Sunflower Uses & benefits

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Why sunflower is actually a healthy food

Sunflower, one of the most celebrated flowers, known for its peculiar habit to be always smiling toward the sun, has always been appreciated for its great beauty and azure charm. From small bouquets to huge mansions, they adorn and beautify all important places. However, a far neglected and rarely contemplated importance of this beautiful flower lies in the benefits it provides to human health. Sunflower seeds and oil have been used since ages for various purposes, however the immensity of the number of health problems that they solve remains hidden from the notice of the world. Let us go through a journey of the sunflower's contributions to the health and safety of mankind.

The botanical name of Sunflower is Helianthus annuus. Here, Helios stands for the Sun and Andos for flowers. It belongs to the daisy family. It is originally a native of North America from where it migrated to numerous places around the world. It is now a major production of Russia and other European as well as Asian countries. It generally has deep roots which can penetrate up to 2-4 meters in the ground, which help in absorbing excessive water and salts, hence are popular in marshes and wetland areas. Another great quality is the ability of sunflowers to extract and absorb radioactive elements from the soil. The sunflower fruit has one light grey seed. It is rich in herbal oils, vitamins, proteins and minerals. A mature sunflower can contain up to half a kilo of seeds.

Since we have come upon the topic of seeds, let us focus all the about the sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds taste just like nuts do. They have a tender texture. Usually the seeds are black (mostly) or greyish green in color and are encased in black or grey covers. These seeds are the primary source of oil from the sunflower. These seeds are generally of 3 types- Linoleic, highly Oleic and NuSun. Generally the oil obtained from sunflower seeds is known to be polysaturated. However, the above bifurcation has been done based on the type of oil obtained, i.e. Polysaturated, monosaturated or saturated. Sunflower seeds are the greatest sources of Vitamin C as well as antioxidants. Vitamin E is also present in abundance which helps to prevent oxidation of alcohol. Doctors generally assign about a quarter cup of sunflower seed to patients with cardiovascular risks. Also, the major culprit behind heart or cardiovascular diseases is Cholesterol. However, sunflower seeds offer a counter attack to this problem too. They contain plenty of phytosterols which is a compound which fights cholesterol. Also, the monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the kid which fall under good fats and help the body. Sunflower seeds have the highest Phytosterol content as against all the other nut which is slowly increasing their popularity in butter and spreads industry.

The seeds are further rich in Magnesium, Copper, Selenium and Vitamin E, Potassium. Vitamin Bs. Now one by one let's see the benefits of each of these:

  • Magnesium:

Magnesium is crucial for maintaining our bone density as well as to give proper structure to out bones during the development stage. Magnesium is also majorly responsible for relaxation of our nerves by blocking the excessive flow of calcium to our nerves, which may lead to unnecessary calcium concentration and eventual contraction. It also helps to reduce soreness and fatigue and prevent migraines.

  • Copper:

Copper is already well-known for its cancer fighting abilities. However, lesser known is the fact that it enables the enzymes to perform their work of cross-linking collagen and elastin. It also prevents the greying of hair and maintains the shine of the hair.

  • Selenium:

Selenium, again in collaboration with Copper and Vitamin E helps to tackle cancerous formations. It boosts DNA repairs and provides protection against cancer of Bladder, Prostate, Colon and Skin as well.

  • Vitamin E:

It is extremely important as it prevents the oxidation of cholesterol. Also, it has anti-oxidant properties, which further help the cells to fight with any cancerous developments in the body. A naturally occurring component, called lignan is also present in sunflowers which help to prevent cancer such as prostate and breast cancer. Arthritis prevention can also achieved by the use of Vitamin E. It also has great anti-inflammatory properties and prevents cell damage. It has tocopherol which ensures efficient blood flow and production of Red Blood Cells. It also prevents skin ageing.

  • Potassium:

It balances out the effect of excessive sodium in the body which can result in hypertension and hyperacidity.

  • Vitamin Bs:

The VitaminB1 helps to break down food and obtain energy from it. B1 also contains Thiamine for energy production. Vitamin B6 plays a crucial role in absorbing zinc and supplying oxygen to the hair roots.

Sunflower seeds, when eaten uncooked are also a great source of fiber, thus aiding in bowel movements as well as digestion. Sunflowers have tryptophan, which secrete serotonin, which relaxes our body, calms it and instantly makes us feel better. Sunflower seeds also have Choline which serves us an excellent memory enhancer. Sunflowers are also a great source of Folic acids which help in building new as well as repairing old DNA structures. They are an essential dietary component of pregnant women as they help in the neural tube formation, development of hart and spine as well as adequate weight development of the fetus. They also help clear the respiratory tract. Sunflower seeds are the best protein sources for vegetarians, as they are great substitute for various meats. They are crucial for bone development and of great help to anyone suffering from Osteoporosis.

Another lesser known compound- carotenoids - are of great help to tackle Cataracts and eye problems. Zinc is also present in Sunflower seeds which helps to enhance the wear & tear system of the body as well as maintain the sensory organs of the body. The seeds also have Omega 6 fatty acids, found in fish, which help to prevent fatty acids. Dermatitis as well as Eczema can also be avoided with the help of sunflower seeds as they have excellent anti-bacterial properties. Sunflower seeds reduce the chances of hot flashes in menopausal women. This helps in reducing the development of diabetic complications. It acts as a great counter in case of any kind of poisoning. It also helps in overcoming gastrointestinal problems like Piles. Petals are generally used as Salad ingredients or as Dessert toppings. They are also used in wine preparation. Dried leaves are also used as a replacement for tobacco. However, there is a chance that it can be use of an allergic reaction in some people.

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