Of all the flowers we know and love, the sunflower is probably just tipped into second place by the rose. And like the rose, the sunflower has many uses but is particularly noted for its healthy seeds.
More about the sunflower
The Latin, and more formal, name for the sunflower is helianthus annus
and it comes brimful of those seeds which contain a yellow, sweet oil.
Sunflower seed oil has more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil. But the sunflower has other uses too because the flowers can be used for a natural yellow dye while the seeds themselves can be eaten dried or roasted.
Many people just love to grow sunflowers in their summer gardens for their bright and cheerful appearance and if that is not possible, a bunch of sunflowers bought from the local flower sellers will brighten up your life for several days. One of the most famous paintings of all time is that one of The Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh who painted a series of sunflower images when he moved to the south of France from Holland in the 19th century. The chrome yellow that he used was possible because of newly manufactured pigments. Thousands of copies of the various sunflower paintings by van Gogh have been produced since his death bringing pleasure to many.
If you can obtain high quality cold-pressed sunflower oil, then this is great for salad dressings – it has a delicious flavor. Unfortunately the common sunflower oil, in particular that sold in large clear plastic containers, is already quite degraded as it will have been heated in the extraction process and then stored for a long time with further attack from light. So avoid this particularly product.
But to get back to sunflowers and their health benefits
- Sunflower seeds are a very inexpensive but healthy food.
- They are high in energy with important nutrients and a rich source of minerals such calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium and copper as well as antioxidants and vitamins.
- Sunflower seeds are also a very good source of proteins with fine quality amino acids such as tryptophan that are essential for growth, especially in children.
- Sunflower seeds contain many health benefiting poly-phenol compounds such as chlorgenic acid, quinic acid and caffeic acids. These are natural anti-oxidants with all the benefits that anti-oxidants bring for your health.
- The B-complex group of vitamins are also found in abundant numbers in sunflower seeds. These include niacin, folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), pantothenic acid and riboflavin.
- Sunflower seeds are rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid while they a good source of mono-unsaturated oleic acid which helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increase HDL or "good cholesterol" in the blood.
Just a handful of raw fresh sunflower kernels a day will give you a healthy and delicious snack while providing much of the recommended levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and protein.
Encourage your children to eat them too.