4 Amazing Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds may conjure up memories of baseball games growing up—and for good reason. These little seeds are a nutritional home run. Adding sunflower seeds to your diet could do wonders for your skin, heart, immunity and overall health. Read below to find out four good reasons to start adding them to your favorite snacks for a serious health boost.
Related: Health Benefits of Nuts
Sunflower Seeds Nutrition
It's hard to believe so much nutrition could be packed into one tiny seed. Here's the nutritional information for a one-ounce serving of dry roasted sunflower seeds, without salt, per the USDA:
- Calories: 165
- Total Fat: 14 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 3 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 9 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 1 mg
- Carbs: 7 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Sugars: 0 g
- Protein: 5.5 g
- Vitamin A: 2.5 IU
- Vitamin C: 0.5 mg
- Calcium: 20 mg (2% DV)
- Iron: 1 mg (6% DV)
While sunflower seeds are fairly high in fat for a one-ounce serving, they are made mostly of beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats. According to the American Heart Association, these types of fats are anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy sources of fats our bodies need. Additionally, sunflower seeds are a good source of fiber and protein, adding a nice nutritional boost to your favorite granola bars, salads and other recipes.
Sunflower seeds are also almost negligent in sodium on their own, but many packaged sunflower seed products are loaded with salt—one popular brand packs 70% of your daily sodium limit per serving! It's important to be mindful of the nutrition label whenever you're stocking up on sunflower seeds to use for snacking or in a recipe.
Sunflower Seeds Boast Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Trendy seeds—like chia and hemp—aren't the only ones who get to claim they offer anti-inflammatory benefits. While inflammation is a normal—and necessary—reaction to injury in our bodies, chronic systemic inflammation is behind many diseases, according to a 2019 review published in Nature Medicine. These diseases include cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension. Eating foods that have anti-inflammatory properties may help combat systemic inflammation, and research, like the 2017 review published in Chemistry Central Journal, suggests that sunflower seeds may be one of these anti-inflammatory foods.
Related: Top Vegetarian Protein Sources
Sunflower Seeds Boost Your Heart Health
Moderate consumption of unsaturated fat has been shown to improve one's heart health. Sunflower seeds, for example, may lower LDL and total cholesterol, per a 2022 review published in Advances in Nutrition. Making the effort to consume more heart-healthy fats, like the mono- and polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower seeds can make a positive impact on your heart health.
Sunflower Seeds Help Prevent and Fight Sickness
Sunflower seeds are a good or excellent source of nearly a dozen essential vitamins and minerals, two of them being zinc and selenium. A 2017 review published in the journal Nutrients refers to zinc as "the gatekeeper of immune function" because it helps to develop and maintain the proper function of immune cells. Zinc also functions as an antioxidant to fight off free radicals.
Selenium also plays a role in fighting inflammation and infection, along with boosting immunity, to ensure our bodies are producing a proper response to any intruders in the body, according to a 2019 review in Critical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This mineral has also been shown to be an important part of achieving mental health and improving depression, per a 2018 review in Nutrients. And according to a 2021 review in Frontiers in Neuroscience, selenium shows promise in preventing neurodegenerative disorders—like Alzheimer's—as well.
Sunflower Seeds Are a Great Food for Expecting Mothers
Whether you're hoping to have a baby, are pregnant or are just trying to follow a well-balanced diet, sunflower seeds have a lot to offer. These seeds are a good source of zinc and folate, while being an excellent source of vitamin E. According to the American Pregnancy Association, vitamin E is essential for prenatal health, as it helps the fetus develop and use red blood cells and muscles. Folate supports the placenta and helps prevent spina bifida, while zinc helps produce insulin and enzymes.
Vitamin E is also a key nutrient for achieving that "pregnancy glow." You've likely purchased a skin care product that touts having vitamin E in it. Research, including a 2021 study in Scientific Reports, suggests that vitamin E fights against UV damage and nourishes your largest organ—your skin. Sunflower seeds pack more than one-third of your daily needs of vitamin E.
The Bottom Line
While no one food is a cure-all, including seeds, like sunflower seeds, in your diet will add lots of health benefits. They're easy to add to your favorite recipes, too. We like tossing them into Broccoli Salad with Bacon or making them one of the stars in our Homemade Multi-Seed Crackers. Or simply eat them as is.