Sunflower seeds: uses and nutritional benefits

Sunflower is an annual plant of the Asteraceae family. Very popular, it is cultivated for its seeds which are used in various industries: human food, animal feed, energy or plant chemistry. We consume sunflower seeds mainly in the form of vegetable oil. However, the unprocessed Sunflower seed is very appealing to our plates, especially if it is eaten raw. Sunflower seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, with a large majority of omega-6. Omega-6 is known to reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. From a micronutritional point of view, this small seed offers a wide range of vitamins, including vitamin E. The latter is the vitamin with the strongest antioxidant power. Its nutritional composition is more than interesting, since sunflower seeds are used in the fight against blood sugar disorders, muscle contraction, fertility, transit or skin disorders. Beyond its health virtues, Sunflower seeds can be consumed roasted to enhance their nutty flavor. Raw, they are more discreet, but let the body benefit from their innumerable nutrients. Latin name: Helianthus anuus L. Botanical family: Asteraceae. Part used: Seed.

Recommended consumption

Because of the energy density of Sunflower seeds and their high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, daily consumption recommendations are defined. In cure, a portion of Sunflower seeds, that is 15 g per day, the equivalent of three teaspoons.

In what form?

To make the most of their benefits, you can use them :

  • Whole
  • Roasted, toasted
At what time of day?

We advise you to use them during the following meal(s) to take full advantage of their benefits:

  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Dinner
What modes of use?

You can incorporate them into the following preparations to make them easier to take:

  • Salad
  • Soup
  • Yoghurt, dairy
  • Aperitif
  • Dish
  • Only
Precautions for use
  • Although allergies to sunflower seeds are extremely rare, a few cases have been reported.
  • In case of diverticulosis, sunflower seeds are not recommended.
  • Allergen: traces of gluten and soy.

Health Nutrition Benefits

15g of Sunflower seeds contain a significant portion of the Population Nutritional Reference (PNR) of the following nutrients: Fiber, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, Vitamin E, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, and Phosphorous. They also contain, to a lesser extent, Protein, Zinc and Iron..

As such, Sunflower seeds can supplement your healthy and varied diet.


The nutritional composition of sunflower seeds allows them to act on the main diseases of civilization: diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. Naturally rich in fiber, they reduce the absorption of carbohydrates and cholesterol. This effect supports the management of cholesterol and glycemia by the body.

Digestive system

Constipation is the consequence of an overly processed diet: with low fiber intake (see our guide constipation and diet). Sunflower seeds stimulate intestinal transit through their richness in fiber.

Cardiac system

Sunflower seeds are good for the heart. They are naturally low in sodium and a source of potassium. This ratio helps prevent a rise in blood pressure. In addition, these seeds are excellent sources of vitamin B1. A deficiency in vitamin B1 causes a condition called beri beri, which results in impaired heart function.

Immune system

Sunflower seeds stimulate the immune response by providing immunomodulating micronutrients: copper, iron, selenium, vitamin B9, zinc and vitamin B6. Thus, within a balanced diet, they will participate in the good functioning of immunity.

Body, face and hair care

Nutritional deficiencies affect the vitality of nails, hair and skin. Brittle hair or nails can be linked to zinc or selenium deficiencies. The skin also reacts to niacin (vitamin B3) and zinc supplementation. Especially for reactive, sensitive skin with a tendency to blemishes (see our guide acne and diet). Sunflower seeds contain zinc, niacin and selenium. In addition, the copper they have limits the appearance of white hair and provides better protection for the skin.

Nervous system, well-being

General exhaustion? Sunflower seeds are made for you. Vectors of energy and micronutrients participating in the energy metabolisms, they fight against the feeling of tiredness. Iron and zinc also contribute to cognitive functions. In addition, sunflower seeds are incredibly rich in vitamin B (B1, B6, B3 and B9) as well as magnesium. They contain all the micronutrients necessary for the production of neurotransmitters, which helps to rebalance the emotions. Without forgetting the nervous system, potassium, copper, magnesium and vitamins B1, B3 and B6 are officially recognized to contribute to the functioning of the nervous system.

Circulatory system

An unbalanced diet, with insufficient iron, vitamin B9 or vitamin B6 intake hinders red blood cell synthesis (see our guides: iron deficiency anemia and diet, macrocytic anemia and diet). In the long run, red blood cell synthesis becomes inefficient causing anemia. Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins B9, B6 and zinc. In addition, they are extremely rich in copper: copper contributes to the transport of iron. The body can therefore easily mobilize iron to synthesize red blood cells.

