|Alternative name(s)||Sunflower seed butter|
|Main ingredient(s)||Oil of sunflower seeds|
Sunflower butter, also known as sunflower seed butter, is a food paste made from the oil of sunflower seeds. Leading brands in the United States include SunButter and Trader Joe's sunflower seed butter.
U.S. commercial versions of sunflower butter were first introduced in the early 1980s as alternatives to peanut butter, particularly for those with nut allergies or peanut allergies; these attempts were unsuccessful, which was attributed to issues with its greenish appearance, "poor texture", and a bitter under-roasted taste.
Two decades later, in 2000, researchers at the Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture, working with sunflower seed processor Red River Commodities, developed a formulation that "resembled the texture, flavor, and nutty appearance of commercially available peanut butter", focusing on the degree of roasting and the amounts of sugar, salt, and stabilizer (hydrogenated cottonseed and rapeseed oils). At that same time, Red River Commodities invested in new sunflower seed hybrids and specialized production areas, formed the subsidiary SunGold Foods, Inc., and created a peanut-free and tree-nut free food processing, packaging, distribution and shipping environment at both company’s locations. The substitute for peanut butter, introduced in 2002, became known as SunButter.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, zinc and iron, and are low in saturated fat. They are also rich in alpha-tocopherols, which have been shown effective in reducing the risk of certain types of cancers, including bladder cancer.
Alternative to peanut butter
Due to the prevalence of peanut allergies, many schools are offering peanut-free menu options or implementing entirely nut-free policies. Sunflower butter can provide an alternative in schools where peanut butter and other nuts have been banned. However, a small number of people with peanut allergies may also be allergic to sunflower seed butter. According to one study a person with a known peanut allergy suffered an acute reaction to a "nut-free" butter containing sunflower seeds.
From a nutritional perspective, sunflower butter contains almost four times as much vitamin E as peanut butter, and about twice as much iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Peanut butter contains higher levels of protein and slightly less sugar and fat.
Raw versus roasted butter
The macronutrient profiles of raw and roasted sunflower seeds are largely similar. However, many raw food enthusiasts feel that roasting reduces the nutritional value and antioxidant levels of the seeds.
SunButter is now available in a variety of flavors, and is found in grocery chains and health food stores. It is used in many institutional foodservice programs, including public and private schools and school districts that have become peanut-free and tree-nut free as part of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA), which calls for voluntary national guidelines to help schools manage students affected by food allergy and anaphylaxis.
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