Most commonly consumed roasted and salted in the shells, sunflower seeds are a favorite among those who enjoy outdoor activities. Baseball players chew on them rather than tobacco, and truck drivers use them to stay alert on long trips. If you're looking for a small snack, sunflower seeds are a fantastic choice with their lightly salted nutty flavor, although you may have some concerns and wonder if sunflower seeds are bad for you.
You may be concerned about the effects of eating the shells. The shells are mostly fiber, and the light coating of salt does make them tasty; however, eating the shells can cause damage to your intestines if they are not chewed up completely.
You can eat too much of any food, so moderation is the key. Sunflower seeds are high in calories, with 1 cup of seeds containing about 800 calories, which is almost half of the daily recommended calorie intake if you are following a 2,000 calorie per day diet. While sunflower seeds are packed with healthy fats and nutrients, there are essential nutrients they do not provide, such as vitamins C and K, and it would be difficult to consume the amount of those vitamins recommended in the 1,200 calories left to consume in a day. As with all foods, eating too many sunflower seeds can pose risks to your overall health, so keep the amounts moderate.
Although sunflower seeds are high in fat, it's the good kind of unsaturated fat that makes them heart healthy. Their reputation as a healthy snack is well deserved, as sunflower seeds contain many nutrients and vitamins essential for healthy eating. They are a healthy source of dietary fiber, vitamin E, B1 and folate. The seeds are also low in cholesterol, sodium and sugar.
Fiber is absolutely essential in maintaining a healthy body. Adding sunflower seeds to your daily meals will help you meet your daily requirement for fiber.
Sunflower seeds are one of the best whole food sources of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant needed in the prevention of heart disease. In fact, according to the USDA Nutrient Database, 1 oz. of sunflower seeds provides 74 percent of the daily recommendation.
Otherwise known as thiamin, vitamin B1 is essential for normal metabolism and nerve function as well as energy production. Folate helps maintain good brain function, is necessary for emotional health and maintaining healthy skin, and is especially important to the development of an unborn baby.
You may be concerned with whether or not it's alright to eat sunflower seeds if you are allergic to nuts. Sunflower seeds are not considered a tree nut and are used in the place of peanuts or other tree nuts in recipes. It is rare to be allergic to sunflower seeds; however, make sure to look at the labels to ensure they were packed in a factory that is nut free.
To avoid biting into a bad-tasting seed, store the sunflower seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Due to their high fat content, they tend to go rancid easily.
Whether you enjoy cracking those shells one at a time or popping a whole handful in your mouth, any way you like them sunflower seeds are an easy and healthy choice for a small snack.