Sunflower seeds are a nutritious, tasty and convenient snack. Available both shelled and unshelled, sunflower seeds can be eaten raw or roasted and feature a mild, nutty flavor and a crunchy, satisfying consistency. High levels of protein, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins make sunflower seeds an ideal food for bodybuilders.
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Protein and Fiber
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains a substantial 6.19 g of protein, essential for increasing muscle mass and improving muscle tone. Sunflower seeds also are a good source of fiber, which helps to speed the elimination of waste products from the body. The 186 calories contained in a quarter cup of sunflower seeds are a reasonable investment given the substantial nutritional benefits.
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, with a quarter cup providing 8.35 mg in the form of tocopherols. Vitamin E prevents cell membrane damage by halting the destructive action of free radicals, and might accelerate post-workout recovery while helping to prevent inflammation. In addition, it has cardio-protective effects. Bodybuilding.com recommends consuming at least 15 mg of vitamin E a day from food sources such as nuts and seeds.
Sunflower seeds are high in fat, with a 32 g serving, or one quarter cup, containing 15.94 g of fat. The good news for bodybuilders is that the majority of the fat is beneficial. According to Fit Day, the monounsaturated fats in sunflower seeds can help reduce levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. Sunflower seeds also are rich in linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid particularly beneficial to bodybuilders thanks to its role in building, repairing and maintaining muscle tissue. Linoleic acid produces gamma-linoleic acid in the body, which helps to control inflammatory response.
Vitamins and Minerals
According to the USDA, a quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains 41 mg of magnesium, particularly vital for bodybuilders thanks to its role in forming healthy bones and producing energy. The same quarter cup of sunflower seeds also provides 25.4 g of selenium, a trace mineral and antioxidant essential for increasing muscle mass and improving muscle tone. In addition, sunflower seeds provide healthful amounts of assorted B-complex vitamins, with a quarter cup yielding 2.253 mg of Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid. According to "The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding," by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Dobbins, pantothenic acid is important in energy production and utilization; it also promotes healthy adrenal glands, responsible for producing hormones that combat stress. Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, also is present in generous amounts in sunflower seeds, with .079 mg in a quarter cup. Riboflavin helps the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fat and protein to release energy.