Rays of Sunshine: Health benefits of sunflower oil and seeds

Sunflowers are joyous plants to encounter with their big blooms and sun-like glow. What’s more these beautiful plants, produce oils and seeds that make you feel as good as coming face-to-face with a sunflower.

The blooms of the sunflower actually move to follow the sun from east to west across the sky, and the sunflower is associated with the sun and all solar deities. The Aztecs and Incas were just some of the ancient civilisations who used the sunflower as a symbol for their solar deity.

Sunflower was a common crop among American Indian tribes throughout North America. Sunflower seeds were ground or pounded into flour for cakes or bread. Some tribes mixed the meal with other vegetables such as beans, squash, and corn.

In addition, the sunflower was used as a dye for textiles, body paint for tribal markings, parts of the plant were used medicinally and the dried stalk was used as a building material.

Nowadays, the sunflower continues to be used in much the same ways, and its health benefits are revered, whether in either oil or seed form.

Health benefits of sunflower oil

Some of the health benefits of sunflower oil include its ability to improve heart health, boost energy, strengthen the immune system, improve skin health, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, protect against asthma, and reduce inflammation.

Sunflower oil is a light, mild-tasting oil that works well in cooking. In recent years, olive oil has grown popular in use as a cooking oil, but it can alter the taste of food, while sunflower has a slight and subtle taste which does not alter the taste of food. As an all rounder, sunflower oil is more versatile and its uses far and wide.

Sunflower oil is rich in vitamins including A, B, C and E and minerals such as iron, potassium and calcium, as well as essential fatty acids.

Sunflower oil is also a good moisturiser for skin and hair. The oil is light and absorbs easily into the skin and hair shaft. It is a natural moisturiser and conditioner for hair, without leaving hair greasy.

The balance of fatty acids found in sunflower oil, including a good amount of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) is very good. Although omega-6 fatty acids are typically considered “bad” cholesterol, they are still essential in the body. Furthermore, sunflower oil doesn’t contain any saturated fats, which means that it can actually reduce your overall cholesterol content in the body.

Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in the body. It has been directly connected to preventing heart disease and boosting the immune system.

Sunflower oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used to treat arthritis by directly rubbing the oil into the targeted areas or by ingesting the oil. It too has been known to reduce the condition of asthma.

Health benefits of sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are just as versatile, healthy and nutritious as sunflower oil. Sunflower seeds can be eaten on their own as a snack, or added to yogurt and salads. They contain numerous vitamins and minerals that help your body maintain optimal functioning.

Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E – an antioxidant that helps protect cells against damage from free radicals – and selenium – a mineral that works with vitamin E as an antioxidant to help protect cells from damage.

The seeds are also a good source of folate, a vitamin known in its synthetic form as folic acid, which is necessary for the body to make new red blood cells and is important for pregnant women, assisting with the normal development of the fetus.

Sunflower seeds also contain significant amounts of copper, zinc, iron and fibre. These minerals help with carrying oxygen to red blood cells and throughout the body, producing energy, maintaining the immune system, stabilising blood glucose and blood cholesterol, and preventing constipation.

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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