Sunflower seeds make a very healthy snack because they taste great and are packed with protein, monounsaturated fats, and all sorts of vitamins and minerals, including zinc. Those who need more of this important mineral can easily add sunflower seeds to salads and main dishes, or eat them as a snack.
Zinc is involved in everything from the sense of smell to immune function. Zinc strengthens your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells and T-cells that fight infection. You need zinc for wound healing, DNA synthesis, protein synthesis and cell division, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Although zinc deficiency is not very common in the United States, it sometimes affects people with gastrointestinal diseases, alcoholism or sickle cell disease. Vegetarians, and pregnant and lactating women may also suffer zinc deficiencies.
The recommended daily allowances, or RDAs, for zinc are 8 milligrams for adult females, 11 milligrams for adult males and pregnant women, and 12 milligrams for women during lactation. One ounce of shelled sunflower seeds provides 1.5 milligrams of zinc, which is about 10 percent of the daily value for zinc.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of zinc, as are red meat, seafood, poultry, beans, dairy, fortified cereals and nuts. These seeds also provide fiber, niacin, vitamin E, iron, calcium, selenium and protein. Kids who are not allowed to take peanut butter to school can pack sunflower nut butter, which is a healthy and safe alternative with the added bonus of zinc.
Sunflower seeds, like other nuts and seeds, are a concentrated source of energy at 165 calories per ounce. Don't eat so many that you exceed your allotted calories for the day.
Vegetarians, pregnant or lactating women, people with gastrointestinal diseases, alcoholics and people with sickle cell disease are most at risk of becoming zinc deficient, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. People who fall into any of these categories should include good sources of zinc, such as sunflower seeds, in their diet and possibly take a supplement as well.