Just like nuts, seeds are an essential low-carb staple. They’re enjoyed as snacks and toppings and can be used to make seed pastes, plant butter, grain-free flour, and plant milk. An example of an exceptionally nutritious but seriously underrated seed comes from sunflowers.
These seeds are low-carb, high-fat, and nutrient-dense. They’re also tasty and dirt cheap compared to most nuts and seeds. But they’re not as popular as almonds, pecans, chia seeds, or flax seeds on keto.
We’ll explain here why that may be the case and whether and how you can enjoy these tiny morsels on a keto diet.
What Are Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are seeds from the sunflower plant. The name comes from the flower’s resemblance to the sun and its tendency to “follow” its movement. The seeds themselves are small and encapsulated in a dry husk.
Sunflower is one of the world’s most important oilseed crops . But different seeds are used for oil production rather than for direct consumption. In stores, you can buy them whole or dehulled. The whole ones are often sold salted and roasted for snacking. Dehulled seeds are great for dessert making and a whale bunch of other uses.
Compared to other seeds and nuts, sunflower seeds are pretty affordable. They’re versatile and frequently added to salads, baked goods, trail mix, granola, cookies, and more. More recently, buyers can also consume them as sunbutter or sunflower seed milk.
Sunflower Seeds Nutrition
Most seeds are nutrient-dense — and sunflower seeds are no exception. Seeds are a plant’s embryo, and they need to contain a lot of nutrition to transform into a new plant. To see just what we’re talking about, check out the nutrient composition of a small 1-oz serving of dehulled sunflower seeds :
- 165 calories
- 5.47 g protein
- 15 g fat
- 3.6 g net carbs
- 9.3 mg vitamin E (47% DV)
- 0.4 mg thiamin (28% DV)
- 2.3mg niacin (12% DV)
- 0.4mg vitamin B6 (19% DV)
- 63.6mcg folate (16% DV)
- 1.5 mg iron (8% DV)
- 91.0 mg magnesium (23% DV)
- 185 mg phosphorus (18% DV)
- 181mg potassium (5% DV)
- 1.4mg zinc (9% DV)
- 0.5mg copper (25% DV)
- 14.8mcg selenium (21% DV)
As you can see, a handful of these tiny seeds provides several important nutrients in significant quantities. Another thing to note is that at least 50% of their weight is fat. Therefore, the seeds contain roughly equal monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
Are Sunflower Seeds Keto Friendly?
Sunflower seeds are definitely keto at about 3.6 g of net carbs in an ounce. They are also rich in fat, with over half of their dry weight being this nutrient. And with about 5.5 g of protein in the same serving, it’s safe to say they’re balanced in keto macros.
However, some keto dieters do not like the high omega-6 content of sunflower seeds. Some researchers propose that diets too high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3 fats contribute to the development of diabetes, atherosclerosis, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic problems . Others, however, believe it’s not that simple and that both types of PUFAs are equally good for health .
What you should know about omega-6 fats is that they’re essential, i.e., your body cannot make them on its own and needs to derive them directly from food. But if you’re worried about them causing harm, aim to balance your omega-6 to omega-3 intake by including more oily fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and grass-fed food.
Benefits of Sunflower Seeds on Keto
In decades past, health experts told us to keep our intake of nuts and seeds low because they’re high in fat and calories and can thus cause weight gain. But nowadays, we know this was bad advice and that nuts and seeds can help improve our diets and health . Sunflower seeds are no different and provide the following benefits on keto :
Sunflower seeds are nutritional powerhouses, as already mentioned. You’ll get healthy fats, protein, fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals to keep you nourished and healthy.
Rich in antioxidants
Like most plant foods, sunflower seeds contain antioxidants, notably selenium, vitamin E, polyphenols, and carotenoids. Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by byproducts of metabolism.
While sunflower seeds have pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats, they also have anti-inflammatory vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium.
Sunflower seeds contain phytosterols, which are compounds similar to cholesterol. They are believed to compete with cholesterol in the digestive tract, helping reduce cholesterol levels.
Selenium, a trace mineral that’s hard to obtain through a typical diet, helps with DNA repair and immunity — both important in cancer prevention.
Sunflower seeds can boost the metabolic benefits of keto thanks to their MUFAs, fiber, protein, and generally favorable nutritional profile. In addition, their nutrient composition helps increase satiety and slow down glucose release.
Keto Recipes With Sunflower Seeds
If you have a bunch of sunflower seeds that you’d like to use up, there are many ways to go about it. You could simply sprinkle them over your keto cereal, yogurt, or salad. Or you can use them to make sunflower seed milk. Here are a couple of sweet ideas to consider:
Also, feel free to use sunflower seeds instead of sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, or sesame seeds in keto recipes.
So, sunflower seeds are keto just from their carb count. Sticking to one or two servings daily is unlikely to kick you out of ketosis. In fact, these small but mighty seeds may help keep your blood glucose levels low and cholesterol levels balanced.
Sunflower seeds are tasty, affordable, versatile, and not to mention, super nutritious! They provide more nutrition in a 1-oz serving than a whole apple. Plus, they’re loaded with plant antioxidants, phytosterols, and other compounds that can benefit health.
- Adeleke BS, Babalola OO. Oilseed crop sunflower (Helianthus annuus) as a source of food: Nutritional and health benefits. Food Sci Nutr. 2020;8(9):4666-4684. Published 2020 Jul 31. doi:10.1002/fsn3.1783
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried. April 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170562/nutrients
- Patterson E, Wall R, Fitzgerald GF, Ross RP, Stanton C. Health implications of high dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated Fatty acids. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:539426. doi:10.1155/2012/539426
- Innes JK, Calder PC. Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018;132:41-48. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2018.03.004
- de Souza RGM, Schincaglia RM, Pimentel GD, Mota JF. Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(12):1311. Published 2017 Dec 2. doi:10.3390/nu9121311
Leave a Reply