Nourishing seeds to boost brain function & heart health
As sunflowers burst into full bloom, their vibrant yellow petals spread across gardens in the UK. But there’s more to sunflowers than their picturesque appearance.
Nestled within their radiant blooms are the edible kernels and tiny powerhouses known as sunflower seeds. These small seeds are native to North America and have been cultivated for centuries by various indigenous cultures for their nutritional value as they are packed with nutrients.
Sunflower seeds are widely enjoyed as a nutritious and versatile snack, boasting a mild, nutty flavour and a satisfying crunch. They make a delicious addition to dishes and are a great substitute for nuts in recipes.
Discover the myriad of health benefits that sunflower seeds offer, and ways to incorporate them into your diet.
Health benefits of sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, boasting a rich array of vitamins and minerals. They’re an excellent source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects cells from toxins and environmental damage. They are also loaded with B vitamins like thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and folate (B9), which contribute to energy metabolism and overall vitality. These seeds are a fantastic source of essential minerals such as copper, manganese, phosphorus and selenium. Copper assists in the formation of collagen, manganese supports bone health, and selenium acts as an antioxidant.
Packed with protein
Sunflower seeds are a plant-based source of protein, making them an excellent addition to vegetarian and vegan diets. A mere quarter-cup of sunflower seeds provides around 7 grams of protein, contributing to muscle health and repair.
Rich in magnesium
Magnesium, a mineral essential for various bodily functions, is abundant in sunflower seeds. Magnesium supports bone health, nerve function and helps regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Good for your heart
Sunflower seeds are a heart-healthy choice due to their high content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, particularly the omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid, which helps promote cardiovascular health, hormonal balance and brain health.
Ways to use sunflower seeds
A nutritious snack
Enjoy sunflower seeds as a satisfying and nutritious snack. Roasted or raw,
they provide a satisfying crunch while delivering a dose of energy and nutrients. Create your own trail mix by combining sunflower seeds with dried fruits and nuts – it’s a convenient and nutritious on-the-go snack.
Sprinkle sunflower seeds on your morning porridge, yoghurt or smoothie bowl. The nutty flavour and crunchy texture will add depth to your breakfast creations. Add a tablespoon of sunflower seeds to your morning smoothie for an extra dose of vitamins and healthy fats.
Add sunflower seeds to baked goods such as muffins, bread and granola bars. They add a delightful texture and protein boost.
Salad toppers or as a garnish
Enhance your salads and add a finishing touch to your soups and pasta dishes by tossing in a handful of sunflower seeds. They are visually appealing and provide a pleasant contrast to the fresh greens and vegetables, adding both flavour and nutrients.
Make your own sunflower seed butter by blending roasted sunflower seeds until creamy. It’s a great alternative to nut butters and can be spread on whole grain toast, used in smoothies, or as a dip with fruit or veggie slices.
Instead of pine nuts, blend sunflower seeds with fresh basil or dill, garlic, parmesan cheese (optional), extra virgin olive oil and a touch of lemon juice to make a flavoursome pesto. Use it as a pasta sauce, sandwich spread or dip.
Coat sliced vegetables like courgette, aubergine or sweet potatoes with a mixture of ground sunflower seeds, gluten-free rice breadcrumbs and your favourite spices. Roast or bake for a tasty side dish.
Sunflower seed recipe
Sunflower Seed Oat Bars
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup dried fruits (such as preservative-free cranberries or chopped apricots)
- 1/3 cup raw honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup nut or seed butter (such as tahini, almond or cashew butter)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt
Makes 12 bars
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides for easy removal.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, roasted sunflower seeds, and dried fruits. Mix them together until evenly distributed.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the honey or maple syrup and nut/seed butter until they become smooth and well combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt.
- Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture in the mixing bowl. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to thoroughly combine all the ingredients until the oats and seeds are evenly coated.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Use the back of a spatula or your hands to firmly press the mixture into an even layer, ensuring it’s compact.
- Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden and the bars are set.
- Once baked, remove the baking dish from the oven and let it cool completely in the dish. This will help the bars firm up. Once cooled, use the parchment paper overhang to lift the block of bars out of the dish. Place it on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut the block into 12 bars.
- Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, or in the refrigerator for longer shelf life.
Boost your nutrition with sunflower seeds
Sunflowers aren’t just beautiful blooms; they hold a nutritious powerhouse within – sunflower seeds. These small seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, making them a popular snack choice. Whether enjoyed on their own, sprinkled on breakfast, or added to recipes, sunflower seeds offer a delicious and healthy boost to your diet. So, as you bask in the sun’s warmth, consider adding the goodness of sunflower seeds to your meals and enjoy the benefits they bring.
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