Sunflower Seeds Benefits
Native to North America and growing up to a dauting 12 feet, the wild Sunflower was first domesticated by the Native Americans who are responsible for its appearance as a single headed flower. Archaeologists suggest that the sunflower may have been cultivated before corn, with evidence of its use in present-day Arizona and New Mexico stretching way back to 3,000 BCE.
The Sunflower was used in many ways by the various American tribes. The seed was ground into flour to make cakes and bread as well as being eaten as a snack. The oil was also used in bread making and it was seen as a high quality source of fat.
The Native Americans used all parts of the Sunflower for its healing properties. The seeds were used as a diuretic, as relief for constipation, chest pain, ulcers, to rid the body of worms and to cure warts.
Sunflower Seed Benefits
Sunflower Seeds contain over 60% of the RDA for vitamin E per recommended portion of 30 grams. This powerfully antioxidant vitamin protects the body from free radical damage and has been linked to a lower overall reduced risk of early death from cardiovascular disease. Research shows that balanced levels of vitamin E also improves vascular endothelial function, reduces C-Reactive Protein, a blood protein linked to heart disease, and may prevent atrial fibrillation (a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate).
These small but mighty seeds are also high in magnesium – a mineral that is so crucial to the heart that without it your heart cannot function properly. Adequate levels of magnesium are required to maintain a steady heartbeat. Magnesium is central to a healthy heart rhythm because it's involved in transporting other electrolytes, such as calcium and potassium, into cells. Electrolytes are important for nerve signals and the muscle contractions of a normal heartbeat. Magnesium is also required for normal blood pressure - a report published in the “Journal of Clinical Hypertension” in 2014 showed that low levels of magnesium were associated with hypertension. Again, just one portion of Sunflower Seeds will provide over 25% of the RDA of this important mineral.
Finally, Sunflower Seeds are high in phytosterols which block the absorption of cholesterol in the body. Many studies have found that this supports healthy cholesterol levels.
A healthy thyroid requires certain nutrients for it to function properly, one of which is selenium. Sunflower Seeds again provide around 25% of this important nutrient per daily portion. Research has shown that selenium is an essential component of the thyroid glands functions, helping to regulate the amount of the thyroid hormone T3 that is produced within the body. Without selenium the T3 hormone cannot be produced, which can be catastrophic to a wide variety of bodily systems.
The high levels of magnesium in Sunflower Seeds will ultimately support strong and healthy bones. Magnesium is vital to bone health, with adequate magnesium being essential for the absorption and metabolism of calcium. Magnesium, together with the thyroid and parathyroid glands, supports bone health by stimulating the thyroid’s production of calcitonin. Calcitonin is a hormone that inhibits the activity of osteoclasts, which are the cells responsible for breaking down bone.
The majority of the body’s reserves of magnesium are held in the bones (around 60%), which act as a storage reservoir, transferring magnesium into the blood stream in times of need. Adequate daily intake of magnesium is important to keep the magnesium that is stored in the bones from being lost. Low magnesium intake, as well as low blood and bone magnesium levels, has been widely associated with osteoporosis in women.
Sunflower Seeds are not only rich in mood boosting vitamins and minerals; they are high in the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin in the body, a brain biochemical that promotes restful sleep and wellbeing. When serotonin levels are low, people often experience depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Sunflower Seeds can be eaten liberally and included in salads, cakes, muesli and trail mixes.
Sunflower Seeds can also be enjoyed as a delicious raw butter.
The Sunflower's worldwide fame only began in the 1700's when Russia's Peter the Great was so charmed by their sunny disposition that he took some seeds back to Russia where cultivation was revived in earnest. The seeds were eagerly accepted by the people there, where they were eaten as a snack and pressed for oil. The Russians and Eastern Europeans discovered that one of the many merits of cooking with Sunflower oil is that the oil remains liquid at lower temperatures as opposed to fats from animal sources. Sunflower oil was perfectly suited to the colder climates of the northern regions of Russia and Europe because it could pour easily in cold weather.
It was only as recently as 1966 that the Sunflower made its return journey to America after being largely ignored for centuries. An oil producing Russian cultivar was brought the the US and the Sunflower became a major crop in the 1970's.
Considered the most cheerful flower in the world, the Sunflower is a symbol of light, hope, and innocence. While the US State of Kansas adopted the Sunflower as its state flower, Russia considers the Sunflower its national flower.
Sunflower Seeds contain; Vitamins E, B1, B2, B3, B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium and are High in Fibre and Healthy Fats including Linolenic Acid.
Phytochemicals include; betaine, phenolic acid, choline, arginine and lignans