The Amazing Sunflower
Listening to recent advertising of prescription medications, no doubt you’ve heard the long lists of “may cause,” and “If you experience,” included with the sales pitch. It’s frightening. Why take a medication listing possible side effects twice as long as what it’s supposed to remedy? Many are asking the same question and are seeking options with alternative medicines.
Native Americans have long used sunflower seeds to improve eyesight, treat constipation, worms, chest pains and ulcers. Modern day nutritionists and scientists have “rediscovered” what they have always known…that nutritional and chemical properties of sunflower seeds are indeed medically beneficial. Sunflowers also produce latex, and are being experimented with to discover their suitability as an alternative crop for producing hypoallergenic rubber.
Experts say raw, unsalted sunflower seeds are healthier than roasted and should be shelled to prevent digestive tract blockage. What make them effective are their minerals, oils and vitamins that include Potassium, Magnesium and Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant said to aid in protecting the body’s cells and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol. It’s also an anti-inflammatory agent. About 90 percent of daily Vitamin E requirements can be obtained in 1/4 cup.
One cup of non-salted sunflower seeds has at least 1,300 mg and a mere 4 mg of sodium. According to Oregon State University studies, sunflower seeds are a good source of potassium that reduces risk of stroke or kidney stones. Vegetables and fruit are also a good source. Potassium also helps reduce the chance of osteoporosis and lowers blood pressure.
The same 1/4 cup provides approximately 30 percent of one’s daily magnesium requirement. Magnesium assists in protecting nerve cells by preventing excessive calcium buildup. A calcium overload can damage nerve cells that could result in muscle spasms. According to the The George Mateljan Foundation for the World's Healthiest Foods, a not-for-profit organization providing scientifically proven information on the benefits of healthy eating, magnesium also has the following benefits:
· Lowers risk of stroke and heart problems
· Reduces blood pressure
· Eliminates migraines and helps asthma related conditions.
Despite their small size, sunflower seeds pack a large amount of health benefits. 1/4 cup also provides these daily requirements.
· 55 percent of B1
· 90 percent of vitamin E
· 36 percent of manganese
· 25 percent of phosphorus
· 20 percent of folate, a water-soluble B vitamin occurring naturally in food.
· 18 amino acids and traces of other vitamins and minerals.
· Sunflower oil is often used as a source of unsaturated fat in the diet.
The National Sunflower Association says sunflower oil is rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, is lower in saturated fat and also healthy for cooking. Some use it topically to promote wound healing and treat certain skin conditions. Many physicians state there is evidence suggesting use of sunflower oil instead of olive oil may lower LDL cholesterol.
This all sounds great, but there may be some side effects associated with the use of sunflower oil for certain people. Allergic reactions have occurred in people sensitive to ragweed, daisies, marigolds and others. Allergy sufferers should see a physician before using it. Also, those with Type 2 diabetes should avoid its use since it tends to contribute to hardening of the arteries and increases blood sugar and fasting insulin levels.
Although sunflower seeds are relatively inexpensive to purchase, many prefer to grow their own. They are hardy semi-annual plants, are easy to grow and also make an ideal garden project for children.
You can buy your own seeds or get them from a friend’s garden. Once they are grown, seeds can be harvested by snipping off the flower head and gently wiping across it with a clean cloth. There are many how-to sites on the web dedicated to growing them.