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Sunflower seeds nutrition facts

Sweet, delicious and nutty sunflower seeds are loved as delicious snacks by humans and birds alike. The seeds are mainly employed in the extraction of edible oil all over the world. They, however, are also used as food and are rich source of essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins.

Sunflower plant is a tall, erect, herbaceous annual plant belonging to the family of Asteraceae of the genus Helianthus. Its botanical name is Helianthus annuus. It is native to Middle American region from where it spread as an important commercial crop all over the world by the European explorers. At present Russian Union, China, The USA, and Argentina are the leading producers of sunflower crop.

Sunflower flourishes well in well-drained moist limey soil. The plant prefers good sunlight. Domesticated varieties bear single large flower head at the top. Unlike its domestic cultivar type, wild sunflower exhibits several branches with each branch ending with their own individual flower head. The flower head in sunflower plant consists of two types of flowers. While its perimeter consists of sterile yellow color large petals (ray flowers), the central disk is made of numerous small fertile flowers arranged in concentric whorls, which subsequently convert to achenes (seeds).

Sunflower seeds are about 6 mm to 10 mm in length and feature conical shape with smooth surface. Their outer coat (hull) is black in color with gray-white edible kernel inside. Each sunflower head may cantain several hundreds of edible oil seeds.

Health benefits of sunflower seeds

  • Delicious, nutty, and crunchy sunflower seeds are widely considered healthful foods. They are high in energy, 100 g seeds consists of 584 calories. Nonetheless, they are incredible sources of many health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.

  • Much of their calories come from fatty acids. The seeds are especially rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acid linooleic acid, which comprise more 50% fatty acids in them. They are also good in mono-unsaturated oleic acid that helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increase HDL or "good cholesterol" in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet which is rich in mono-unsaturated fats help to prevent coronary artery disease and stroke by favoring healthy lipid profile.

  • Like other nuts, they are also very good source of proteins with fine quality amino acids such as tryptophan that are essential for growth, especially in children. Just 100 g of seeds provide about 21 g of protein (37% of daily-recommended values).

  • In addition, the sunflower seeds contain many health benefiting poly-phenol compounds such as chlorgenic acid, quinic acid, and caffeic acids. These are natural anti-oxidants which help remove harmful oxidant molecules from the body. Further, chlorgenic acid help reduce blood sugar levels by reducing breakdown of glycogen in the liver.

  • They are indeed very rich source of vitamin E; contain about 35.17 g per100 g (about 234% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals.

  • Sunflower kernels amongst are one of the finest sources of B-complex group of vitamins. They are very good sources of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.

  • Sunflowers are incredible sources of folic acid. 100 g of kernels contains 227 mcg of folic acid, which is about 37% of recommended daily intake. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis. When given in expectant mothers during peri-conception period, it may prevent neural tube defects in the baby.

  • Niacin and pyridoxine are other B-complex vitamins found abundantly in sunflower seeds. About 8.35 mg or 52% of daily-required levels of niacin is provided by just 100 g of seeds. Niacin help reduce LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood. In addition, it enhances GABA activity inside the brain, which in turn helps reduce anxiety and neurosis.

  • The seeds are incredibly rich sources of many essential minerals. Calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper are especially concentrated in sunflower. Many of these minerals have vital role in bone mineralization, red blood cell production, enzyme synthesis, hormone production, as well as regulation of cardiac and skeletal muscle activities.

Just a hand full of sunflower kernels a day provides much of the recommended levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, and protein.


See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Sunflower seeds (Helianthus annuus), kernels, dried,
Nutritional value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 584 Kcal 29%
Carbohydrates 20 g 15%
Protein 20.78 g 37%
Total Fat 51.46 g 172%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 8.6 g 23%

Folates 227 mcg 57%
Niacin 8.335 mg 52%
Pantothenic acid 1.130 mg 22%
Pyridoxine 1.345 mg 103%
Riboflavin 0.355 mg 27%
Thiamin 1.480 mg 123%
Vitamin A 50 IU 1.6%
Vitamin C 1.4 2%
Vitamin E 35.17 mg 234%

Sodium 9 mg 1%
Potassium 645 mg 14%

Calcium 78 mg 8%
Copper 1.800 mg 200%
Iron 5.25 mg 63%
Magnesium 325 mg 81%
Manganese 1.950 mg 85%
Phosphorus 660 mg 94%
Selenium 53 mcg 96%
Zinc 5.00 mg 45%

Carotene-ß 30 mcg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 mcg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 mcg --

Selection and storage

In the farm fields, sunflower heads are ready to harvest when they turn brown and dried. In general, the seeds intended to use in confectionery are somewhat larger, sweet, and have striped hulls. Oil-type sunflower seeds are characterized by small size, have more oil content, and feature black hulls. However, both types of seeds can be used for either purpose.

In the stores, one may choose whole-seeds, de-hulled, roasted, salted etc for use. Avoid thin, shriveled seeds or old stocks, as they tend to be out of flavor.

At home, store whole seeds at room temperature in a bin or jar. However, sunflower kernels should be placed in an airtight container and stored inside the refrigerator.

Culinary uses

At present, sunflower seeds are used mainly to press cooking oil. They are still favored in the confectionery, and as bird feed. As in pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds too are popular as tasty, low-fat snack.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Roasted and salted sunflower seeds are enjoyed as healthy snack.

  • They add crunchiness to salads; can be sprinkled over fried-rice dishes or sautéed vegetables.

  • The seeds can be coated with chocolate, candied, or added in cakes, and muffins.

  • The seeds can be added to salad dressings, casseroles or baked goods.

  • In Germany and other Central European region, the flour made from the seeds used in making dark bread, sonnenblumenbrot (sunflower bread).

  • Sunflower seeds butter sold as SunButter is a suitable alternative in peanut allergic.

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