Today we’re continuing our discussion on healthy seeds with the sometimes-overlooked sunflower seed.  Sunflower seeds are less expensive and more widely available than the other seeds we’ve discussed, and they’ve got some good nutrients packed inside of them.  Here are some of my favorite things about sunflower seeds:

Good source of Vitamin E.  One ¼ cup serving of sunflower seeds contains 60% of your Daily Recommended Value for Vitamin E!  Vitamin E is the only antioxidant we eat that is fat-soluble.  That means it has the power to stop free radical damage in fatty tissues, where other antioxidants can’t reach.  You can read more on how antioxidants work here.

A good dose of other vital nutrients.  Sunflower seeds are also a good source of magnesium and several B vitamins.  Remember from our discussion yesterday that the mineral magnesium is important for muscle and nerve health.

Refined sunflower oil is safe for high-heat cooking.  Cooking at high heat with a low smoke-point oil can result in carcinogens in your food and maybe even a fire in your kitchen!  Refined sunflower oil is safe for temperatures up to 450 degrees F, so you can use it for frying and roasting.  You can find more information on choosing the right cooking oil for the job here.

Safe alternative for those with nut allergies.  If you have a nut allergy, sunflower butter is a yummy replacement for peanut butter.  I don’t have an allergy, but I like to buy sunflower butter sometimes just because it tastes good!  If you have a severe allergy make sure you check the label to see if the butter was made on shared equipment with nuts.

Buy these seeds raw, not roasted.  Roasted sunflower seeds have had oil and salt added to them.  Buy these raw and toast them yourself if you want to bring out more flavor without the added fat and sodium.  You can toast sunflower seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until golden and fragrant.

Just like any other food, sunflower seeds should be part of a varied whole foods diet.  Eating several different types of fresh, seasonal foods on a daily basis ensures that you get the range of nutrients your body needs.

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