Certain seeds, like chia and flax, tend to hog the nutritional spotlight. But the less-trendy sunflower seed has plenty of qualities worth highlighting. Here are the health benefits of sunflowers seeds, according to dietitians.
Sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients. One serving of shelled sunflower seeds is usually an ounce, which is about 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons. They’re particularly high in healthy fat: A serving delivers 14 grams of fat, with a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The mono- and polyunsaturated fats in sunflower seeds show a clear health benefit, especially related to heart health and the risk of cardiovascular disease. A serving of the seeds also contains about 6 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fiber. Fat, fiber, and protein play an important role in satiety — the feeling of fullness.
The seeds are also loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E (which has strong anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the risk of heart disease), folate (important for DNA synthesis), phosphorus (key for bone health), selenium (an antioxidant that protects against cell damage), manganese (which helps with bone production), copper (which helps with heart health and immune function), B6 (good for cognitive development and function), and zinc (important for metabolism and immune function).
Sunflower seeds are notably rich in magnesium, a mineral involved in more than 300 different bodily functions, and magnesium can lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar control, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also a vital component of bone and helps to regulate nerve and muscle function and contraction.
Some seeds have an advantage over sunflower when it comes to certain nutrients. Chia seeds are packed with plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (with 5 grams for a one-ounce serving) and fiber (10 grams per serving). Hemp seeds and flax seeds are also higher in omega-3 fatty acids than sunflower seeds.
However, sunflower seeds are richer in vitamins and minerals, and generally provide a superior flavor profile to the neutral chia seed. Sunflower seeds also have some of the highest concentrations of phytosterols, which are plant molecules that are good for reducing cholesterol and promoting heart health.
In general, though, all seeds provide a good mix of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which is why it’s important to incorporate a variety of seeds into your diet.