to keep eyes healthy and protect against macular degeneration, says UMMC.

Selenium is a mineral that works with vitamin E as an antioxidant to help protect cells from damage. The National Sunflower Association says that an ounce of sunflower seeds contains nearly 24 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of selenium for men and 31 percent for women.

Good Fats and Protein

Sunflower seeds contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, termed "good" fats because they help raise HDL, or the good type of cholesterol, while lowering LDL, or unhealthy, cholesterol. The National Sunflower Association states that approximately 90 percent of the fat in sunflower seeds is unsaturated, or healthy, fats. The seeds also contain protein, which helps build and maintain muscle and tissue in the body. An ounce of sunflower seeds contains 12 percent of the daily value of protein, says the National Sunflower Association.

Folate

Folate is a B vitamin that occurs naturally in food; the synthetic form of this vitamin is called folic acid, says the Office of Dietary Supplements. This vitamin helps build new cells and both DNA and RNA, and may help prevent changes to DNA that can cause cancer, states the ODS. Folate is also necessary for the body to make new red blood cells and for the metabolism and maintenance of normal levels of homocysteine, an amino acid. Folate and folic acid are important for pregnant women, assisting with the normal development of the fetus. A 1-oz. serving of sunflower seeds provides 17 percent of the daily value of folate, says the National Sunflower Association.

Other Vitamins and Minerals

Sunflower seeds also contain significant amounts of copper, zinc, iron and fiber. These minerals help with carrying oxygen to red blood cells and throughout the body, producing energy, maintaining the immune system, stabilizing blood glucose and blood cholesterol and preventing constipation.

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