RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—You’ve probably eaten sunflower seeds in trail mix before, or maybe you’ve enjoyed them on their own. But you may not realize that these nutrient-packed little wonders also make great ingredients when you’re cooking and baking. And wonders they are: Just half a cup of sunflower seeds provides more than 100 percent of your daily requirement for alpha-tocopherol, the most active form of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from free-radical damage that can lead to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Though we need 15 milligrams a day of vitamin E, many people get only about half that. The vitamin also helps cells communicate with each other, protects against UV damage, and aids in absorption of other nutrients.
Sunflower seeds also provide linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that’s good for your heart. In the Nurses' Health Study, women who had the highest intakes of linoleic acid had a 23 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who had the lowest intakes. In addition to being a great source of protein for vegetarians, sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of the minerals magnesium, selenium, and folate and a good source of zinc (and don't worry, we have a recipe list for zinc coming up later this week).
You can find sunflower seeds in most grocery stores and health food stores, and buying them in bulk will save you money and cut down on the packaging you'll have to throw away. And as you prep your yard for winter and plan next spring's garden, consider harvesting your own seeds next year. It's hard to name another flower that can have such a visual impact on your landscape and provide so much nutrition.
Breakfast is a great time to incorporate sunflower seeds into your diet. Simply add a few tablespoons to granola or hot cereal, or spread sunflower seed butter, a delicate, sweet alternative to peanut butter, on toast. For lunch and dinner, try these Rodale Recipe Finder recipes for salads, savory dishes, and desserts.
#2: Crunchy Tuna Melt. This protein-packed lunch couldn’t be simpler to prepare, adding extra flavor and nutrition to a lunchtime staple. Storage tip: Sunflower seeds easily turn rancid, so always store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Published on: October 19, 2009
Updated on: March 11, 2010