Sunflower Seeds Nutrition Facts

How Many Calories Are in Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds
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Sunflower seeds come from the beautiful sunflower plant. They are rich in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. Since they're available year-round, they make a healthy little snack and are great additions to salads and other simple dishes.

Sunflower Seed Kernels Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1/4 cup dry roasted without salt (33.5 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 207 
Calories from Fat 173 
Total Fat 19.3g32%
Saturated Fat 1.7g8%
Polyunsaturated Fat 12.5g 
Monounsaturated Fat 3.6g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 1mg0%
Potassium 164mg2%
Carbohydrates 7g3%
Dietary Fiber 3.9g16%
Sugars 0.9g 
Protein 5.8g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1% · Iron 29%

*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

How Healthy Are Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds are highly nutritious. They contain heart-healthy fat, fiber, and protein, but they are also rich in calories. One-fourth cup of shelled sunflower seeds contains about 207 calories and 19.3 grams fat. That means it's important to manage your portions appropriately.

If you are eating seeds as a snack by themselves, be sure to keep your portion to no more than one-fourth cup (without the shell). If you plan on pairing your seeds with a serving of fruit, cut your portion in half. If, on the other hand, you are adding your seeds to your salad or side dish, keep your portion to about one tablespoon.

Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a vitamin and mineral powerhouse. They are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin E (about 75 percent in one serving), a very good source of copper, thiamin, phosphorous, manganese, and selenium. They are also a good source of pantothenic acid and folate and are rich in phytosterols, which tend to lower LDL cholesterol.

Fiber is the indigestible part of a carbohydrate. It helps to regulate bowels and blood sugar, aids in satiety (feeling full) and can help to lower cholesterol. Studies have shown that those people who eat high fiber diets tend to be at healthier weights and have a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin that is known to have antioxidant properties. It also helps normal nerve function and boosts immunity.

Phosphorous is a structural component of bones and teeth, DNA, and cell membranes. It also helps in assisting in energy production and storage.

Sunflower Seed vs. Sunflower Kernel

What's the difference between a "sunflower seed" and a "sunflower kernel"? Quite simply, the seed contains the kernel, which is the "meat" inside the shell. This can be a little confusing because some sunflower seed packaging uses the word "seed" even though they're only selling the kernel.

When you buy "sunflower kernels," the hull has been mechanically removed. The kernel can be sold raw or roasted. If you purchase "sunflower seeds" the seed is left intact with the kernel inside the shell. These can also be roasted and seasoned or eaten as is.

Can You Eat the Shell?

Technically you can eat the shell of a sunflower seed because the hull is primarily fiber. However, because they can be sharp and hard to digest and it's not recommended.

Eating too many can cause fecal impaction (FI), which is a severe form of constipation. Also, the sharp hulls can puncture or attach to the linings of the esophagus or digestive tract if not chewed properly.

It's not uncommon to hear reports of children eating too many sunflower seed shells. This may cause a rectal bezoar, or blockage, that can be treated by doctors. It often requires hospitalization to remove the blockage and restore normal bowel function.

Picking and Storing Sunflower Seeds

You can choose to purchase sunflower seeds with or without the shell. The main thing to consider is to choose those that are unsalted.

Sunflower seeds naturally contain no sodium. When they are roasted and salted, the same serving has about 210mg of sodium. This isn't terribly high, but if you monitor your sodium intake or are salt sensitive, it is something to consider.

Because sunflower seeds have a high fat content they are prone to go rancid quickly. It is best to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also store them in the freezer.

Sunflower seeds are also used to make sunbutter, which is a good alternative if you have a peanut allergy. The seeds are also used to make sunflower oil.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Sunflower Seeds

You can add sunflower seeds to salads and side dishes. This adds fiber, texture, and heart-healthy fat to the dish. Simply roast them or include them raw.

Sunflower seeds also can be ground and used to dust meat and fish in low carbohydrate dishes. Toss some seeds into your yogurt, cottage cheese, or low-fat smoothie for additional flavor. They can also be added to muffins, breads, pancake mix, and desserts or used as an ingredient in homemade granola and trail mix.

Of course, you can eat the seeds on their own for a quick snack. To help control portions, measure out the seeds instead of just reaching into a bag or bowl. It's really easy to just keep eating these little morsels.

Sources:

Anderson JW, et al. Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber. Nutrition Reviews. 2009;67(4):188-205.

National Sunflower Assocation. Frequently asked questions

Thing BA, Jorgensen H. Rectal Bezoar Caused by Sunflower Seeds. Ugeskrift for Laeger. 2010;172(42):2905-6.

Agriculture Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28: 12036, Seeds, Sunflower Seed Kernels. United States Department of Agriculture. 2016.

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