Bone system

A bone can be divided into two main components: minerals and proteins. Providing these two nutrients in an optimal way helps to promote bone (re)construction. Sunflower seeds are interesting because they are naturally rich in minerals (magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc) that help maintain the bone structure, and in vegetable proteins.

Pregnancy and postpartum

Vitamin B9 deficiency increases the risk of fetal malformation. It is advisable to ensure the daily needs by foods rich in vitamin B9, like sunflower seeds.

Muscles and joints

The muscle contraction mechanism requires an adequate supply of proteins and minerals. The food is thus a reflex to restore disorders of the contraction. Sunflower seeds are vectors of proteins and minerals (magnesium and potassium). They are anti-cramps par excellence (see our guide muscle cramps and diet). In addition, through copper and manganese, they contribute to the formation of connective tissue, which gives better resistance to joints, tendons and ligaments.

Hormonal system

Few nutrients directly influence hormone function. Officially, iodine, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, zinc and selenium are the only micronutrients that contribute to the metabolism of certain hormones. Except for iodine and vitamin B5, sunflower seeds provide all of these. Selenium and zinc influence thyroid hormone (see our hypothyroidism and diet) and testosterone metabolism, respectively, and vitamin B6 regulates hormone activity (especially sex hormones).

Oral system

Dental hypersensitivity is often caused by a decrease in the mineralization of dental tissue. Magnesium and phosphorus are two minerals that make up the mineral phase of teeth. Sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium and phosphorus, they contribute to the protection of teeth.

Nutritional properties

Main properties

  • Anti-oxidant (copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin E, zinc): through their micronutrients, Sunflower seeds participate in the antioxidant defense of the body. They are the richest seeds in vitamin E: 1 large handful of sunflower seeds meets the daily needs in vitamin E. Vitamin E is the most antioxidant vitamin there is. In addition, the Sunflower seeds stimulate the antioxidant enzymes by the contribution of the trace elements necessary to the functions of these enzymes: copper, manganese, selenium and zinc.
  • Anti-inflammatory (vitamin B6, vitamin B9, flavonoid): homocysteine is a pro-inflammatory amino acid. Vitamins B6 and B9 enter the cycle of degradation of homocysteine by forming new amino acids, respectively cysteine and methionine. Flavonoids, phytonutrients, also help reduce inflammation. Be careful with too many sunflower seeds. Indeed, the significant presence of linoleic acid (omega-6) can promote inflammation.
  • Contributing to energy metabolism (copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B9, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B3, lipid): this superfood is nutritionally dense. Its energy is mostly lipidic, the macronutrient with the highest energy density. In addition, we find a whole range of micronutrients that contribute to the energy metabolism: copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B9, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and vitamin B3.
  • Hypocholesterolemic (omega-6, fiber): the lipid profile of Sunflower seeds is partly dominated by omega-6. Associated with the presence of fiber, Sunflower seeds limit the absorption of cholesterol and lower plasma concentrations of LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol).
  • Glycemic control (fiber, fat, protein, low sugar): sunflower seeds are low in sugar, high in fat, protein and fiber: an ideal ratio to give them a low glycemic index. Added to meals, they fight against the strong variations of glycemia.
  • Appetite regulator (fiber, lipid, protein, low in sugar): sunflower seeds are real appetite suppressants. Having a low glycemic index, they prevent strong variations in blood sugar. These promote snacking.
  • Laxative (fiber): sunflower seeds stimulate digestive transit. They are rich in insoluble fiber. The latter are able to absorb large amounts of water, which increases the volume of stool.

