Relaxing sounds as though it should be simple, but, for a wide variety of reasons, it’s a struggle for many people. Stress, anxiety, and life, in general, can make it difficult to reach a relaxed state. There are many ways to overcome these challenges, such as music and exercise, but what does and doesn’t work is different for everybody. This raises the question: can sunflower seeds help you relax?
Do’s and Don’ts
Finding foods that can fight anxiety is a must for anyone struggling with it. As you research different ways to relieve stress and anxiety and promote relaxation, a lot of different sources will tell you to try out some things while avoiding others. For example, avoiding refined sugar is a common suggestion. Instead, some recommendations to help you relax are eating plenty of protein and consuming plenty of serotonin and tryptophan, all of which sunflower seeds contain.
When you think of protein, meat is probably the first thing that comes to mind, but you shouldn't overlook the humble sunflower seed. In ¼ a cup of dry-roasted shelled sunflower seeds, you’ll find more than 5 grams of protein. If this were a meal, that number would be disappointing, but for a snack that’s as small as a sunflower kernel, that’s impressive.
Compared to the other proteins, tryptophan is one of the rarest yet also arguably one of the most well-known. It’s fairly common knowledge at this point that your Thanksgiving turkey has tryptophan, which is why you may feel tired after your large meal. While there are probably many reasons why you feel sleepy after the big Thanksgiving feast, tryptophan is one of them.
It gets converted into serotonin in your brain, which helps you sleep and can make you feel more relaxed. Despite being one of the rarest proteins to encounter, you can find it in sunflower seeds as well as pumpkin seeds and peanuts. So if you’re looking for a good snack before bed, a trail mix containing these ingredients is a good option.
As mentioned above, tryptophan is converted into serotonin in the brain, but what does it do exactly, and why does everything say it helps you relax? Serotonin is released from your brain to relax nerves and ease tension. Sunflower seeds contain tryptophan, selenium, and vitamin B12, which help your body produce this relaxing chemical.
Sunflower seeds are high in folate, or vitamin B-9, which promotes the formation and growth of red blood cells and has been found to help treat depression. It can also reduce the risk of some cancers and prevent congenital disabilities. Other foods to consider adding to your diet alongside sunflower seeds to increase your folate consumption include peas, nuts, and some fruits like oranges and bananas.
On top of the aforementioned health benefits and more that we haven’t discussed, there are other ways that sunflower seeds can help you relax.
Simple, Repetitive Task
Some people chew gum, which helps them relax and focus by providing an extra, simple task to complete while working on something stressful. The simple task in the case of chewing gum is, well, chewing the gum and enjoying its flavor.
In-shell sunflower seeds provide something similar by forcing you to crack open the shell before you can eat the kernel within. Seeds are a great option for keeping your hands and mouth busy (and your brain from fixating on negative thoughts) because cracking them open is a ritual in and of itself.
Did you know the Mayo Clinic recommends giving your mouth something to do to fight tobacco cravings? In particular, the recommend munching on something “crunchy and satisfying” like sunflower seeds or raw vegetables.
Comfort in Knowing
Sometimes, we are comforted just by knowing we are making the right choices, and adding sunflower seeds to our diet is a good decision. As you've discovered, there are a lot of unexpected benefits of sunflower seeds, but there’s even more that we haven’t discussed here.
For example, sunflower seeds also include magnesium, which can relax your muscles and leave you feeling more relaxed and sleepy as a result. And, of course, sunflower seeds also taste great.
If you struggle to relax due to stress, anxiety, that annoying commute to and from work, or something else, consider stocking your pantry with some sunflower seeds. It may be just what your body and your mind needs.