Sunflower Seeds Lower Cholesterol and Promote Cardiovascular Health
The kernel of the sunflower seed is one of the richest and most popular “functional foods”, one that has very high nutritional value and can provide our body with a great variety of useful elements.
For centuries, sunflower seeds have been a favorite snack and an addition to a healthy nutrition plan of people in many countries of the world, from China to Argentina. In the US, sunflowers are produced almost everywhere, from Minnesota to Texas.
In folk medicine, sunflower seeds are used as an herbal remedy for various liver disorders and peptic ulcers, as well as prevention of health problems such as arthritis, arthrosclerosis, cardiac infraction and other diseases.
Many people who are aware of the dangers connected with consuming too much of sunflower oil tend to believe that eating sunflower seeds can have the same negative consequences. However, this idea is not actually correct, as sunflower kernel does not contain harmful amounts of Omega-6 and the fats which increase risks of heart disease and rise cholesterol.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Nutrients in Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds are a great natural source of potassium and phosphorus, as well as proteins, iron and magnesium. A half cup of the seeds can provide us with 7 g of dietary fiber, 15 g of proteins and a good amount of vegetable fat, in addition to 35 mg of Vitamin E and 5 mg of Vitamin B5, 500 mg of potassium, 520 mg of phosphorus, 250 mg of magnesium, 160 mg of folate, 42 mg of selenium, 5 mg of iron, to mention a few. Sunflower kennel contains more proteins than meat and eggs, more Vitamin D than fish fat and 6 times more magnesium (which is essential for normal function of our cardio-vascular and nervous systems) than dark bread. Also, regular consumption of sunflower seeds can provide our body with the amount of zinc necessary for normal function of the thymus. Sunflower seed kernel is also an excellent source of potent antioxidants which, together with selenium and Vitamin E, can potentially fight and prevent cancer.A comprehensive breakdown of nutrients in sunflower seeds, presented in an easy to read pie chart, can be found in our Nutrition Database.
Lower CholesterolNot too long ago, American scientists found out that sunflower seeds have very high phytosterol content (about 270-290 mg in 100 g). Phytosterols are chemical compounds of natural origin, which have unique properties to control the levels of cholesterol. Phytosterols are plant components that have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol except for the addition of an extra methyl or ethyl group. Phytosterols reduce cholesterol absorption, although the exact mechanism is not known, and thus reduce circulating levels of cholesterol.
Cardiovascular HealthEating sunflower seeds is most beneficial for normal function of our cardio-vascular system. Beatine, or TMG, containing in sunflower kernel, has a property to inhibit the production of homocysteine, a sulfuric amino acid, responsible for developing such problems as venous or arterial thrombosis, coronary disease, etc. Another amino acid, arginine, plays an important role in strengthening our blood vessels and arteries.
1. Bowden, Johnny. Ph D, C N S. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Fair Winds Press, 2007.
2. Fortin, Francois. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York 1996.
3. Katherine M. Phillips, David M. Ruggio, and Mehdi Ashraf-Khorassani. Phytosterol composition of nuts and seeds commonly consumed in the United States. Agricultural And Food Chemistry. 2005 Nov 8, 53(24): 9436-45.
4. Jones PJ, AbuMweis SS. Phytosterols as functional food ingredients: linkages to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009 Mar;12(2):147-51. PMID: 19209468.
5. Carla Fiscina, contributing author for Elements4Health. Carla is a medical postgraduate student at HYMS, a specialist in alternative and herbal medicine and also writes for A Guide To Herbal Remedies.