These little striped nuggets of goodness give a huge health kick and taste great, says Tolani Shoneye
Probably the most exciting seed to grow when youâ€™re a kid, the sunflowerÂ is a truly majestic plant that turns its head to follow the sunâ€™s rays. It quickly gains giant proportions â€“ the record is 25ft 6in â€“ and produces health-giving seeds, packed withÂ a wide range of beneficial nutrients.
Sunflowers belong to the daisy family and are thought to have originated in North America or Mexico. North American Indians cultivated the plants for their medicinal properties almost 2000 years ago, using them to treat colds and sore throats, and they were often planted near homes to ward off malaria. Today, Russia is the worldâ€™s largest producer of the seeds, and their oil is used in industry as well as being a foodstuff.
Why theyâ€™re good for youÂ
Sunflower oil is high in polyunsaturated fat and ideal for cooking, but itâ€™s the hulled seeds themselves that give the biggest health boost. They are highly nutritious and, apart from liver and egg yolks, have more iron than any other food. The seeds are rich in immune-boosting zinc, as well as selenium, potassium, magnesium, copper, phosphorous and calcium. They also contain the heart-protective vitamins B and E, are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, are an excellent source of dietary fibre and are rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
Buy sunflower seeds raw or roasted, eat them alone or try them sprinkled over salads, with yogurt and fruit or in breakfast cereals. You can add them to home-made bread and cakes, too. They are the perfect healthy snack, so what are you waiting for? Grab some now!