Sunflowers probably originated in Mexico and Peru, and were one of the first plants to be cultivated in America, being used for thousands of years by the Native Americans. After the Spanish brought them back to Europe, sunflowers spread to other countries and sunflower oil has now become one of the most popular in the world. This flower produces a wealth of seeds encased in tear-drop shaped, often striped, grey or black shells.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E. This antioxidant neutralizes damaging free radicals in the body, resulting in a significant anti-inflammatory effect which reduces symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It also plays a role in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Sunflower seeds provide a good source of magnesium, necessary for counterbalancing calcium in order to regulate nerve and muscle tone. This keeps our nerves relaxed, helping prevent high blood pressure, muscle spasms, cramps, fatigue and migraines.
These seeds also have a relaxing effect on the brain because of high levels of tryptophan, which increases the brain’s production of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes you calm and happy).
They are a good source of selenium, found to be important in cancer protection, and phytosterols which are believed to lower blood cholesterol and enhance the immune system.