Sunflower Seeds Nutrition Facts

Calories in Sunflower Seeds and Their Health Benefits

Sunflower seeds
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Sunflower seeds come from the beautiful sunflower plant that was cultivated by American Indians in present-day Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 BC. Some archaeologists suggest that sunflower may have been domesticated before corn.

Sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. They are available all year long.

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

Sunflower seeds are highly nutritious, containing heart healthy fat, fiber and protein; however, they are rich in calories. One-fourth cup of shelled sunflower seeds contains about 207 calories and 19.3 grams fat. Therefore 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 (this is 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, and a good source of pantothenic acid and folate.

They are also rich in phytosterols, which tend to lower LDL cholesterol.

Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrate. It helps to regulate bowels and blood sugar, aids in satiety, 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.

Common Questions About Sunflower Seeds

What's the difference between a sunflower seed and a sunflower kernel?

The sunflower seed contains the sunflower kernel or 'meat' of the seed inside. 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 seeds can also be roasted and seasoned or eaten as is.

Can I eat the shell?

Technically you can eat the shell because the hull is primarily fiber. However, because they can be sharp and hard to digest, eating too many can cause you to become impacted. The sharp hulls can also puncture or attach to the linings of the esophagus or digestive tract if not chewed properly.

Therefore, it is probably best to refrain from ingesting the hulls.

Picking and Storing Sunflower Seeds

You can choose to purchase sunflower seeds with or without the shell. The main thing to consider when purchasing seeds is to choose those that are unsalted. Naturally, sunflower seeds contain no sodium, but if purchased roasted and salted the same serving is about 210mg of sodium. This isn't terribly high, but for those looking to monitor their 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. Therefore, 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 for those who have peanut allergies. 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, adding fiber, texture, and heart healthy fat. 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 or eat them on their own.

They can also be added to muffins, breads, pancake mix, and desserts or used in making homemade granola and trail mix.

Recipes With Sunflower Seeds 

Sources: 

Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrients for Health. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/sites/lpi.oregonstate.edu/files/pdf/mic/micronutrients_for_health.pdf

National Sunflower Assocation. Frequently asked questions. https://www.sunflowernsa.com/all-about/faq/#8

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