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Star Food: The Amazing Sunflower Seed

January 3, 2011

Sometimes the simplest foods are the most amazing. But before I get to that, let me first talk about a new segment to the blog: Star Foods. This segment will be devoted to foods that go above and beyond in their ability to not only generate good physical health, but also good emotional health. These foods are nutritional powerhouses and able to lift our emotional well-being with nothing more than a quick crunch or slurp. So, without further ado, I present to you the . . . Sunflower Seed.

The sunflower seed, or Helianthus Annuu, which dates back at least 4,000 years, has its roots in Russia. According to the National Sunflower Grower’s Association, the history of the sunflower is one of migration. While it has its roots in Russia, it was the Native Americans who cultivated and domesticated it. So what make the sunflower seed so wonderful? Here is a list of the top 5 things that make the sunflower seed wonderful for both your physical and mental health.

1. It is high in Folate. As it turns out, sunflower seeds are a great source for this essential nutrient. For just a handful, a mere 1 oz., you get 16% of your daily intake of folate. Why is this important? Research has shown that those who suffer from depression and cognitive impairments generally suffer from a folate deficiency. One function that folate does so well is help produce and maintain new cells. According to the National Institute of Medicine, folate is an important part of staving off anemia which can lead to a decrease of oxygen to tissue.  This can have a direct effect on one’s brain functioning and the ability to fight depression.

2. Sunflower seeds are high in thiamine. Thiamine is a required vitamin that is essential for metabolizing glucose in the body. And why is this important? Because glucose is the brain’s energy source. And without energy, the brain doesn’t work as well and we can start to feel despondent and lethargic. One serving gives you a whopping 28% of your daily needs.

3. Sunflower seeds are high in selenium. Why is this important? Maybe you’re saying I’ve actually never heard of selenium. Is it a planet? Selenium is actually a trace mineral that works with protein. This is important because selenium, when combined with protein, is turned into an antioxidant which, as you will see below, helps fight the war on free radicals. One serving of sunflower seeds has a good amount of selenium, 21% of your daily intake. Not bad for such a little seed.

4. Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein. For just a handful, you get 12% of your daily protein in return. Not too bad an investment. Protein is one of the nutrients that help us keep alert and able to concentrate. And when we feel more alert, we feel more able to face challenges and stress in our daily life.

5. When it comes to antioxidants sunflower seeds carry big payoffs. A single serving of sunflower seeds has almost half of your daily value of Vitamin E. Why is this important? Because antioxidants fight free radicals. In all our bodies there exist free radicals. These are molecules with crazy ideas; ideas that eventually can lead to cancer and cognitive impairments, amongst other things. But we know how to stop them. We send in the defenders of health, antioxidants, to fight them off. The reason it’s important to fight off free radicals is that they also affect our brain function, which of course affects our emotions and thoughts. More antioxidants equal better health and mood.

So, there you go. Five reasons to eat sunflower seeds as part of your regular diet. There are many ways to get these into your diet. They are great on salads, thrown onto a casserole, or just eaten plan. Most stores sell them either raw or roasted. The choice is yours. Enjoy!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jay M. permalink
    January 3, 2011 1:38 am

    With an ally like the capable sunseed, we finally have a war worth fighting…the war on “Free Radicals.” This is bound to be more fruitful (and less nutty) than the war on drugs. Thanks for the valuable information.

    • The Therapist in the Kitchen permalink*
      January 6, 2011 7:52 pm

      I think this is definitely one for the garden next year!

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