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Summer is wonderful; longer days, nourishing sunshine and lots of time spent outdoors. Unlike winter time when we’re wrapped up and sitting firmly in front of the fire with a warm cup of tea, summer is the time to get more active. But making the most of the season requires an important consideration: your diet! The food you eat provides your body with nutrition and energy so naturally, the more you move, the more you need! Specifically, it’s important to highlight the importance of protein for muscle and cell repair but also healthy fats (for sustained energy and to help absorb fat soluble vitamins), B complex (for energy) and minerals (for electrolyte balance). Enter sunflower seeds. The nutrients in seeds can support your diet in a number of ways and sunflower seeds specifically have a lot to offer. Let’s explore….
Nutrients in Seeds: Sunflower Seeds
Like the name suggests, sunflower seeds come from the sunflower. Encased in a black-ish shell, these seeds grow at the centre of the yellow flower and are a rich source of healthy fat, vitamins and minerals.
When it comes to the nutrients in seeds, you can find the full nutrient profile here but the most notable mentions include:
- A rich source of mono and polyunsaturated fat considered good for lowering cholesterol
- A source of copper, zinc, iron and fiber all of which carry oxygen and so help with energy production, cardiovascular and immune health.
- A rich source of vitamin E: the antioxidant that fights free radical damage and also supports the cardiovascular system.
- A great source of fibre to help keep your digestive system moving!
- A source of selenium: selenium too works with vitamin E to support against free radical damage. In addition, it also supports the thyroid! Your thyroid is an endocrine gland which controls a multitude of things from your metabolism, to your body temperature, to your adrenal health and even your cholesterol levels. It is truly a master hormone! Selenium supports your thyroid by helping the conversion of the inactive T4 to the active T3 as well as protecting your thyroid when you are stressed!
- A source of B vitamins! The B group of vitamins is probably one of the best known. They not only provide us with energy but also help repair our DNA and RNA and support production of new red blood cells.
- A great support for preventing osteoporosis, bone loss, and muscle cramps. Most of us are deficient in magnesium, a key mineral that supports calcium/potassium ratio within cells. Magnesium helps to reduce migraine headaches, constipation, chronic fatigue, and even mood disorders like depression and anxiety (source)
- A source of vegan friendly protein! An ounce of sunflower seeds contains 12 percent of the daily value of protein, says the National Sunflower Association (source). Let’s explore this a bit more in the next section…
A great source of protein?
As a raw vegan foodie, iRaw founder Asa is very conscious of ensuring that both her diet and her product range contains good sources of protein. Protein is the one macronutrient we cannot live without but the amount we need to survive is quite small. The minimum recommended amount is around 10% of your daily macronutrient intake. While omnivores may find it incredibly easy to source their protein from animal foods, a vegan diet requires just a little bit more effort. Nuts and seeds are actually a fantastic source of protein believe it or not! Not only that, but the nutrients in seeds add an extra micronutrient element that can further nourish your body.
Other vegan protein sources you might like: spirulina, nuts, beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, fermented soy alternatives to milk and yoghurt and leafy greens! Yes – broccoli, spinach, collards and more all contain protein (source)
Other seeds and their benefits
At iRaw, we are big lovers of sunflower seeds. But when it comes to nutrients in seeds, of course there are plenty of other choices to look at:
- Pumpkin Seeds: another common seeds and popular snack rich in healthy fats,
- Chia Seeds: a great source of omega 3 fatty acids! Try chia pudding as a breakfast or snack.
- Hemp Seeds: a rich source of vegan protein
- Flaxseeds: high in healthy fat and a source of ALA which our body then converts to omega 3.
- Sesame seeds: a great source of fibre! You might have already spotted them blended up into a tahini paste which can be used with honey (or agave for vegans) to make halva. Great as a dressing too for a more savoury taste.
- Poppy Seeds: Used for centuries in traditional foods including halva and as a pastry filling, these seeds have a wonderful flavour for both savoury and sweet dishes.
- Papaya seeds: yes they’re edible ! Rinse and dry them to then use as a garnish or grind up as a seasoning.
How and where to buy seeds
Sunflower seeds are one of the most consumed seeds around the world. They are also grown and harvested all around the world from Russia to the USA. They can be consumed raw, sprouted, roasted, toasted, and just about everything in between. In fact, you’ve probably even seen sunflower seed butter in health stores as a popular alternative to nut butter. They are less likely to cause an allergic reaction compared to nuts like almonds. Plus the nutrients in seeds ensure you still get healthy fats and plenty of vitamins. In shops, you can find sunflower seeds as both shelled and unshelled. Try to look for seeds that are uniform in colour, firm and plump. Sometimes the black shell may have a white strip which is completely normal.
The main thing to note is the nuts and seeds should not be left sitting around for long periods of time. They can and do go rancid! Like oils, nuts and seeds are too susceptible to damage from light, heat and air. In order to preserve maximum nutrients in seeds, store them in an airtight container in a dark room or even in the fridge. Try to consume as soon as possible. And of course, where possible we always encourage you to buy organic!
Sunflower Seeds and iRaw Rawl Ups
At iRaw, we love seeds and you will find them in many of our products including the peppery kale, eastern fusion, creamy caramel, green superfood and spicy chocolate rawl ups! Our Rawl Ups have up to 32% less sugar and 58% less calories than many similar bars on the market. Rich in superfood ingredients including raw cacao, maca, spirulina, goji and and of course sunflower seeds!
So there you have it – who knew seeds were so versatile and good for you! The nutrients in seeds, especially sunflower seeds, can provide a rich source of micro nutrition for your diet.
A Sneak Peak – The Golden Burger
We’ve mentioned before that iRaw is still a young company with big goals. One of these is expanding our range from the 18 products available to the full 45 Asa has created. All nutrient dense organic raw and vegan. While we complete our move to a bigger premises, we are busy recipe testing and preparing our next product. And we have a sneak peak. Rich in turmeric, coriander and…you guessed it…sunflower seeds. We present you The Golden Burger. We have big hopes for this one! It’s doesn’t disappoint. Stay tuned.