Sunflower seeds provide you with beneficial fats and other nutrients. When used as food in a healthy diet, they make important contributions to your body’s store of vitamins and minerals. Sunflower seeds can be dried or processed into many forms that ultimately produce nutritive snacks, meals and baked goods.
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Source of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds come from Helianthus annuus, a large, bright-yellow flower that is native to North America. Their significant protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals place sunflower seeds among the most nutrient-dense nuts and seeds. Easy to preserve, they were historically a popular subsistence food for native populations. Today, they are usually eaten raw or roasted, with or without added salt.
Types of Seeds
The amount of vitamins and minerals you get from eating sunflower seeds depends on the form in which you ingest them. For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database, 1 tablespoon of salted, dry roasted sunflower seeds has about 45 calories, 4 grams of fat and 2 milligrams of vitamin E. Compare this with 1 tablespoon of the more concentrated sunflower seed oil, with 120 calories, 14 grams fat and 6 milligrams of vitamin E. Make room for sunflower seeds in your healthy diet in the form of raw dried, dry roasted or oil roasted kernels; ground sunflower seed butter; or sunflower seed flour.
Unsalted, dry roasted kernels are high in many vitamins and minerals, and have moderate amounts of iron, protein and dietary fiber. They have no cholesterol or sodium, unless added, and few carbohydrates. Most of the fat content is unsaturated. A 1-ounce portion -- a little more than ¼ cup -- is considered a standard serving size, with 170 calories, 14 grams fat and 7 milligrams of vitamin E. Like many nuts and seeds, they are high in phosphorus, manganese and selenium.
Vitamin E Content
Sunflower seeds have more vitamin E than peanuts, hazelnuts or vegetable sources. Vitamin E is a nutrient that is deficient in the diets of many Americans, according to the USDA. The agency is making an effort to increase awareness of foods that prevent disease, such as those with vitamin E. This antioxidant, also known as tocopherol, protects cells from free-radical damage.
Vitamin E Benefits
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, and consuming vitamin-rich sunflower seeds may aid in preventing heart disease, cancer, eye degeneration and declining brain function. Nuts and seeds are part of the meat and bean food group. Among the group’s choices, they are considered a good choice for a healthy diet because of their low saturated fat and absence of cholesterol.