|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||2,445 kJ (584 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||8.6 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
The sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). The term "sunflower seed" is actually a misnomer when applied to the seed in its pericarp (hull). Botanically speaking, it is more properly referred to as an achene. When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel or heart.
There are three types of commonly used sunflower seeds: linoleic (most common), high oleic, and NuSun. Each variety has its own unique levels of monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fats. The information in this article refers mainly to the linoleic variety.
For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are usually classified by the pattern on their husks. If the husk is solid black, the seeds are called black oil sunflower seeds. The crops may be referred to as oilseed sunflower crops. These seeds are usually pressed to extract their oil. Striped sunflower seeds are primarily used for food; as a result, they may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.
|Rank||Country||× 106 t||Country area (km²)|
|Raw sunflower seeds, intended for planting.|
Sunflower seeds are more commonly eaten as a healthy snack than as part of a meal. They can also be used as garnishes or ingredients in various recipes. The seeds may be sold as in-shell seeds or dehulled kernels. The seeds can also be sprouted and eaten in salads.
When in-shell seeds are processed, they are first dried. Afterwards, they may also be roasted or dusted with salt or flour for preservation of flavor. Dehulling is commonly performed by cracking the hull with one's teeth and spitting it out while keeping the kernel in the mouth and eating it.
Sunflower seeds sold by the bag are either eaten "plain" (salted only) or with a variety of flavorings added by the maker including barbecue, pickle, hot sauce, bacon, ranch, and nacho cheese as well as others.
In-shell sunflower seeds are particularly popular in Mediterranean and Asian countries, including Egypt, Syria, Israel, Turkey, and Malaysia. In Turkey, Syria and Israel they can be bought freshly roasted in shops and markets and are a common stadium food, while in Malaysia they can be bought freshly packed in various roasted flavors. They are also popular in countries worldwide including Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, Spain, China, Morocco, Iran, Canada and the United States. In the United States, they are commonly eaten by baseball players as an alternative to chewing tobacco.
Dehulled kernels have been mechanically processed to remove the hull. These kernels may be sold raw or roasted. These dehulled kernels are sometimes added to bread and other baked goods for their flavor. There is also sunflower butter, similar to peanut butter, but using sunflower seeds instead of peanuts. Apart from human consumption, sunflower seeds are also used as food for pets and wild birds in boxes and small bags.
Over the past decades sunflower oil has become popular worldwide. The oil may be used as is, or may be processed into polyunsaturated margarines. The oil is typically extracted by applying great pressure to the sunflower seeds and collecting the oil. The protein-rich cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed.
The original sunflower oil (linoleic sunflower oil) is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (about 68% linoleic acid) and low in saturated fats, such as palmitic acid and stearic acid. However, various hybrids have been developed to alter the fatty acid profile of the crop for various purposes.
In the future, sunflower oil could become a renewable bio-source for hydrogen. A team for the University of Leeds has developed a workable method for the extraction of hydrogen from sunflower oil, through a chain of chemical reactions with nickel-based and carbon-based catalysts. However, while the plant's photosynthesis essentially captures the hydrogen, the energy necessary to liberate hydrogen gas from the hydrocarbons from sunflower oil is considerably greater than the energy of the liberated gas. Therefore, although sunflower oil could certainly be used for this purpose, it is not, by any means, a 'free' or even 'eco-friendly' source of energy.
Sunflower seed deoiled cakes/meals
Oil extraction from the seeds with or without the hulls result in different types of meals, such as:
- Whole seed expeller meal
- Solvent extracted whole seed meal
- Dehulled solvent extracted meal
Solvent Extracted meals are low in oil content. Defatted meal is used in feed stuffs. Meal colour varies from grey to black depending on content of hull and heat treatment.
Sunflower seed deoiled cake/meal specifications and nutrients
|Vegetable oil and albumins||30 min|
|Total digestible nutrients||71|
|Total crude protein||30|
|Digestible crude protein||23|
|Essential amino acids|
In addition to providing linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, some amino acids (especially tryptophan), vitamin E, several B vitamins (especially thiamine, pantothenic acid, and folic acid). Additionally, they are rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. Furthermore, sunflower seeds boast a low glycemic index as well as high levels of protein and minerals including magnesium and copper.
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