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The Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

Posted by Andrea Lewis on

Blog post by holistic writer Andrea Lewis

Sunflower seeds are one of my all-time favorite edible seed. Mostly because they taste great, but also because they are very nutritious. The nutrients in sunflower seeds, like all foods, are what make it beneficial for good health. And even a very small amount, one ounce for example, is enough to get you a quarter of the way towards your recommended daily allowance of many key nutrients. Below, I've listed some of sunflower seeds most prominent nutrients and their recommended daily allowance (RDA).


Sunflower Seeds Nutrients

(Measurements are per 1 ounce/ 28 grams, serving)
  • Protein – 5.8 grams – 12% RDA (recommended daily allowance)
  • Fat – 14.4 grams – 22% RDA
  • Saturated fat – 1.2 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat 5.2 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat – 6.5 grams
  • Total Omega-3 fatty acids 20.7mg
  • Total Omega-6 fatty acids 6454mg
  • Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) – 9.3mg – 47% RDA
  • Copper – 0.5mg – 25% RDA
  • Manganese – 0.5mg – 27% RDA
  • Selenium – 14.8mcg – 21% RDA
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – 0.4mg – 28% RDA
  • Phosphorus – 185mg – 18% RDA
  • Magnesium – 91.0mg 23% RDA
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) – 2.3mg – 12% RDA
  • Iron – 1.5mg – 8% RDA

As I mentioned in 'Whole Foods for Cold & Flu Prevention', vitamin E
“stimulates the production of natural killer cells.... which are immune cells
that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria.”1 The mineral selenium is essential to immune system functioning, and its lack has been shown to make one more susceptible to illness. “[Selenium] stimulates the production of white blood cells – also known as leukocytes – and improves natural killer cells' ability to respond to viral and bacterial invasion.”1

The mineral manganese is vital to biological processes throughout the body and only required in small quantities, yet, 37% of Americans do not get enough. “[According] to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Manganese is needed to form connective tissue, blood clotting factors and sex hormones, as well as healing wounds and allowing normal skeletal development.”2 And copper is another vital mineral that approximately 20% of Americans aren't getting enough of. This is a serious issue, as copper is needed for connective tissue formation. “In fact, copper strengthens arteries and helps prevents injuries and aneurysms. It strengthens collagen and the other materials that make up bone, protecting those as well. Dry, brittle hair and premature graying, as well as varicose veins, growth plate arthritis, low blood sugar and liver cirrhosis have all been associated with a copper deficiency.”2 If you want to learn more about copper's many health benefits, you can read my January article, 'Why Potatoes Should Be A Staple of Every Diet'.

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is one of the eight B vitamins that play a key role in helping the body convert food into fuel, which is then turned into energy for our bodies. Like vitamin B1, the mineral phosphorus is also involved in energy production. In addition, it's an essential structural component of cell membranes and nucleic acids, and indispensable to several biological processes. Phosphorus is needed for bone mineralization, cell signaling, regulation of acid-base homeostasis, as well as the aforementioned energy production. And, of course, without the mineral magnesium (and vitamin D) our body could not utilize calcium properly to build and maintain strong healthy bones. Magnesium is also an essential cofactor for hundreds of enzymes. Like vitamin B1 and phosphorus, magnesium plays a vital role in energy production. It's also necessary for nucleic acid and protein synthesis, ion transport and cell signaling. “Magnesium deficiency has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and metabolic disorders, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Preliminary studies have shown that magnesium improved insulin sensitivity in individuals at risk for diabetes. Randomized controlled trials have also investigated the role of magnesium supplementation in the prevention of complications following stroke or heart surgery.”3

