Friday, January 2, 2015

Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Sunflower kernels are actually employed in the extraction of edible oil at commercial scale all over the world. Besides being eaten as popular snacks, they are also used in the kitchen to prepare variety of recipes.

Sunflower is a tall, erect, herbaceous annual plant belonging in the family of Asteraceae, in 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, USA, and Argentina are the leading producers of sunflower crop.

Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

Cardiovascular Benefits

Sunflowers are an exceptional source of vitamin E, which plays a very important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps keep free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol. Only when oxidized is cholesterol able to stick to blood vessel walls and cause atherosclerosis, which can lead to blocked arteries, heart attack, or stroke. You can get over ninety percent of the daily value for vitamin E in only a quarter of a cup of sunflower seeds.

Cancer Prevention

Sunflower seeds are a good source of selenium. Studies suggest a strong correlation between low selenium intake and cancer incidence. Selenium has been shown to induce DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, and to induce their apoptosis, the self-destruct mechanism the body uses to get rid of worn out or abnormal cells. In addition, selenium is incorporated at the active site of many proteins, including glutathione peroxidase, which is particularly important for protection against cancer. One of the body's strongest antioxidant enzymes, glutathione peroxidase is used by the liver to detoxify a great many harmful molecules. When levels of glutathione peroxidase are low, these toxic molecules wreak havoc on any cells they come in contact with, damaging their DNA and prompting the development of cancer cells. One quarter of a cup provides over thirty percent of the daily value for selenium. The vitamin E so abundant in sunflower seeds has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer.

Plant Protein

Men like to eat meat because they equate it with more muscle, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But eating too much meat -- such as beef and pork -- can increase your intake of unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol. Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein and offer a healthy alternative to meat proteins. A 1/4-cup serving of sunflower seed kernels contains 7 g of protein, meeting 14 percent of your daily value. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends you vary your sources of protein to include foods like sunflower seeds to maximize your nutrient intake.

Source of Potassium

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends men include more potassium-rich foods in their diet to meet their daily needs of 4,700 mg a day. Sunflower seeds can help you meet those needs, providing 226 mg in a 1/4-cup serving. Including more potassium-rich foods in your diet can also improve heart health. Potassium helps to counterbalance the effects of sodium in your blood and can help lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of developing hypertension.

Source of Zinc

Sunflower seeds are also a good source of zinc. Adequate intakes of zinc are important for male fertility. A lack of zinc in the diet may cause your sperm to clump together. Men need 11 mg of zinc a day. A 1/4-cup serving contains 1.75 mg of zinc.

Help with brain function

The omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower seeds are critical to brain function and health; however, our bodies cannot produce these fats on its own. We need to supplement our diet with foods like sunflower seeds that are rich in these substances in order to maintain optimal brain function for a healthy happy life.

Luscious hair and skin

Sunflower seeds are a good source of copper, a nutrient especially important in promoting skin and hair health. Copper is a precursor to melanin, the pigment found in most everyone’s hair and skin. As you age your body loses the ability to produce melanin and your hair turns grey (oh no!). A diet rich in copper is a good way to prevent those grey hairs from popping up while you’re still young.

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