The Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

I remember when I was a child we visited my grandparents for a couple weeks each summer as a summer vacation. They fed the birds, and always had a big supply of 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. It was still later that I would learn 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. There are more current articles about sunflower seeds if you visit the highlighted link to Virginia Polytechnic above.
  
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 11/8/18

Image Credit: WikiImages on Pixabay

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