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Sunflower Seeds

An Introduction
The sunflower plant are cultivated annually, has large yellow flowers, broad leaves and can grow from 3-15 ft (0.91-4.6 m) high. The seeds are harvested after about 120 days, dried, roasted, salted and packaged.

Actually the sunflower seeds are the fruits of the sunflowers. In botanical terms sunflower seed in more accurate terms are known as an achene, however when dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel/seed.

Across the globe the sunflower kernels/seeds are usually consummed as a nourishing refreshment rather than as part of a complete/full fledged meal. Sunflower seeds are also used as a garnish in various cuisines.
 

Availability of Sunflower Seeds
The sunflower seeds are sold as in-shell seeds as well as in the form of dehulled kernels. The seeds are sprouted and eaten as part of salads. In contemporary times sunflower seeds are available in wide ranging flavors such as barbeque, sour cream & onion, cajun, ranch and hot & spicy.

History
Sunflowers have originated in Mexico and Peru. According to available archaeological evidence prehistoric neolithic farmers cultivated and consumed sunflower seeds. The seeds were grounded into a fine meal or flour for cakes. In certain ancient cultures sunflower seeds were used for medicinal

purposes to cure snakebites, cuts and bruises. However the 19th and early 20th century people ate sunflower seeds as they found them to be tasty and nutritious food.

Europeans became familiar with sunflower seeds in the 16th century, when Spanish explorers brought them to the continent from the Americas. The sunflowers were apparently first planted in Spain for decoration, however eventually sunflower use gradually spread to north and east subsequently to the rest of Europe. At that time, sunflower was regarded more as a curiosity than a food or oil source and was most commonly used for medicinal purposes.

 

In the late 1800s the flower was introduced to Russia where it became a food crop. In 1860, Russian farmers made significant improvements in the way that the sunflower was cultivated. During this time, they became the world's largest producer of sunflower seeds. Even at present the Russians continue to be world leaders along with Europe, Argentina, and the United States.

Consumers from all social and income levels eat happen to sunflower seeds. The primary rationale behind the popularity of sunflower seeds is the age old tradition of eating them and the economical price in relation to other available snack items.

In the contemporary times, sunflower seeds are usually most often eaten in home. Being a variety of snack they are commonly eaten while watching television, one seed at a time. Another most prefered occasion for the consumption of sunflower seeds is during soccer matches.
 

Storage and Selection
Sunflower seeds are available in the market in both shelled and unshelled varieties. If someone is getting unshelled seeds, one must make sure that the shells are not broken or dirty. Apart from this, the seeds should be firm and not have a limp texture.

When purchasing shelled seeds, one must avoid those that appear yellowish in color as they have probably gone rancid. In addition, if one is purchasing sunflower seeds from a bulk bin, smell them to ensure that they are still fresh and have not rotted.

 

Health and Nutrition

  • Brighten the Nutritional Quality of your diet with a Daily Dose of Sunflower Kernels/Seeds
    Nutrition scientists are realizing that we should pay more attention to our daily intake of complex plant foods like seeds, nuts and whole grains.A move towards whole foods, like sunflower seeds,will addnutrients to your diet in a flash. Sunflower seeds/kernels contain good amount of plant chemicals and phytochemicals which are supposedly good for our health. Fats, protein and fiber, plus important nutrients like vitamin E, selenium, copper, zinc, folate, iron and phytochemicals come wrapped up in this small and perhaps unsuspected package – a sunflower seed. Just one ounce of these seeds every day can improve the nutritional quality of your diet.
  • Sunflower seeds and oil contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat – the types of fat that are known to protect the heart. Clinical studies show that higher unsaturated fat diets may be preferable even to low-fat diets because they lower total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides, while maintaining beneficial high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is needed to carry the “bad” cholesterol away. Almost 90% of the fat in sunflower seeds is good, unsaturated fat.
    Protein supplies amino acids, the building blocks that build, maintain and repair body tissues. Sunflower seeds are a good source of plant protein, providing 6 grams or 12% of the Daily Value per ounce.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may protect against heart disease by getting rid of harmful molecules called free radicals that can lead to atherosclerosis. Sunflower seeds are the best whole food source of vitamin E.Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E. Just one ounce of sunflower seeds provides 76% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin E.
  • Selenium works with vitamin E as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage that may lead to cancer, heart disease, and other health problems.Although there is no Daily Value for selenium, nutrition scientists recognize its importance to health and a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) has been established. The selenium in one ounce of sunflower seeds provides about 24% of the RDA for men and 31% of the RDA for women.
  • Copper helps your body carry oxygen to red blood cells and produce energy in the cells. Copper is also a vital part of some antioxidant enzymes in the body, thus protecting you from oxidative stress.While a copper deficiency is rare, this trace mineral is essential to an energy-rich life. You’ll find about 25% of the Daily Value for copper in one ounce of sunflower seeds.
    Folate, a B vitamin, plays an essential role in making new body cells by helping to form the DNA and RNA that contain each cell’s “master plan” for reproduction. This is why folate is so important for pregnant women and the development of babies. Folate also pairs with vitamin B-12 to help form hemoglobin in red blood cells,which allows them to carry optimal amounts of oxygen. Folate is involved in the removal of homocysteine, an amino acid thought to promote heart disease, from the blood.A large population study from Harvard University shows an association between higher intakes of folate and lower risk of heart disease. Sunflower seeds are a good source of folate, supplying 17% of the Daily Value in a one-ounce serving.
  • A one-ounce serving of sunflower seeds contains 20% of the Daily Value for pantothenic acid, 11% for vitamin B6, 6% for thiamin and 6% for niacin. Zinc is a mineral that is vital for keeping your immune system strong, fending off infections and healing wounds.
    A one-ounce serving of sunflower seeds is a good source of zinc, providing 10% of the Daily Value.
  • Iron is essential in carrying oxygen from your lungs, through your blood, and to every body cell. Iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia, fatigue and infection, is more common among women who experience regular menstrual loss.
  • One ounce of sunflower seeds is a good source of iron, providing 10% of the Daily Value.
  • Fiber – the indigestible part of plant foods – promotes good health by helping to lower blood cholesterol, manage blood glucose and prevent constipation. Sunflower seeds are fiber-filled foods with 2 grams of fiber per one-ounce serving, putting you well on your way to your daily fiber goal.

Serving Tips
Sunflower seeds are a good addition to many sweet and savory dishes, including breads, cookies, cakes, pilafs, salads, stuffing, and vegetable and grain dishes.

  • Add sunflower seeds to your favorite tuna, chicken or turkey salad recipe
  • Garnish mixed green salads with sunflower seeds
  • Adding sunflower seeds to scrambled eggs will give them a unique taste and texture
  • Use fine ground sunflower seeds to dust your meats with in place of flour
  • Sprinkle sunflower seeds onto hot and cold cereals.

A recipe for roasted Sunflower seeds:

  • Cover unshelled seeds with salt water
  • Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt per two quarts of water
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours
  • Drain and dry on paper towels/Seeds may also be soaked overnight in a salt solution.
  • Roast Sunflower seeds in a shallow pan at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally
  • After removing from the oven, stir in one teaspoon of melted butter or margarine for every cup of seeds
  • Sprinkle on dry dill, salt & pepper, or powdered popcorn flavorings
  • Cool on a paper towel.
 
 


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