I don't know why, but sunflowers just make you wanna smile. Especially when you stumble unexpectedly on a field of them. Maybe you’re cycling through the countryside and suddenly, boom—there they are! Makes your heart stop.
Perhaps it's their loopy oversized flower heads. Or that they grow tall as us, almost human. Whatever it is, their blazing, unapologetic sunny yellow never fails to wake us right up. Actually makes us feel sunny.
I’m not of course talking about van Gogh’s droopy dried-up bunches. That's a whole other kettle of paint, though you have to admit they do age gracefully. (Hope I look that interesting when I get old.)
But actually there’s more to sunflowers than meets the eye, which is one reason we love them so much at Joyfuel.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of many important nutrients, especially vitamin E and selenium. They also contain many beneficial plant compounds including phenolic acids and flavonoids, which function as antioxidants to help protect your body’s cells against free radical damage and a number of chronic diseases.
Lower blood pressure
Studies link sunflowers to other health benefits such as helping lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars.
A compound in the seeds blocks an enzyme that causes blood vessels to constrict. As a result, they're thought to help blood vessels relax, and lower your blood pressure. Magnesium in the seeds is also believed to help too.
Sunflower also plays a part in lowering cholesterol levels. Being rich in unsaturated fatty acids, especially linoleic acid, which your body uses to make a hormone-like compound that relaxes blood vessels, promoting lower blood pressure.
In a 3-week study, women with type 2 diabetes who ate 30 grams of sunflower seeds daily as part of a balanced diet experienced a 5% drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading).
Participants also noted a significant decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides respectively.
A further review of 13 studies found people with the highest linoleic acid intake had a 15% lower risk of heart disease events, such as heart attack, and a 21% lower risk of fatal heart disease, compared to those with the lowest intake.
The effects of sunflower seeds on blood sugar and type 2 diabetes have been tested in a few studies and seem promising, though more research is needed.
Studies suggest that people who eat 30 grams of sunflower seeds daily as part of a healthy diet may reduce fasting blood sugar by about 10% within six months, compared to a healthy diet alone. It's thought this may partially be due to the plant compound chlorogenic acid.
Studies also suggest that adding sunflower seeds to starchy foods like bread may help decrease carbs’ effect on your blood sugar. The seeds’ protein and fat slow the rate at which your stomach empties, allowing a more gradual release of sugar from carbs.
While short-term inflammation is a natural immune response, chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.
For example, increased blood levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In a study in more than 6,000 adults, those who reported eating sunflower seeds and other seeds at least five times a week had 32% lower levels of C-reactive protein compared to people who ate no seeds.
Though not definitive, it is known that vitamin E — which is abundant in sunflower seeds — helps lower C-reactive protein levels.
At Joyfuel, we use whole and ground sunflower seeds abundantly in our treats, as well as sunflower lecithin which has another bunch of specific benefits. But we'll save that for another time....