Sowing Seeds of Good Health: Sunflower
When I think about lazy summer days, I think about sunflower seeds. We’d swim all day at the pool, then rest for an hour or two before it was time to head to the ball park. Our snacks of choice were Big League Chew (strawberry, please) and sunflower seeds. Who doesn’t remember the hulls mixed into the dirt on the base paths?
Besides coming from a pretty fascinating plant, sunflower seeds are packed with nutrition, making them number four on my top five list of seeds to eat for good health. Let’s look at why!
Sunflower Power Facts
We all know sunflowers are beautiful, but the plants themselves have the fascinating habit of heliotropism, that is, turning toward the sun with each new day. At dawn, the stems face the east, waiting for the sun. At gloaming, you’ll find them bent westward to soak up every bit of daylight as the plant prepares to bloom.
As with many of nature’s mysteries, the sunflower’s arrangement is one of perfection. The seeds follow the Fibonacci sequence for spacing for maximum efficiency in the use of space (thereby producing more seeds for us to enjoy).
Sunflower seeds are high in vitamins E and B1 (thiamin), and B5. They’re also great sources of copper, manganese, and magnesium, as well as selenium, phosphorus, and folate.
Because of the presence of B vitamins, they’re great at taming inflammation and stress. Vitamin E is also fantastic for protecting the heart, and a mere quarter cup of sunflower seeds provides more than 90% of the RDA for vitamin E.
We’ve heard a great deal about plant sterols lately; they’re even available in yogurt shots. These natural protectants help reduce blood cholesterol, boost the immune system, and decrease the risk of some cancers. Other sources are soy (not a food I recommend) and corn. However, of the nuts and seeds that are typically eaten as snacks, sunflower seeds rank highest.
The seeds are high in linoleic acid and, like hemp seeds, will go rancid quickly. Freezing the seeds for longer term storage is ideal, preferably in Mason jars or dark glass to protect them from the light.
As if you needed more reasons to eat them, the seeds’ magnesium content helps lower blood pressure, prevent migraines, and reduce heart attack, stroke, and asthma attacks.
Selenium isn’t something we hear much about, but it’s vitally important to the body. In fact, it is powerful enough to help repair damaged DNA. It incites in cancer cells their self-destruct sequence, making it absolutely essential to those battling the disease.
Now, I know that we all recognize that David package, but it’s best to go with raw seeds to preserve their nutrition. I’ll also always choose shelled seeds because, well, no one has the time to sit around and shell sunflower seeds all day long, especially when you’re trying to feed yourself and your brood.
One of my favorite things to do with sunflowers is to grind them into sunflower butter in my Blendtec. It couldn’t be easier, just process the seeds with a little salt and/or sweetener if you like, then use as you would peanut butter.
Be sure to check your seeds if you have a nut allergy. Bob’s Red Mill, for example, processes their seeds on equipment that also processes tree nuts, creating a possible allergic situation.
I eat sunflower seeds out of hand, just because I like them. They remind me of all things summer, and when combined with a piece of fruit, make a perfect afternoon snack.
They’re also wonderful on salads and as an addition to your favorite whole wheat bread recipe (1/4 cup should be sufficient). As with our other polyunsaturated options, sunflower seeds come pressed in oil form.
Whether you choose to eat the oil, use it on your skin, or mix it into homemade fragrance oils, there are tons of uses around the house, making this oil one of the few we’d use in our home (along with flax, hemp, coconut, and olive oils).
Sunflower Seed Recipes
Raw Sunflower Mayonnaise
Recipe from JustEatRaw.com
- 2 1/2 cups distilled water
- 1 1/2 cups raw, hulled, sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon Real Salt (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons onion powder (or flakes)
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 1 clove fresh garlic (minced)
The secret to a fine dressing is letting the above ingredients blend in a strong blender (Vita Mix) for quite awhile until very creamy. Sometimes I substitute fresh basil and dill (or parsley) for the paprika. It then turns out a pale green instead of a pale reddish color.
You can use it to substitute for mayo or sour cream, or as a salad dressing when you blend until just combined. Because sunflower seeds have such a high fat content, they will emulsify beautifully.
Mostly Raw Sunflower Seed Cheese
Recipe from Food.com
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup Braggs liquid aminos or tamari
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 cups sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
Grind sunflower seeds in a food processor or blender and set aside. In a high-speed blender, combine all of the other ingredients, adding the ground sunflower seeds in last. Blend until smooth!
Thai Chicken Pasta in Sunbutter Sauce
Recipe from SunButter.com
- 3 ½ tablespoons SunButter (can use homemade, as we do)
- 3 tablespoons brewed tea
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated fine)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 2/ 3 cup chopped green onion
- 2/ 3 cup shredded carrot
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon grass
- 2 tablespoons sunflower kernels
- 1 pound chicken breast, cut into thin strips
- 8 ounces pasta (angel hair recommended)
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- cayenne pepper
Combine first 8 ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to directions. In the meantime, season raw chicken pieces with cayenne pepper and salt. Saute seasoned chicken in 2 tablespoon oil until done (about 7 minutes). Remove chicken. Saute lemon grass in 1 tablespoon oil in the same pan for about 30 seconds.
Add pasta, chicken, shredded carrot, green onion, and cilantro. Pour SunButter sauce over all and mix well. Just warm ingredients together as you don’t want to cook it anymore. Right before serving, mix in sunflower kernels. Serve with fresh bean sprouts on top.
Oatmeal Sunflower Seed Cookies
Recipe modified from Food.com
- 1 cup coconut oil or butter
- 1 cup sucanat with honey or palm sugar
- 1 cup sucanat
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups quick oats
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
Cream butter and both sugars together. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Drop by teaspoons onto a well greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes.
Four stellar seeds down, one to go. Be sure to check in next week for the dirt on pumpkin seeds!