Sunflower seeds, like many seeds and nuts, can be eaten raw and do not have to be refrigerated. Refrigerating them will extend their shelf life, but doing so is not imperative. While many people crack open their sunflower seed shells, remove the seeds and toast them, it is perfectly healthy to eat seeds untoasted.
Raw sunflower seeds are sold unrefrigerated, and do not need to be kept in the refrigerator even after their package is opened. Like all seeds and nuts, however, they have a shelf life. Packaged sunflower seeds have a "best before" date, but the shelf life of seeds varies depending on the heat and humidity in your house. Over time, the oils in the seeds can turn rancid, giving them a spoiled taste. Seeds that are kept in their shells should last longer than seeds that are shell-less. When you taste a sunflower seed that tastes spoiled, spit it out and discard the entire package. Rancid oils, caused when oil mixes with the air and oxidizes, can lead to a host of problems, including irritation to the stomach and gall bladder and liver issues. Refrigeration, of course, will keep the sunflower seeds fresher for longer, so there's no problem with keeping your seeds in the fridge.
Because of their protein, B vitamins and essential fatty acids (healthy fats), sunflower seeds are a healthy snack. A 36-gram serving of sunflower seeds yields 8 grams of protein and roughly 200 calories. They're also high in fiber, healthy minerals such as magnesium, and the seeds work to lower your body's cholesterol levels.
Eating them Raw
Raw sunflower seeds are healthy to eat, and can be enjoyed in a number of ways. Raw sunflower seeds are often sold in bags and can be found at grocery stores and convenience stores. Common flavors include "Seasoned," "Pizza," "Barbecue" and "Spicy." To eat these seeds, you must crack the shell open. Unflavored, raw sunflower seeds can be added to salads for a source of protein or sprinkled on to of soup as a garnish.
While they do not need to be kept refrigerated, storing your sunflower seeds (especially if they've been shelled) in the fridge will help preserve their life. If they're shelled, store them in glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic ones. When oils are stored in plastic containers, they can absorb chemicals released by the plastic and be harmful to eat. If you do not wish to store sunflower seeds in your refrigerator, keep them in a glass container in a dark cupboard.