The Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

I remember when I was a child visiting my grandparents, who would feed the birds large striped sunflower seeds.  Perhaps I was an unusual little child at that time, but I figured if the birds enjoyed these seeds, I may too...so cracked one open and ate it...it was good!  Later in life they became one of my favorite snacks, purchased for human consumption rather than for birds :-) and I still love them...and it was still later that I learned of their health benefits.

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Research completed in the spring of 2001 by Dr. K. Phillips of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University showed that the sunflower kernel is rich in a number of nutrients that have been shown to protect against cardiovascular and other diseases and to act as antioxidants and anti-carcinogens. When considered in aggregate, this amazing kernel packs a powerful nutritional punch.
  
Sunflower kernels contain high levels of vitamin E, betaine, phenolic acids, and choline, their benefits are listed below.

In addition, the kernel is a good source of arginine and lignans.  Each of these compounds, while perhaps unfamiliar to the layperson, has been studied by the scientific community and shown to offer a variety of health benefits. 

Vitamin E (Tocopherols): May protect against cardiovascular disease.

Betaine: May protect against cardiovascular disease.

Phenolic acids (chlorogenic acid):  Antioxidant and anti-carcinogen. 

Choline: Plays a role in memory and cognitive function.

Arginine: Potential heart benefits.

Lignans: May protect against heart disease and some cancers; lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
Sunflower seeds offer an easy way to add some crunch, taste, and nutrition to a variety of foods. Toss them over your salad, mix them in with popcorn, serve them a la carte, or even add them to your fresh baked, whole grain breads and muffins.

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Updated 5/6/13 

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