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November 17, 2022 3 min read
Finding the right high-performance diet can be challenging for an athlete. Not only do their meals need to be healthy and filled with the proper mix of nutrients, but they also need a few snacks they can munch on before, after, and occasionally during competition.
Sports dietitians specialize in this field and can help these athletes perform at their best by recommending meals and snacks to eat, but why do so many recommend sunflower seeds? Are sunflower seeds healthy? We’ll answer these questions and more by covering the nutrition facts of sunflower seeds and explaining why they’re the high-protein snack choice of many athletes.
Sunflower seeds contain many different nutrients that make them great plant-based snacks for athletes and are a great source of vitamins E and B1, magnesium, unsaturated fats, and protein. Each of these is important for a different reason, which we’ll break down below.
Protein is an important part of any athlete's diet, and for good reasons. It can also help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure while slowing the rate at which your stomach empties, which keeps you feeling full longer while slowing the sugar released from carbohydrates.
You'll get 87% of your daily value of vitamin E if you eat one serving of sunflower seeds, which is 30 grams, or ¼ cup. This vitamin is an antioxidant, which helps prevent some chronic diseases. It also helps prevent chronic inflammation by lowering the levels of C-reactive proteins, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease in high amounts.
In a ¼ cup serving of sunflower seeds, you’ll have eaten 47% of your daily value of vitamin B1, which helps translate the food you’ve eaten, specifically proteins and fats, into energy. Eating this vitamin's daily value will help you keep your energy levels up and prevent fatigue.
Magnesium has several benefits, from relaxing muscles and blood vessels, the latter of which reduces blood pressure, to lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. The magnesium content in sunflower seeds can also benefit those who struggle to sleep at night by allowing them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer periods.
Unsaturated fats are good for your heart, and sunflower seeds are rich in a few unsaturated fatty acids, one of which is called linoleic acid. This acid creates hormones that relax blood vessels and promote low blood sugar. Some unsaturated fats also reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
As you can see, sunflower seeds have many benefits, but we’ve still only scratched the
surface. From boosting your immune health to improving your skin and hair health, there’s still plenty to talk about when it comes to sunflower seeds and their benefits.
The vitamin E and selenium found in sunflower seeds both improve the health of your immune system in unique ways. On top of the already mentioned benefits of vitamin E, it also promotes the creation of T-cells, which create many immune cells. Selenium helps fight infections and disease, and you can find half of your recommended daily value in 30 grams of sunflower seeds. It can also help repair damaged cells and attract apoptosis cells, which kill damaged and cancerous cells.
Sunflower seeds also contain a compound called beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol is a plant membrane that reduces tumor size and can even help prevent cancer from spreading. As a result, eating sunflower seeds may reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.
Hair and Skin Health
Vitamin E is a valuable vitamin, and it continues to prove this fact when it comes to skin and hair health. This vitamin works with zinc, also found in sunflower seeds, to prevent blemishes from forming and protect your skin from bacteria. So should any unwanted bacteria enter your body, zinc will also help flush them out.
Sunflower seeds also contain oleic and linoleic acids, which help collagen and elastin form. These two compounds help prevent scarring and reduce wrinkle definition. They also help your hair grow faster and to avoid breakage.
Sesamol, or sesame seed oil, and vitamin E work together to protect your hair and scalp from the free radicals that would otherwise damage it. All of these elements contribute to the claim that sunflower seeds improve your hair and skin health and add to how healthy sunflower seeds are.