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 Foods: Seeds 
 

Again, raw sunflower seeds are probably the best, higher in nutrition than roasted and definitely better than salted seeds. For people with blood pressure problems, sunflower seeds (unsalted!) are very high in potassium and low in sodium, a balance sorely needed by most of us these Day s with so many salty foods available. One cup of sunflower seeds contains more than 1,300 mg. of potassium and only 4 mg. of sodium. This is likely very helpful as a diuretic or for people who already take diuretics, to help replace some potassium. The high amount of oil in sunflower seeds as polyunsaturated fats, essential linoleic acid, and vitamin E is also helpful in reducing cholesterol levels and improving or preventing cardiovascular disease.

However, sunflower seeds are caloric; one half cup of hulled seeds is approximately 400 calories. If we are watching our figures, then we?ll have to go a little easy on sunflower seeds, but from all other aspects of nutrition, they are a good food. For those who need to gain weight or substitute more vegetable oils for saturated fats, sunflower seeds can be very good. They are about 25 percent protein, have a good fiber content, the best of the seeds, and are richer in the B vitamins also, particularly in thiamine, pyridoxine, niacin, and pantothenic acid. With their high potassium and low sodium and with zinc, iron, and calcium all at good levels, sunflower seeds are a very mineral-rich food. The vitamin D that gets stored in these sun-filled seeds helps the utilization of calcium. Copper, manganese, and phosphorus levels are also relatively high; they are lower in magnesium than in calcium, which is different from other seeds.

Sunflower seed oil is a very good one. It is often used in margarines or cooking oils. It is rich in polyunsaturates and linoleic oil and has a fairly low rancidity level compared to other oils. This may be because of its vitamin E content. Cold-pressed sunflower oil is the best. It should also be refrigerated once opened to avoid spoilage. Cold storage of most nuts and seeds is generally suggested.

Sunflower seeds have many other uses besides as an oil or nutritious snack food. They can be sprinkled on salads, are used in baking breads and cookies, and can be baked in vegetable casseroles to add protein, flavor, and crunch. A ground or blended sunflower-sesame sprinkle with a bit of salt or other seasonings can be a nutrient-rich, low-sodium seasoning. Almond-sunflower blend is also good, and a spicy high-mineral protein blend includes ground sunflower and sesame seeds (either white or black), nori seaweed flakes, and cayenne pepper. If sunflower seeds are soaked overnight, it makes them more digestible and alkaline-forming. When added to green salads, they supply a tasty crunch, along with some protein and fatty acids. This is also true for nuts. A great combination is soaked almonds, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
 
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