Secondary properties

  • Skin Protector (copper): sunflower seeds promote skin protection. Copper stimulates the synthesis of melanin: a dark pigment that protects cell DNA from the deleterious effects of the sun's UV rays.
  • Participating in the development of the nervous system (fetus) (vitamin B9): vitamin B9 supports the formation of fetal tissues and newborn development.
  • Hair Strengthener (copper, selenium, zinc): sunflower seeds provide the micronutrients needed to maintain hair: selenium and zinc. They also fight against the appearance of white hair by stimulating the production of melanin. Melanin is the product of the activity of an enzyme called tyrosinase. This enzyme depends on the copper ion to function.
  • Cardiac regulator (potassium, vitamin B1): naturally rich in potassium and vitamin B1, Sunflower seeds influence heart muscle contraction. A fall of the kaliĆ©mie (concentration of potassium in blood) or a deficiency in vitamin B1 can of translate by disorders of the cardiac contraction. In addition, they are low in sodium, which in excess, promotes high blood pressure.
  • Participating in tissue growth (magnesium, iron, zinc): sunflower seeds play a role in the cell division process. They are carriers of magnesium, iron and zinc. These micronutrients participate in the duplication of cells, a process called mitosis. Mitosis allows tissues to regenerate and develop.
  • Remineralizing (magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc): sunflower seeds offer a wide range of minerals: magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc; all contribute to the mineralization of mineralized tissues (bones and teeth in particular).
  • Anti-fatigue (magnesium, iron, vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin B3): optimal intakes of magnesium, iron, vitamins B9, B3 and B6 help reduce feelings of fatigue. Sunflower seeds provide all these nutrients and in large quantities.
  • Hormone system regulator (vitamin B6): sunflower seeds are carriers of vitamin B6. The latter is known to regulate hormone activity.
  • Immunomodulating (copper, iron, selenium, vitamin B9, zinc, vitamin B6): sunflower seeds stimulate the immune system's response, as they carry several so-called immunomodulating micronutrients: copper, iron, selenium, vitamin B9, zinc and vitamin B6.
  • Participating in muscle function (protein, magnesium and potassium): sunflower seeds contribute to muscle function. They provide plant proteins, magnesium and potassium: they contribute to muscle contraction and action potential transmission.
  • Anti-Aging (copper, manganese): thanks to copper and manganese, Sunflower seeds restore density and firmness to the skin. Indeed, copper and manganese contribute to the maintenance of connective tissue. The connective tissue forms the dermis of the skin, with time, it loses in density, in elasticity and in flexibility.
  • Emotional balancer (magnesium, vitamin B9, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B3): sunflower seeds provide many vitamins from the B group. In this group, vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B9 participate in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Magnesium is widely represented in sunflower seeds. The latter is recognized for its contribution to the psychological functions.
  • Antianemic (copper, iron, vitamin B9, vitamin B6): sunflower seeds participate in the synthesis of red blood cells. A red blood cell has an estimated lifespan of 120 days: the body must therefore manufacture them continuously. This synthesis requires the presence of certain micronutrients, like iron, the vitamin B9 and the vitamin B6. Moreover, the Sunflower seeds are vectors of copper. Copper participates in the transport of iron, making it easily mobilized for the synthesis of red blood cells.

Nutritional values

*Recommended Daily Allowance

To know more about the plant : The Sunflower

The Sunflower is a member of the Asteraceae (or Compositae) family. It is an annual plant which can measure 4 m in height. The long stem ends in a pseudanthus which is called "Sunflower flower". The pseudanthe of the flowers of Sunflower is a floral receptacle, of about thirty centimeters, surrounded by multiple yellow ligulate flowers.

Sunflowers are native to America. It is estimated that they were domesticated around 1000 BC. In the 1500s, the seeds were exported to Europe. The Sunflower is an important crop for Man, it allows to obtain the Sunflower seeds particularly appreciated in oil. Sunflower oil is one of the main oil crops in the world, just behind soybeans.

Sowing takes place in early spring. In summer, it is the large flower heads that unfurl and face the sun. The Sunflower is so closely identified with the sun that its scientific name "Helianthus" means "sun" (Helios) and "flower" (Athos) in Greek.

Do sunflowers really like the sun?

When we observe a field of Sunflowers, we notice that all the floral receptacles of the Sunflowers are directed towards the sun. Charles Darwin called this phenomenon "phototropism": the plant follows the light. These movements are actually caused by a hormone called auxin. Auxin is a growth hormone that is found in the stem of Sunflowers. Too much light destroys auxin. Therefore, to ensure the growth of the plant, auxin is distributed unevenly along the stem of the Sunflower and varies according to the day. In short, it flees the sun. These migrations cause the rotation of the plant.

However, this phenomenon really only concerns the young plants, the adult Sunflowers do not need to grow any more, it stops turning which gradually destroys the auxin.

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