Looking for a health-promoting snack?
Enjoy a handful of these mild, nutty tasting snacks with their firm but tender texture to take care of your hunger and get a wealth of nutrition at the same time.
These super seeds are available at your local market throughout the year.
Sunflower seeds are the gift of the beautiful sunflower that has rays of petals emanating from its bright yellow, seed-studded center.
The flower produces grayish-green or black seeds encased in tear-dropped shaped gray or black shells that oftentimes feature black and white stripes.
Since these seeds have a very high oil content, they are one of the main sources of polyunsaturated oil.
Anti-Inflammatory and Cardiovascular Benefits from Sunflower Seeds' Vitamin-E
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin-E, the body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant.
Vitamin-E travels throughout the body neutralizing free radicals that would otherwise damage fat-containing structures and molecules, such as cell membranes, brain cells, and cholesterol.
By protecting these cellular and molecular components, vitamin-E has significant anti-inflammatory effects that result in the reduction of symptoms in asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, conditions where free radicals and inflammation play a big role.
Vitamin-E has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, help decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes in women going through menopause, and help reduce the development of diabetic complications.
In addition, vitamin-E plays an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin-E is one of the main antioxidants found in cholesterol particles and helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol.
Only after it has been oxidized is cholesterol able to adhere to blood vessel walls and initiate the process of atherosclerosis, which can lead to blocked arteries, heart attack, or stroke.
Getting plenty of vitamin-E can significantly reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
In fact, studies show that people who get a good amount of vitamin-E are at a much lower risk of dying of a heart attack than people whose dietary intake of vitamin-E is marginal or inadequate.
Just a quarter-cup of sunflower-seeds contains 90.5% of the daily value for vitamin-E.
Calm Your Nerves, Muscles and Blood Vessels with Sunflower Seeds' Magnesium
Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that magnesium helps reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, and prevent migraine headaches, as well as reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Magnesium is also necessary for healthy bones and energy production.
About two-thirds of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones.
Some helps give bones their physical structure, while the rest is found on the surface of the bone where it is stored for the body to draw upon as needed.
Improved Detoxification and Cancer Prevention from Sunflower Seeds' Selenium
Sunflower seeds are also a good source of selenium, a trace mineral that is of fundamental importance to human health.
Accumulated evidence from prospective studies, intervention trials and studies on animal models of cancer has suggested a strong inverse correlation between selenium intake and cancer incidence.
Selenium has been shown to induce DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and to induce their apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to eliminate worn out or abnormal cells.
A Bit of History
While sunflowers are thought to have originated in Mexico and Peru, they're one of the first plants to ever be cultivated in the United States.
They've been used for more than 5,000 years by the Native Americans, who not only used the seeds as a food and an oil source, but also used the flowers, roots and stems for varied purposes including as a dye pigment.
The Spanish explorers brought sunflowers back to Europe, and after being first grown in Spain, they were subsequently introduced to other neighboring countries.
Currently, sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world.
Today, the leading commercial producers of sunflower-seeds include the Russian Federation, Peru, Argentina, Spain, France and China.
How to Select & Store
Sunflower-seeds are sold either shelled or unshelled and are generally available in pre-packaged containers as well as bulk bins.
Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure the seeds' maximal freshness.
When purchasing unshelled seeds, make sure that the shells are not broken or dirty.
Additionally, they should be firm and not have a limp texture.
When purchasing shelled seeds, avoid those that appear yellowish in color as they have probably gone rancid.
In addition, if you are purchasing sunflower-seeds from a bulk bin, smell them to ensure that they're still fresh and have not spoiled.
Since sunflower=seeds have a high fat content and are prone to rancidity, it is best to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
They can also be stored in the freezer since the cold temperature will not greatly affect their texture or flavor.
Tips for Preparing Sunflower Seeds:
If you want to remove the shells from unshelled sunflower seeds, there are easier ways to remove the shell than by hand, which requires a lot of diligence and time.
The quickest way to shell sunflower-seeds is to grind them in a seed mill and then place them in cold water where the shells will float to the top and can be skimmed off with a slotted spoon.
While not as efficient, another alternative for those who don't have seed mills (which is probably the majority of us) is to put a small amount of seeds into the bowl of an electric mixer, pulsing the mixer on and off a few times for a few seconds each time, until the shells separate but not too many seeds are crushed.
Then plunge the seeds into cold water as described above to separate them from the shells.
However, shelled sunflower seeds are plentiful in the stores so there is no need to go through the trouble unless you have harvested them from your garden.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
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.
Now, if you're wondering what to have for lunch today, perhaps;
Caesar Salad with Sunflower Seeds
This healthier version of Caesar salad has awesome flavor and the sunflower-seeds only add to the healthiness of this classic.
For a complete dinner you can add cooked chicken breasts.
Prep and Cook Time: 10 minutes
* 2 large head romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed & discarded
* 1/8 c. sunflower-seeds
* * (optional) 1/4 c. walnuts
* 2 Tbs. roasted tahini
* 1 2 oz. can anchovies, drained of oil, rinsed and chopped
* 4 med. cloves garlic, chopped
* 3 Tbs. lemon juice
* 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
* 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
* Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Rinse lettuce, cut into bite size pieces and dry.
Try to get lettuce as dry as possible so dressing is not diluted.
If you have a salad spinner, great!
2. Blend dressing ingredients together for 1-2 minutes, drizzling the extra virgin olive oil in at the end a little at a time.
Toss romaine with desired amount of dressing and walnuts and/or chicken if you like.
Finally, sprinkle with sunflower-seeds and serve.
There will be dressing left over.
It keeps very well in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 4 Servings
Make sure your lettuce is well dried so you don't dilute the dressing.
This salad dressing is great if you want a healthy Caesar dressing with anchovies.
If you don't like anchovies, perhaps you should skip this recipe, as it isn't nearly as good without them.Tweet
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