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Sunflower seeds were originally developed in North America, in the countries of Mexico and Peru beginning about 5,000 years ago. Sunflower seeds are easily added as a topping to salads and vegetables, or you can enjoy them as a crunchy snack. They have an oily texture and are often used to create sunflower oil to use for cooking and as a recipe ingredient.
Sunflower seeds originate from the center of a sunflower, and each seed is enclosed within a protective outer shell. Some people choose to eat both the shells and the seeds, while most split the shell to eat the center seed found inside. According to the World's Healthiest Foods website, these seeds contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and can help shield the body against cancer 1.
- Sunflower seeds originate from the center of a sunflower, and each seed is enclosed within a protective outer shell.
- Some people choose to eat both the shells and the seeds, while most split the shell to eat the center seed found inside.
Hulled vs. Unhulled Sesame Seeds
Cholesterol is also called lipoprotein and exists in the forms of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The Mayo Clinic states that LDL is known as the bad cholesterol, while HDL is considered good, sweeping excess LDL from the body and helping to lower total cholesterol levels. Excess levels of LDL can build up in the bloodstream, producing plaques inside the vessel walls and slowing circulation. One cup of hulled sunflower seeds contains no cholesterol and so does not contribute to overall cholesterol buildup in the bloodstream.
- Cholesterol is also called lipoprotein and exists in the forms of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
- One cup of hulled sunflower seeds contains no cholesterol and so does not contribute to overall cholesterol buildup in the bloodstream.
Sunflower seeds contain phytosterols, an important component to protect against high cholesterol. According to the Cleveland Clinic, phytosterols are found in the membranes of plant cells and have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol. Because of this, phytosterols battle cholesterol for absorption into the bloodstream. If more phytosterols are absorbed, there is less room for cholesterol and it is excreted from the body. This results in overall lower amounts of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
- Sunflower seeds contain phytosterols, an important component to protect against high cholesterol.
- According to the Cleveland Clinic, phytosterols are found in the membranes of plant cells and have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol.
Okra for Lowering Cholesterol
Although sunflower seeds have no cholesterol, a one cup serving of hulled seeds contains more than 8 grams of dietary fat. There are different types of fats found in food, some of which may affect your cholesterol levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, dietary fats consist of healthy fats, such as:
- saturated fats
- trans fat
- dietary cholesterol
The fat in sunflower seeds comes from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are important for lowering overall cholesterol levels in the body.
Although sunflower seeds do not contribute dietary cholesterol, they still contain fat, which adds calories. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you keep your total intake of fat to 20 to 35 percent of your total calories. Lean meats, legumes, nuts and seeds are all part of a healthy diet that provide protein and iron for energy. Sunflower seeds are an adequate substitution for meat to get the recommended requirements of foods from this group 1. Replacing meat with sunflower seeds one or two times a week provides iron and protein without excess cholesterol.
- Although sunflower seeds do not contribute dietary cholesterol, they still contain fat, which adds calories.
- Lean meats, legumes, nuts and seeds are all part of a healthy diet that provide protein and iron for energy.
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- World’s Healthiest Foods: Sunflower Seeds
- Fit Day: Nutrition Information for Sunflower Seeds, Hulled, Roasted, Salted
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005: Fats
- Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, toasted, without salt. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- Defeat Diabetes Foundation. Nuts and Seeds: Energy and Nutrient-Dense Foods.
- Kaczmarczyk MM, Miller MJ, Freund GG. The health benefits of dietary fiber: Beyond the usual suspects of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Metabolism. 2012;61(8):1058-1066. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2012.01.017
- Yang J, Wang HP, Zhou L, Xu CF. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(48):7378-7383. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i48.7378
- Anderson J, Baird P, Davis RH, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews. 2009;67(4)188-205. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x
- Lattimer JM, Haub MD. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients. 2010;2(12):1266-1289. doi:10.3390/nu2121266
- Kunzmann AT, Coleman HG, Huang WY, Kitahara CM, Cantwell MM, Berndt SI. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(4):881–890. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.113282
- Vitamin E. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated February 28, 2020
- Antioxidants: In Depth. National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Updated November 2013
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Cross Reactivity of Seed Allergens.
- Manatakis DK, Acheimastos V, Antonopoulou MI, Balalis D, Korkolis DP. Gastrointestinal seed bezoars: A systematic review of case reports and case series. Cureus. 2019;11(5):e4686. Published 2019 May 17. doi:10.7759/cureus.4686
- Manne JR, Rangu VM, Motapothula UM, Hall MC. A crunching colon: Rectal bezoar caused by pumpkin seed consumption. Clin Med Res. 2012;10(2):75-7. doi:10.3121/cmr.2011.1016
- Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dry roasted, with salt added. USDA FoodData Central. April 1, 2014.
- National Sunflower Association. Frequently asked questions.
Meg Brannagan has worked as a registered nurse for more than 10 years, specializing in women's and children's health. She holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.