The photo you see above is one of my favorite, sunflower seed-filled breakfasts. It tastes so delicious and even though it is filling, it leaves me feeling light and full of energy! The pink color is from the pitaya fruit I used. Pitaya is simply another name for dragon fruit!
Besides coming from the bright and boldly yellow sunflower, a reason to appreciate sunflower seeds on their own, sunflower seeds are worth appreciating because they are packed with a glorious amount of health-promoting nutrients. When I was a child of no more than 5 years old, I vividly remember munching on handfuls of raw sunflower seeds out of the palm of my tiny, growing hand. Sunflower seeds were tasty and cute in my eyes then, but now I can appreciate the thousands of chemicals housed within each teeny seed with the maturity of an adult who wants to remain healthy, vital and exuberant as she grows older. The infinitesimal cells that composed the body of the younger me were grateful for my seed preference even if I didn’t know it, and unbeknownst to the carefree me of five, I was protecting myself from later life cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. After reading the facts about sunflower seeds below, you may never look at sunflower seeds the same way again!
1) When you think sunflower seeds, think protein! Sunflower seeds contain a whopping 5 grams of protein per one ounce serving. Given that a 120-pound woman requires approximately 40 grams of protein per day (as written in Eat To Live by my pops, Joel Fuhrman M.D.), this is an impressive proportion of calories from protein. Sunflower seeds have the highest quantity of protein per calorie of all nuts and seeds and have just as much protein per calorie as a piece of steak or chicken breast. However, unlike steak or chicken, sunflower seeds are glowing rays that shine with phytochemical brightness. Thank goodness sunflower seeds can’t talk or think for themselves. If so, we’d be at risk of an inflated ego and cocky remarks such as, “Yo chicken, I’ve got more vitamin E per calorie than any other food and more disease fighting chemicals than you could ever dream of having, like phenolic acid, betaine and arginine. Beat that. Steak, besides being dead meat and smelling like the rotting flesh that you are, you can’t compete with my lignan, choline, selenium, magnesium, folate, copper and zinc content. I win, you lose, end of story.” Well, let’s just be thankful sunflower seeds don’t have brains capable of such insensitive comments, however warranted they may be. And I am getting ahead of myself on this phytochemical business!
2) Speaking of vitamin E, sunflower seeds contain more vitamin E per calorie than any other food. Sunflower seeds contain 40% of the daily value of vitamin E per serving, which is important to consider when one realizes that vitamin E is an antioxidant that fights oxidation damage and squelches free-radicals as its full time job.[i] Why is this fantastic?! Oxidative stress accelerates the aging process and weakens our cell membranes. Conversely, vitamin E strengthens our cell membranes and maintains their vitality. This is rad! Research indicates that improving the health of cell membranes fights common cancers, heart disease, dementia and its cousins Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.[ii][iii][iv] Remember that sunflower seeds would win the food with most vitamin E per serving aware if there was one and next time you go food shopping, you might want to think twice before passing them up in your grocery cart! Note: I have not been hired by the National Sunflower Association (yes, this organization does exist) even if I may be one of their biggest fans. NSA, I love you!
3) Got phytochemical? Sunflower seeds do! As mentioned above, sunflower seeds are a phytochemical gold mine. Betaine, phenolic acid, choline, arginine and lignans are only a few names of the disease-combating chemicals found in sunflower seeds.[v] These chemicals are anticarcinogens[vi], LDL (bad) cholesterol fighters, noble protectors of our hearts, preservers of memory and cognitive function, and they keep our arteries strong and flowing smoothly. Chicas (and any fellas reading this), these chemicals are, in a word, awesome. P.S. Phytochemicals are non-nutrient chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants that have protective or disease preventing properties. CLICK HERE to read more about phytochemicals.
I hope I have implanted new seeds of knowledge in your brain about that wonders of the not-to-be-underestimated, not-so-humble, sunflower seed. Well, at least I think sunflower seeds would be cocky if they had minds. But hey, that is my imagination for you. Regardless of my thoughts on the would-be personality of this particular food, the high nutrient quantity of these seeds is real. Have you eaten sunflower seeds today?!
For more information on the health benefits of sunflower seeds and the science behind what I have written here, check out The National Sunflower Association’s informative website by CLICKING HERE.
P.S. My computer crashed yesterday and my hard drive was destroyed in the process along with another version of this article, so this is actually my second time writing about the health benefits of sunflower seeds. I really know my sunflower seed facts now! The first version of this article had scientific references within the post, but back then I had Microsoft Word, which makes cutting and pasting references on this blog incredibly easy. Until my brand new Microsoft Word software is downloaded (which should be soon), the lovely references which support the sunflower seed 411 in this article will be delayed. Stay tuned for a bunch of scientific references to accompany this article next week!
[i]Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for vitamins C and E, selenium and carotenoids. http://www4.nationalacademies.org/IOM/iomhome.nsf/18ace18eb695f74c85256691007102f5/edccae87e479d741852568bd00 781695?OpenDocument
[ii]NIH Clinical Center: Facts About Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from web May 2002.http://ww.cc.nih.gov/ccc/ supplements/vite.html#rda
[iii]Emmert, DH and Kirchner, JT. The Role of Vitamin E in the Prevention of Heart Disease. Archives of Family Medicine. 1999;8(6):537-42.
[iv]Morris, MC et al. Dietary Intake of Antioxidants Nutrients and the Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease in a Biracial Community Study. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2002;287(24):3230-7.
[v]Guhr, G., Lachance, P.A. (1997). Role of phytochemicals in chronic disease prevention. Nutraceuticals: Designer Foods III. Garlic, Soy, and Licorice, Lachance, P.A. (Ed.), Trumbull, CT: Food & Nutrition Press, Inc., pp. 311-364.
[vi]Kasai, H., Fukada, S., Yamaizumi, Z., Sugie, S., Mori, H. (2000). Action of chlorogenic acid in vegetables and fruits as an inhibitor of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine formation in vitro and in a rat carcinogenesis model.FoodChem.Toxicol.,38:467-471.