Sunflower seeds contain several nutrients that make them a top choice for a healthy snack. The vitamins, minerals and healthy fats they contain benefit your body in many ways, from lowering your cholesterol to protecting your skin from sun damage. These little seeds are packed with big nutritional benefits, so add a handful to your daily menu.
Sunflower seeds are loaded with minerals, with 1-cup of hulled seeds delivering more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of selenium, manganese, copper and phosphorous. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, adequate selenium intake helps protect you from cancer, heart disease, arthritis and asthma. Copper shields and protects your nerve fibers, manganese helps maintain strong bones and phosphorous builds bones and aids in metabolism. Making sunflower seeds part of your dietary routine helps guarantee you are getting adequate intake of these minerals. Other minerals found in sunflower seeds include zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron and calcium. You will only find sodium in hulled sunflower seeds if they are salted.
Sunflower seeds contain high concentrations of several vitamins, with vitamin E topping the list. A 1-cup serving of roasted, hulled sunflower seeds contains 33.4 milligrams of vitamin E, which is double the recommended dietary intake of 15 milligrams. Known health benefits of vitamin E include cancer protection and a reduced risk of heart disease. Munching on sunflower seeds may also improve your skin's appearance. According to a report in the August 2010 issue of "Nutrients," vitamin E helps protect the skin from sun damage that leads to premature aging. Other vitamins in sunflower seeds include vitamin C, K and the family of B vitamins, minus B-12.
The American Heart Association states that you should eat 25 grams of fiber per day to help lower your risk of developing heart disease, certain types of cancer and obesity. Snacking on sunflower seeds will put you well on your way to meeting your daily fiber needs, as a 1-cup serving of hulled seeds contains 14.2 grams of fiber, over 50 percent of the recommended daily intake.
You need adequate protein to keep your skin beautiful and your bones strong. The National Institutes of Health states that the average adult needs between 50 and 65 grams of protein per day. A 1-cup serving of sunflower seeds contributes 24.7 grams of protein to your recommended daily intake.
A 1-cup serving of sunflower seeds contains 63.8 grams of fat. Of the fat content, only 6.7 grams are saturated fats while the remainder is mono- and polyunsaturated fats. A report from the University of Illinois explains that mono- and polyunsaturated fats are shown to reduce cholesterol levels, and moderate intake may be beneficial to your health. The same serving of sunflower seeds contains 30.8 grams of carbohydrate and 745 calories.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seeds, Sunflower Seed Kernels, Dry Roasted, Without Salt
- National Academy of Sciences: Dietary Reference Intakes
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Selenium
- Learning Seed: Minerals: Elements of Human Nutrition
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin E
- Nutrients: The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health
- American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber
- National Institutes of Health: Dietary Protein
- University of Illinois Extension: What Are Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fats
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images