Vitamin B3, more commonly known as niacin, is probably most famous for the unpleasant flushing sensation one may experience after taking the supplement and eating niacin-containing foods. However, studies suggest that niacin can raise HDL “good” cholesterol and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. And as far back as the 1940s, scientists knew that niacin was an effective pain reliever. “[A] couple of doctors reported that niacin worked wonders in relieving the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Unfortunately, their research was never well publicized, since that was around the time that drug companies were promoting their own miracle 'cure' for arthritis—cortisone.... Since niacin isn’t something that drug companies can patent, it’s of little interest to them.”4

I'm sure you already understand the benefits of the mineral iron. Without it, our bodies would not be able to grow and develop properly or manufacture hemoglobin and red blood cells. Hemoglobin is the substance that makes red blood cells red, it also transports oxygen from the lungs throughout the rest of the body. Without iron, we could not utilize the oxygen from the air we inhale, we would suffocate.

Then there are the fats contained in sunflower seeds. 

Yes, plant foods do contain saturated fat!

I actually got into an argument with two different people, both unwilling to actually research a topic, regarding this issue, on YouTube (of course). Even the venerable American Heart Association seems to be under the impression that saturated fats are only found in animal products – meat and dairy. No mention of the plant foods that contain the substance on their website. Or, perhaps, they don't want to dissuade visitors from eating plant sources of saturated fats.

For the longest time it was believed that saturated fats were responsible for heart disease and heart attacks, because they're usually somewhat solid at room temperature. However, it has been scientifically proven that our bodies actually need saturated fat for good health. Here's what the experts are saying: “Saturated fat plays a key role in cardiovascular health. The addition of saturated fat to the diet reduces the levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a) that correlates strongly with risk for heart disease. Research has shown that when women diet, those eating the greatest percentage of the total fat in their diets as saturated fat, lose the most weight. … Saturated fat is required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone. According to one of the foremost research experts in dietary fats and human health, Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D., there’s a case to be made for having as much as 50 percent of the fats in your diet as saturated fats for this reason.”5

Saturated fat has even been shown to protect the liver from alcohol and pain medications, like acetaminophen. Even our lungs, brain, nervous and immune systems depend on saturated fat. And there's no better, cleaner source of saturated fat than plant foods like sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds contain other “good” fats as well, but their health benefits are already well known.

I am well aware that fat is bone of contention for many people and sunflower seeds are fat-rich, but fats are a necessity of life and good health. Sunflower seeds, like all seeds and nuts, are also relatively high in calories – 164 calories per ounce, another reason one may wish to avoid them. However, sunflower seeds provide more than enough nutrients in that one ounce serving to justify the calorie expenditure. So, eat these delicious seeds in moderation and enjoy the health benefits.


1 Lewis, Andrea. “Whole Foods for Cold & Flu Prevention”. Daily Juice Cafe, January 8, 2016. Web

2 Lewis, Andrea. “Why Potatoes Should Be A Staple of Every Diet”. Daily Juice Cafe, January 27, 2016. Web

3 Higdon, Jane, PhD. “Magnesium”. Linus Pauling Institute / Oregon State University, 2001. Web. February 16, 2016

4 Williams, David, MD. “The Many Benefits of Niacin”. Dr. David Williams, June 29, 2015. Web. February 16, 2016

5 Mercola, Joseph, MD. “7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat”., September 22, 2009. Web. February 17, 2016

“Sunflower seeds”. The World's Healthiest Foods, n.d. Web. February 15, 2016

“Seeds, sunflower seeds kernels, dried”. SELF Nutrition Data, 2014. Web. February 15, 2016

“Saturated Fats”. American Heart Association, n.d. Web. February 15, 2016

Klaus, Krista. “Thiamine Benefits: How Vitamin B1 Helps Your Health”. News Max, October 20, 2014. Web. February 16, 2016

Higdon, Jane, PhD. “Phosphorus”. Linus Pauling Institute / Oregon State University, 2001. Web. February 16, 2016

“Top Five Health Benefits of Iron”. NewsMax, September 21, 2010. Web. February 17, 2016

“Saturated Fats”. American Heart Association, n.d. <> Web. February 17, 2016

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