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Sunflower seeds give best nutritional quality              

SUNFLOWER seeds are power-packed with healthy fats, protein, fibre, minerals, vitamin E, and phytochemicals - all important to the nutritional quality of diet. While the vibrant, strong sunflower is a recognised worldwide for its beauty, it is also an important source of food.

Sunflower oil is a valued and healthy vegetable oil and sunflower seeds are enjoyed as a healthy, tasty snack and nutritious ingredient to many foods. Health and nutrition rank high for consumers who want foods that are as good for them as they are good to eat. Sunflower oil and kernels meet that challenge with their combination of health benefits and flavour.

Healthy, natural sunflower oil is produced from oil type sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil is light in taste and appearance and supplies more Vitamin E than any other vegetable oil. It is a combination of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with low saturated fat levels.

Sunflower oil is valued for its light taste, frying performance and health benefits. Unlike the many high-proteins, low-carbohydrate (low-carb) foods on the market that may be increasing risk of heart disease due to their saturated fat contents, sunflower seeds are naturally full of several nutrients including antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease. For one, sunflower seeds package 76 per cent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E, which makes them the richest whole-food source of vitamin E.

Furthermore, most of the vitamin E in sunflower seeds is in the form of alphatocopherol, the most beneficial, biologically active form. In fact, data suggest it may be more beneficial to eat vitamin E-rich foods such as sunflower seeds instead of taking supplemental vitamin E.

A study has shown vitamin E-rich foods are associated with a lower risk of death from stroke, but the same was not true for supplemental vitamin E. Other recent studies support that the vitamin E in foods, but not from supplements, was found to be associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Vitamin E from foods may be better than from supplements because nutrients are thought to work together in foods to provide health benefits. An ounce of sunflower seeds also provides about 25 per cent of daily needs for selenium, another antioxidant that has been shown to work with vitamin E to protect cells from damage that may cause heart disease.

In addition, sunflower seeds contain copper, which plays a vital role in antioxidant enzymes in the body. This may further prevent oxidative stress, which has been associated with heart disease. Sunflower seeds provide 25 per cent of the daily value for copper in one ounce.

Unsaturated fat like the kind found in sunflower seeds does not increase heart disease risk. In fact, almost 90 per cent of the fat in sunflower seeds is the healthiest type for the heart “good,” unsaturated fat, which can actually reduce the risk of heart disease.

Substituting “good” unsaturated fats for saturated and trans fats is one of the top three most effective diet strategies for preventing coronary heart disease. Sunflower seeds contain mono and polyunsaturated fat, both of which are important to health. Similarly, trans fat has been shown to increase total and LDL cholesterol, but may also decrease the “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Sunflower seeds are naturally “low-carb” and provide healthful unsaturated fat and fibre to replace carbohydrates in the diet, potentially protecting against heart disease. Sunflower seeds provide only four grams of carbohydrate per one-ounce serving, two of which are fibre. Fibre is the indigestible part of plants that has been shown to lower cholesterol.

Sunflower seeds can be added to foods that also contain fibre, such as salads, whole-grain breads, oatmeal, or trail mix. When eaten in these ways, sunflower seeds offer a way to increase flavour and provide crunchy texture for other food sources of fibre.

Experts recommend aiming for 20 to 35 grams of fibre per day. Sunflower seeds are packed with a surprising amount of protein — six grams per ounce. Coupled with fibre and tasty “good” fat, sunflower seeds may help increase satisfaction and stave off hunger, thereby promoting weight loss.

Eating sunflower seeds as part of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet provides several hard-to-get nutrients including folate and magnesium. Evidence has shown that both nutrients, may lower risk for heart disease. Furthermore, new research suggests that eating adequate amounts of magnesium may lower risk of type two diabetes. Sunflower seeds also deliver phytochemicals, such as phenolic acids and lignins, which may help prevent heart disease and cancer. Experts recommend eating a variety of whole foods, like sunflower seeds, to meet nutrient needs.

Nuts and seeds are rich sources of phytosterols, a class of plant chemicals that have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health. In what is believed to be the most comprehensive analysis to-date of the phytosterol content of nuts and seeds, chemists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA., analysed some 27 nut and seed products that are most commonly consumed as snack foods in the United States. The researchers found that pistachios and sunflower kernels had the highest levels of phytosterols.

Courtesy: The DAWN;

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