CHENNAI: A staple introduced to the world by North Americans in 3000 BC, sunflower seeds have since then revealed to be a rich source of protein. Packed with micronutrients like zinc, selenium magnesium, copper, potassium, folate, choline, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and omega-3 fatty acids, these seeds are also a crunchy source of dietary fibre. Meenakshi Bajaj, dietician at the Tamil Nadu Government Multispeciality Hospital, explains the nutritive benefits of sunflower seeds.
The vitamin E in these seeds neutralises harmful chemicals (free radicals) in the body that can damage normal healthy cells. It works in synergy with the selenium to repair damaged cells. It also plays a vital
role as a component of antioxidant enzymes that can help prevent cancer cells from dividing rapidly.
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of fibre, folate and healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that improve heart health. It reduces the risk of hardening of the arteries and in turn cardiovascular diseases. These seeds contain phytosterols which is known to lower cholesterol levels in the body by acting as its substitute.
Unsalted seeds are a rich source of potassium, which when consumed regularly improves hypertension.
A vegan source of protein, along with the magnesium and fibre, these seeds improve blood glucose control. They have a low glycemic index and load due to a poor source of carbohydrate (6.85g/100g). It is a rich source of fat and fibre. These seeds when consumed 10-15 minutes prior to a large meal will improve satiety and reduce the post-prandial blood glucose response.
The presence of fibre and omega- 3 fatty acids promote gut health, thereby reducing the risk of a leaky gut and associated infections like pneumonia.
Sunflower seeds contain the essential nutrient, choline, which is important for a healthy cell structure, synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and is a valuable neuro nutrient. A 100-gram serving of sunflower kernels contains 55 mg of choline. The daily adequate intake for choline is 550 mg for men and 425 mg for women.
Best ways to consume
A healthy add-on to a trail of mixed nuts and edible seeds. Sunflower seeds are available in several forms: in-shell, hulled or sprouted kernels; raw, dry-roasted or oil-roasted; plain, salted or flavoured. Consume the deshelled seeds to gain maximum benefits. It could be added to fruit salads, yoghurts, smoothies, gravies, nutrition bars, and multi- purpose baking flours in ground and pounded form. However, using sunflower seeds in combination with baking sodagives baked goods an unappealing blue or green tint. Sprouted sunflower seeds may be tried in salads and sandwiches.
Persons with latex allergy should be cautious when consuming sunflower seeds, since they may have an increased risk for an Immunoglobulin Emediated food-induced allergic reactions. Those with increased serum potassium levels or on potassium sparing diuretics, intestinal obstructive, malabsorptive or chronic gastrointestinal disorders should avoid consumption of sunflower seeds. The seeds will only make you gain weight if you don’t watch your intake. Limit portion size. One 24-gram serving of toasted sunflower seed kernels provides 175 calories, which is almost 10 percent of a typical daily intake of 2,000 calories. So, replace two idlis or two chapathis or one cup of cooked rice with one serving of sunflower seeds.
It’s important to note that since these seeds are source of fat, store the whole raw kernels in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to three months. In-shell seeds can be stored for up to a year. To improve the shelf life, wrap and freeze sunflower seeds for up to two years. Store roasted seeds at room temperature or refrigerate them for 14 days. Prior to purchase ensure they are free from the rancid off
Nutritional Composition /100 grams
Energy: 586 kcals
Carbohydrates: 7 grams
Protein: 24 grams
Fat: 52 grams Fibre: 11 grams
For the pandemic
The zinc content in sunflower seeds helps the immune system work properly and helps heal wounds. It is advisable to add it to one’s daily diet for better immunity during COVID-19 pandemic .