The relationship between sunflower seeds and heart health has to do with the nutritional value of sunflower seeds and the oil derived from them. It is not safe to say that consuming sunflower seeds and heart health go hand in hand. Adding sunflower seeds to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle will not guarantee a healthy heart.
As a snack, we eat the kernel, not the whole seed. Although this snack may be healthier than some, most companies add salt, which is bad for person’s with high blood pressure or on sodium restricted diets. For those who need to lose weight or for those of us who need to focus on controlling our weight, we need to remember the calories and the calories from fat. We could actually gain weight by eating too many sunflower seeds. And heart health is directly related to maintaining a healthy weight.
Substituting sunflower seed oil, canola oil, olive oil and other vegetable oils for butter and shortening when cooking is a move in the right direction. According to numerous health agencies, the typical American diet is too high in saturated fats, animal fats, trans fats and fats in general. A healthy diet should have no more than 30% of its calories from any fat source. For the healthiest diet, that 30% should be polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fats and/or fats from nuts and seeds. In other words, it appears that animal fat is the big problem.
One factor which relates sunflower seeds and heart health is fiber. Seeds and nuts are good sources of fiber. Fiber is important in the diet for numerous reasons. Digestive health and weight control are two of the biggest ones.
One of the major risk factors for heart disease is obesity. Fluctuating weight caused by fad diets that allow a person to lose 20 pounds, but then gain it all back, are believed to put additional stress on the heart. Weight control throughout one’s entire lifespan is the healthiest choice for the heart.
Fiber from nuts, seeds, plant foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains (such as oatmeal) cause a sense of fullness without overeating. Although “bread” is usually thought of as a “grain”, it is not a whole grain. Even bread that says “whole grain” is made from flour. Once the flour is ground, the best sources of fiber are removed. Oatmeal contains oats. Oats are whole grains. Instant oatmeal is not the best choice and oats are just one whole grain. Rye, barley and many others can be found. If you are buying processed foods, you need to look at the label.