Sunflowers are native to both North and South America, where indigenous people were the first to cultivate them. Sunflowers have been cultivated for more than 5000 years by the Native Americans, who used all the parts of the plant for various purposes, such as oil sources and dye pigments. The Spanish explorers took the sunflower back to Europe, from which it extended its beauty to adjoining countries. Today, sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world.
The health benefits of sunflower seeds are similar to nuts that provide a high content of monounsaturated fat and arginine. Research studies have shown that the important nutrients a sunflower provides are often in insufficient supply in the American diet. Deficient intake of these vital nutrients has been shown to be linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and selenium in particular has anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antiallergenic properties as well.
How to Select and Store
Whenever possible, purchase organic sunflower seeds, shelled or unshelled. It is important to make sure they are not broken, dirty, or limp nor appear yellow in color. Sunflower seeds that are limp or yellow are probably rancid. The highest-quality sunflower oil is cold-pressed (this should be clearly stated on the bottle). Once the bottle has been opened, store it in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.
Quick Serving Ideas:
- Add sunflower seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal
- Add sunflower seeds to any rice pilaf dish
- Flaxseed dessert balls: Mix together ground flaxseed, ground sunflower seeds, ground sesame seeds, some carob powder, ground coconut, a pinch of salt, and some honey or maple syrup. Knead the mixture together and form it into balls.
Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.