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Of America’s origin, this sun-like plant was brought to Europe in 16 century and since then it became very famous due to its nutritional value and health benefits of the sunflower seeds and sunflower oil.
Sunflower is also famous as a symbol of the green ideology, light and the Sun. Some countries use it as their national flower, as Ukraine, or as their state flower, as Kansas. In Japan, in Kitakuyushi, sunflowers are embraced as their city flowers.
Certain evidence was found in Mexico that proved that sunflower was domesticated in this area around 4000 B.C.
It is now known that many ingenious tribes in America used sunflower as the symbol of their deity; the civilizations such as Incas, Aztecs and Otomi.
Zuni people used fresh or dried sunflower root as a remedy against the snakebite. The medicine man chews it, sucks the snakebite and after that applies it on the wound as poultice.
Most importantly, it is proved that flowering sunflowers heads do not track the sun across the sky. Although immature flowers may follow the sun, mature flowering heads have fixed direction. The English botanist John Gerard disputed this misconception in 1597.
This annual plant, known as Helianthus annuus, belongs to Asteraceae family.
Its flower head actually consists of numerous small flowers; know as florets, they are always in spiral pattern. To grow fully they need sun, and fertile, and well-drained soil.
Sunflower seeds are popular snack food, for humans and birds.
Sunflower oil is used in cooking, and to produce mandarin and biodiesel. Sunflowers can extract toxic ingredients from the soil, such as arsenic, uranium and lead.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are smooth on the surface, approximately 6 – 10 mm in length, with conical shape. Each sunflower head may contain several hundred of edible seeds.
They seeds of high nutritional value, rich with minerals, vitamins and acids, and high in energy; 100 grams of seeds contain 584 calories.
Sunflower seeds are rich with fatty acids
More than 50 % of their fatty acids are comprise of linoleic acid. Another important compound is mono-unsaturated oleic acid that can help lower LDL cholesterol, and increase the “good cholesterol”.
Seeds also contain quinic acid, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. These poly-phenol compounds are natural antioxidants that help remove harmful molecules from the body.
100 grams of sunflower seeds contain 227 µg of folic acid. This acid is essential for DNA synthesis. According to one research, when taken during the peri-conception period, it may prevent neural defects in the baby.
Sunflower seeds are the richest in essential minerals
The concentration of calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, selenium, iron, and cooper is very high. These minerals have important role in human organism and metabolism. They are vital for red blood cell production, bone mineralization, hormone production, and regulation of cardiac and skeletal muscle activities, in a word, for overall health.
Being rich in magnesium, seed are necessary for strong bones. When one is lacking magnesium, migraine headaches, fatigue, soreness and muscle tension are common results. Cooper is vital for the functions of the enzymes that link collagen and elastin, providing strength in bones and joints.
Sunflower seeds also contain amino acids that produce serotonin that, on the other hand, relives the tension, and promotes relaxation.
The amount of vitamins present in sunflower seeds is very important
Being rich in vitamin E, seeds are powerful soluble antioxidant, that protect the skin from harmful free radicals, and that maintain the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes. Due to vitamin E, seed have anti-inflammatory properties.
By protecting cellular and molecular components, vitamin E reduces the symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
On the other hand, the amount of niacin helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. It also reduces neurosis and anxiety, because it enhances GABA activity in the brain. Other important compounds in seeds are thiamine pyridoxine, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.
Seeds are great source of proteins as well. 100 grams of seeds provide 21 gram of proteins.
Due to all these characteristics, sunflower seeds are very beneficial food.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Oils
We use three types of sunflower oil: linoleic oil, high oleic and NaSun oil. These oils have different levels of fatty acids, in particular, the different percentage of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. All of the oils are very healthy, because they are all low in saturated fats.
It does not matter which oil one prefers they are all natural energy.
Due to the rich minerals and vitamins, they lower the chance of heart attack and cardiovascular diseases.
Sunflower oils neutralize cancer causing free radicals.
Due to the vitamin E, the oils are natural antioxidants, thus they help skin maintain its elasticity. Because oils are natural moisturisers, they help retain water in cells.
These oils help prevent rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
Being rich in vitamin B, sunflower oils are great for nervous system. This vitamin is also important for good digestion.
Lecithin in sunflowers lowers the cholesterol.
Due to the folic acid, sunflower oils help the body produce new cells.
Selenium helps reduce the risk of lung and skin cancers, and reduces the chances of cardiac problems.
Due to all vitamins present in sunflower, its oils help with beautiful and healthy hair.
Zinc in sunflowers maintains a healthy immune system.
Side effects of Sunflower Oil
Due to the high content of omega-6- fatty acids, sunflower oil can cause serious side effects. These fatty acids can cause depression and inflammatory diseases, while the chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease.
Everyone should consult with a healthcare provider, before using sunflower as a remedy.
Allman-Farinelli M.A., Gomes K., Favaloro E.J., Petocz R., (2005). A Diet Rich in High-Oleic-Acid Sunflower Oil Favorably Alters Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol, Triglycerides, and Factor VII Coagulant Activity; Journal of the American Dietetic Association
Nadeem, M. (2010). Sunflowers seed. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing
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Last article update: 3/20/2019