Sunflower seeds and sunflower oil are both famed for their high nutritional values. Known to contain several important nutrients, they deliver some excellent health benefits and play a vital role in protecting your heart as well as bolstering your immune system.
In this blog post, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about sunflower seeds and sunflower oil and how they can be beneficial to your overall health and well-being. But before that, let’s take a look at how sunflowers became popular and how they arrived in India.
History of the Sunflower:
The sunflower plant, Helianthus annuus, is believed to have been domesticated first in Mexico and Peru. Native to North and Central America, they have been cultivated for more than 4000 years by the indigenous people.
Sunflowers were introduced to Europe in the 16th century and eventually made their way to Russia, where they began to be cultivated commercially for oil production. Sunflower oil became a popular cooking oil in Russia and Eastern Europe. As cultivation continued to spread around the world, two markets emerged for the sunflower – one for direct seed consumption and one for sunflower oil.
Sunflower arrived in India in the 1940s and was initially used for ornamental purposes. The Russian variety, which was used as an oilseed crop, was finally introduced to India in 1969. Eventually, with time, sunflower oil became a common presence in the Indian kitchen.
Nutritional Values of Sunflower Seeds and Sunflower Oil
Sunflower seeds are nutritional powerhouses, containing 24% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 47% fats. They are abundant in Vitamin E and Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and contain high amounts of Manganese, Magnesium, Copper, Tryptophan, Selenium, and Phosphorus. They’re also rich in Vitamins B6 and Folate. The oil extracted from sunflower seeds is generally of two types – linoleic and high-oleic. Linoleic sunflower oil is high in linoleic acid (omega-6) and contains 11% saturated, 20% monosaturated, and 69% polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is used to make vegetable ghee as well as margarine.
The high-oleic sunflower oil, which is high in oleic acid (omega-9), contains 9% saturated, 82% monounsaturated, and 9% polyunsaturated fatty acids. It has a high smoking point at 246 °C with a neutral taste, making it ideal for cooking and baking purposes.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds and Sunflower Oil
Sunflower seeds and sunflower oil are the richest sources of Vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E is helpful in controlling diabetes and blood pressure and will safeguard your body from disease-causing free radicals.
Vitamin E also helps boost your immunity and aid in fighting bacterial and viral infections. It also protects you against colon, uterine, lung, and skin cancers. Vitamin K helps improve blood circulation, while Folate aids in the formation of new cells in the body.
Magnesium present in sunflower oil is good for bones and helps manage blood pressure levels, while tryptophan improves the production of serotonin in the body, which helps you sleep peacefully. Vitamin B1 and electrolytes in the sunflower seeds can produce energy in the body, keeping the body active.
The essential fatty acids and phytosterols in sunflower oil help your body regulate cholesterol levels, thereby boosting heart health. The antioxidants in Sunflower seeds and oil are also good for your skin and hair and can rejuvenate your look, giving you smooth skin and silky hair.
The Bottom Line
Sunflower seeds add a nice crunchy element to your food and are perfect for snacking and adding to salads, cakes, bread, and muffins. Similarly, using cold-pressed sunflower oil can be a great way to bring all the hearty goodness and health benefits to your diet.