Raw sunflower seeds are vegan and they are a good source of nutrients that vegetarians and vegans may not be consuming enough every day.
Sunflower seeds are nutritious and it’s one of the most popular snacks in the world. This healthy food is also recognized for the healing properties it contains. However, are sunflower seeds vegan and can you eat them every day?
Sunflower seeds are vegan because they are extracted from the sunflower seed head once it has dried out. They contain vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that are good for the body. Eat these little seeds in moderation to avoid consuming high calories while enjoying a well-balanced, whole foods diet.
If you’re looking to understand the health benefits of sunflower seeds and how to make them even more appetizing, read until the end. You will learn everything, from the flavor and nutritional value of sunflower seeds to some foods that you can prepare with these nutritious, vegan-friendly seeds.
Are Sunflower Seeds Really From Sunflowers?
Sunflower seeds come from the sunflower or the Helianthus annus flower which belongs to the daisy family. This plant can grow up to 5 meters with huge seed heads that can produce hundreds of black, tiny seeds.
Originally grown in America, sunflower reached the Mediterranean land in the 1600s. Shortly after, it was introduced to the Middle East and in other parts of the world. This is how this power-packed seed made its way to your local cuisine.
The seeds are roasted and salted to be enjoyed as a quick snack. The kernels contain more protein compared to beef, with only 20 percent fat. Sunflower seeds are very nutritious as they provide iron, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins A, D, and E.
Today, sunflowers can be grown in any part of the world and they don’t require much water, unlike nuts. The seeds are harvested when the flowers have dried out. From the seed head, you can easily extract the tiny seeds and turn them into edible products.
Since the seeds come from real sunflowers, you are guaranteed that sunflower seeds don’t contain any animal products. Therefore, this is healthy to eat for vegans and others that need a healthy alternative for fats.
Aside from being less expensive, sunflower seeds also come in different forms including oil-roasted, dry-roasted, salted, unsalted, shelled, unshelled, and raw. However, the most economical option is the unshelled variety as you can use it for snacking while enjoying popping each seed out.
What Is So Special About Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are rich in folate, niacin, and other essential minerals like copper and iron. If you have food allergies, be mindful of eating seeds that you might be sensitive to as sunflower seed allergy is a real thing.
Unlike tree nuts, seeds are less likely to cause allergies to kids and adults. When it comes to nutrition, sunflower seeds are rich in fat-soluble vitamins, protein, and healthy fats. Their nutritional profile makes them a good option for vegans who need to boost nutrient absorption.
An ounce of sunflower seeds is said to contain 5.7 g of protein, 2.3 g of fiber, and 5.7 g of carbs. Compared to nuts like cashews, sunflower seeds have higher fiber and protein content while they contain lower carbohydrates.
While many consumers avoid fat, health experts recommend daily consumption of healthy fats to improve your overall well-being. Sunflower seeds contain essential fatty acids that include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
According to a clinical study, healthy fats found in sunflower oil help reduce LDL and total cholesterol. They also help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, manage cholesterol levels, and balance insulin levels for people with Type II diabetes.
Below are the general uses of sunflower seeds:
- Trail mix
- Baked goods toppings
- Granola bars
- Casserole topper
- Salad topper
- Cold cereal toppings
Is It OK To Eat Sunflower Seeds Every Day?
There are some cautions when eating sunflower seeds, especially if you want to consume them every day. While it has a lot of health benefits, it’s important to consider the high caloric content of these seeds. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, sunflower seeds contain 72 g of fat and 818 calories.
Sometimes, sunflower seeds are high in salt depending on the brand and how they are seasoned. Make sure to choose a brand with little to no sodium at all. This is very important to consider if you’re eating sunflower seeds every day.
Do not eat the hulls or shells as they can puncture your intestines and cause impaction. Children are more vulnerable to these potential risks of eating the husks of sunflower seeds. These nutrient-dense seeds provide nutrients to the body when eaten in small quantities.
The extra beneficial nutrients of sunflower seeds include magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and other minerals. They don’t just lower bad cholesterol, but these vitamins and minerals also help people with depression.
If you want to benefit from these nutritious seeds, eat them in moderation. Avoid those brands that contain high sodium or salt as they can cause more harm than good in your body.
Can You Use Sunflower Seeds in Making Plant-Based Sauces?
Instead of cashews, you can also use sunflower seeds in order to make creamy vegan sauces. Follow the steps below to learn how to use them in your favorite plant-based sauces:
1. Soak the sunflower seeds. Just like cashews, the basic step in making savory dips and sauces is to soak the nuts and seeds. Let them sit in a bowl filled with water for a little longer and carefully rinse them after. This will help make the flavor a bit milder.
To soak the seeds, you can either put them in the fridge overnight or soak them in boiled water for at least 15 minutes.
2. Blend the sunflower seeds. Use a blender to eliminate the gritty texture of the seeds and make your sauce smoother.
3. Cook the sauce. You can use the blended mixture in many recipes that need creamy sauces such as pizza, pasta, dessert, and dips. One of the most popular recipes you can try at home includes Sunflower Seed Fettucine Alfredo. Find out more sunflower seed recipes here.
Unshelled sunflower seeds can be kept in a tight container for up to two weeks. However, it’s better recommended to keep them refrigerated to prolong their lifespan as these seeds are vulnerable to rancidity.
What Is A Good Substitute For Sunflower Seeds?
The best substitute for sunflower seeds depends on where you are going to use them. You may use a combination of these alternatives to achieve the flavor you want. However, some work better on their own, so you really have to determine what you need it for.
Sunflower seeds are often used raw and shelled in salads and soups, and ground to make cookies and sauces. However, there are other alternatives if you can’t find sunflower seeds in your local store:
- Pumpkin seeds are also perfect for soup topping, salads, and nutritious snacks. They many not have a similar nutty flavor as to sunflower seeds, but pumpkin seeds make a nice addition to your dishes when it comes to presentation.
- Pine nuts have a delicate flavor somewhat similar to sunflower seeds, but this alternative is quite expensive. However, they are perfect for baked goods, pasta dishes, and salads.
- Peanuts and almonds for snacking and dessert toppings. These are a fan favorite for people who are looking to add some crunch to their snacks.
- Sesame seeds may be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for a substitute to sunflower seeds because they also have a nutty flavor.
- Flax seeds is another good alternative to sunflower seeds because of their crunchy and nice flavor. You can use flax seeds as binding agents when ground and mixed with some water.
- Hemp seeds may be a bit smaller compared to sunflower seeds, but they taste almost alike. They have an herb-like flavor which is ideal for mixing with other seeds like sesame seeds.
Whether you have enough supply of sunflower seeds in the kitchen or you’re using these alternatives, there are many recipes where you can use nuts and seeds including chia oat pumpkin seed bars, cashew nut cookies, and sunflower seed butter.
If you can find sunflower paste, it’s also a good alternative since it has the closest flavor to the original sunflower seeds. You can also make your sunflower seeds even more delicious with some twists such as roasting them and adding special flavorings like spices, lemon juice, chili flakes, and even black pepper.
In A Nutshell
Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, consuming sunflower seeds in moderation has a lot of health benefits to you. They are vegan-friendly, more affordable, and packed with all the essential nutrients you need every day.
They are high in vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and protein. Therefore, sunflower seeds are good for the skin, nerve function, teeth, bones, and muscles. In terms of nutrition and flavor, these majestic seeds are the perfect options for vegans looking to enjoy a healthy snack or ingredient to homemade recipes.