Are Sunflower Seeds Healthy?

Sunflower seeds are packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals.

These tasty seeds are quite good for you – they are a good source of nutrients like vitamin E and they have protective effects in your body.

© Mohamed Osama Mohamed Abdel Ghany | Dreamstime.com

In my opinion, a salad is not complete without nuts or seeds sprinkled on top. I love to keep a bag of sunflower seeds in the pantry to for this very purpose; my nightly salads are infinitely more delicious with sunflower seeds, which add a rich flavor and a nice crunch. But are sunflower seeds healthy? These tasty seeds are quite good for you – they are a good source of nutrients like vitamin E and they have protective effects in your body. Just be sure to choose the healthiest kind for maximum benefit. 

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Sunflower seeds: a nutritious snack

Like many other seeds, sunflower seeds are packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals. They are a great source of vitamins E, B, D, and K.[1] They are high in protein and fiber as well (just 28 g of striped sunflower seeds are loaded with six grams of protein and three grams of dietary fiber).[2] Sunflower seeds are also a great source of healthy, unsaturated fats, particularly the healthy fat linoleic acid.

Sunflower seeds are also a rich source of antioxidants. They have high levels of tocopherols (in the vitamin E family) as well as phenolic compounds.[1,3](E,A) Studies show that sunflower seeds exhibit very high levels of antioxidant activity,[2] which may be a large part of why these seeds are so good for you.

Health benefits of eating sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds have a high antioxidant capacity, which may help to protect against a variety of diseases.[2] Antioxidants are known to help prevent oxidative damage, which can lead to things like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and more.

Sunflower seeds also are high in phytosterols, compounds that have been shown to help lower cholesterol and prevent diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease.[4]

One of the major health benefits of sunflower seeds may be in protecting your cardiovascular health. They contain a number of important compounds that can help protect your heart from damage and prevent heart disease.[4] They can also help lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including cholesterol and triglycerides. In one study, daily consumption of 30 g of sunflower seeds led to a significant reduction in triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women.[5]

Choosing the healthiest sunflower seeds

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to buying sunflower seeds. You can buy shelled, unshelled, sprouted, salted, unsalted, flavored, roasted, and more. You’re best bet is to go for those that are minimally processed; many sunflower seeds are heavily salted, so try avoiding those to keep your sodium intake in the healthy range. Look for raw, unsalted seeds, either shelled or unshelled, without excessive salt or oils.

One of the healthiest options is to find sprouted sunflower seeds. Sprouting boosts levels of vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and other nutrients in seeds, and reduces phytic acid, a compound that interferes with proper nutrient absorption, making sprouted seeds a healthy alternative to raw seeds.[6]

Sunflower seeds can go rancid quickly. Be sure to choose fresh products, and store them in an airtight container (ideally in the refrigerator) to preserve them.

Share your experience

Do you eat sunflower seeds? How do you incorporate them into your diet? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


[1] Food Chem. 2015 Nov 15;187:385-90.

[2] Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Aug;60(5):395-401.

[3] J Chem Biol. 2015 Jan 20;8(2):45-59.

[4] Theor Appl Genet. 2012 Dec;125(8):1589-601.

[5] ISRN Nutr. 2012 Dec 19;2013:626414.

[6] Curr Pharm Des. 2013;19(34):6112-24.

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Comments
  • Greg H.

    I am constantly experimenting with new foods and different ways of preparing them. Since I started eating a really healthy diet, I have come to believe that my body and brain somehow “conspire” to quickly give me a special appetite for specific foods that are providing me with certain nutrients that I especially need at the moment. For example, I never used to eat much in the way of nuts and seeds at all. Now they are a regular part of my diet every day, including a couple of Brazil nuts and a handful of pumpkin seeds every morning while I’m waiting for my startup cup of green tea to finish brewing.

    When I first tried them, I thought of sunflower seeds as being simply a convenient light snack. But then as an experiment I tried sprouting them, which I found to be ridiculously easy in a regular sprouting jar. I have no way of knowing what specific nutrient it is that sprouted sunflower seeds are providing me. Perhaps it’s all the vitamin E. Whatever it is, it took almost no time at all for them to become a daily staple in my diet. I eat one major meal every day, around noon, which used to consist entirely of a small portion of some sort of animal protein like wild caught salmon, a free-range chicken leg, or a lamb chop, plus a few cups of a veritable rainbow of lightly steamed fresh vegetables (always including fresh turmeric and fresh ginger), and a couple of tablespoons of something fermented like kimchi.

    Suddenly I found myself replacing about a cupful of the steamed vegetable with that much sprouted sunflower seeds, every single day. I keep a cup or two in the refrigerator, and always have a fresh batch in the works amounting to about three cups after sprouting. Although they do keep pretty well in the fridge for a couple of days, scooping some out of the sprouting jar directly onto my dinner plate is always a special treat. I always serve them up with a drizzle of EVOO, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

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