By Henry Schliff
Sunflower seeds are the gift of the beautiful sunflower that has been cultivated for its ornamental beauty and culinary uses for more than 5,000 years.
Sunflower seeds are low in cost (one sunflower can yield up to 2,000 seeds), and are considered as one of the world’s healthiest foods.
The following are just a few of the many healthful benefits of sunflower seeds:
- An excellent source of vitamin E. Just one quarter cup supplies 80 percent of alpha-tocopherol, which is the most active form of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant that is used by the body to destroy free radicals that cause inflammation that can lead to arthritis, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- An excellent source of selenium, which has been shown to aid in the repair of the DNA of damaged cells which helps to reduce the risk of cancer.
- A good source of magnesium, which promotes healthy bone growth and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of asthma, lower blood pressure and prevent migraine headaches.
- They contain high amounts of linoleic acid, which helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and promote HDL (good) cholesterol.
- They are high in fiber and an excellent source of high quality protein: 100 grams provide about 21 grams of protein.
- They contain high amounts of B-complex vitamins and folic acid.
Sunflower seeds can be found in many grocery and health food stores. They contain a high percentage of healthy fat, and therefore the hulled seeds, which are the easiest to use, need to be kept stored in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent rancidity.
Toasted sunflower seeds (see the following recipe) make a tasty, healthful snack. They make a delicious addition to breads, muffins, and cookies; add crunchiness to salads, texture and a nutritional boost to hot and cold cereal.
They provide added flavor to stir-fries and sautéed vegetables. Their use in cooking is only limited by your imagination.
One of my favorite ways to use toasted sunflower seeds is in hummus in place of store-bought tahini (sesame seed paste).
Sunflower Seed Hummus
½ cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
1½ tsp. warm organic coconut oil (olive oil can be substituted)
½ tsp. honey
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (homemade or canned, drained and rinsed)
3 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbs. filtered water
To make the Sun Butter – Sunflower Tahini
Preheat a large skillet for three minutes. Add the sunflower seeds and spread them out evenly along the surface of the pan. Toast the sunflower seeds over medium heat, stirring often, until they become fragrant, and some of them become lightly browned. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the seeds onto a sheet pan to cool for 5 minutes. Place the warm toasted seeds into a food processor. Process the seeds for a few minutes until they clump together into a paste. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and continue processing until the paste becomes more liquid and soft, scraping the bowl as often as+ is needed. Add the warm coconut or olive oil and honey and process again briefly to combine everything well. Note: Sun butter is a delicious alternative peanut butter. Add additional honey and oil for desired creaminess and flavor.
Add the remaining ingredients and process again until the mixture is soft and creamy adding additional water if necessary. Serve with raw vegetables, apple slices and pita chips.