Providing nearly 100 percent of the vitamin E RDA in ¼ cup, sunflower seeds are an excellent source of the main fat-soluble antioxidant. It helps reduce oxidative damage that can cause plaque build up in the arteries, thickening of arteries and joint inflammation. Of the nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds have one of the highest concentrations of phytosterols, phytonutrients with similar structures to cholesterol and linked to lowering their levels in the blood. Some research evidence shows if we eat a moderate amount of these cholesterol substitutes, they have high potential to reduce the damaging effects of cholesterol. Sunflower seeds are a concentrated source of the intermediary mineral magnesium, which is important for biochemical processes in energy production, the synthesis of essential compounds (proteins, enzymes, DNA, lipids, the antioxidant glutathione), cellular communication (proper muscle, nerve function) and bone matrix formation. A deficiency in magnesium may contribute to higher blood pressure, migraine headaches, muscle spasms/cramps, soreness and fatigue. Selenium is a trace mineral in these seeds that is a cofactor/activator for many enzymes and proteins that help the body maintain healthy DNA, prevent proliferation of cancer cells (by inhibiting growth and inducing apoptosis), and helping detoxify the body by marking dangerous compounds for destruction.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – E, B1 (Thiamin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and B9 (Folate)
Minerals – Manganese, Magnesium, Copper, Tryptophan, Selenium and Phosphorus
Regularly eating unsalted sunflower seeds may reduce the symptoms or onset of asthma, hypertension, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, hot flashes, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and many cancers.
How to Grow
A great way to brighten up both the garden and daily nutrition. Grow sunflower for its visual appeal and its seeds, sprouts and greens. All are highly nutritious. Sunflowers are easy to grow and tolerant of soil types. Choose a sunny site next to vegetables or in the flower garden where they will not shade other plants needing sun. For optimum growth and a beautiful flower, work in some compost or planting mix to increase soil fertility. The time to plant is spring after the last frost. Sow seeds directly into the bed where they will grow. Place them ½ inch deep and 1 foot apart. They sprout soon afterward as the seeds germinate in roughly 3-5 days. Water regularly when they are young and keep the bed weed free. After they reach 1 foot tall, mulch around the base to help retain moisture and deter weeds. The heads grow to the size of a dinner plate in some cultivars. Keep the soil moist during flowering to promote productivity. They are ready to harvest when they dip over. Cut them 2 feet below the flower and hang upside down in a dry, sheltered area for a few days with a cloth underneath to catch any seeds that fall. Then rub off the seeds and store for any occasion.
Sunflowers are generally pest free and attract beneficial insects to the garden that can help control other pests. Protect the seeds from birds by covering the flowers with mesh, pantyhose or hole-punched plastic bags.
Save a couple heads with their stalks to hang up to use as bird feeders. This may help keep the birds from other plants in the garden and provide them with good sustenance.