Sunflower Seed Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

sunflower seeds nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Sunflower seeds come from the beautiful sunflower plant. They are rich in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. Since they're available year-round, they make a healthy little snack and are great additions to salads and other simple dishes.

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1/4 cup (33.5g) of dry roasted sunflower seeds without salt.

  • Calories: 207
  • Fat: 19.3g
  • Sodium: 1mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Fiber: 3.9g
  • Sugars: 0.9g
  • Protein: 5.8g​

Carbs in Sunflower Seeds

One-fourth cup of shelled sunflower seeds contains about 207 calories and seven grams of carbohydrate. Most of the carbohydrate in sunflower seeds is fiber. You'll benefit from almost four grams of fiber in a single serving. There is also a small amount of sugar in the seeds.

Sunflower seeds are considered to be a low-glycemic food.

Fats in Sunflower Seeds

Most of the calories in sunflower seeds come from fat. You'll gain over 19 grams of fat in a quarter cup serving. However, most of it is healthy fat, primarily polyunsaturated fat and a smaller amount of monounsaturated fat. There is a small amount of saturated fat.

Protein in Sunflower Seeds

You'll get almost six grams of protein in a single serving of sunflower seeds.

Micronutrients in Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a vitamin and mineral powerhouse. They are an excellent source of vitamin E (about 75 percent in one serving), a very good source of copper, thiamin, phosphorous, manganese, and selenium. They are also a good source of pantothenic acid and folate and are rich in phytosterols, which tend to lower LDL cholesterol.

Health Benefits 

Many of the health benefits of sunflower seeds comes from fiber. Fiber is the indigestible part of a carbohydrate. It helps to regulate bowels and blood sugar, aids in satiety (feeling full) and can help to lower cholesterol. Studies have shown that those people who eat high fiber diets tend to be at healthier weights and have a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Also, the vitamins and minerals in these seeds provide health benefits. Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin that is known to have antioxidant properties. It also helps normal nerve function and boosts immunity. And phosphorous is a structural component of bones and teeth, DNA, and cell membranes. It also helps in assisting in energy production and storage.

Common Questions

What is a smart serving size of sunflower seeds?

If you are eating seeds as a snack by themselves, be sure to keep your portion to no more than one-fourth cup (without the shell). If you plan on pairing your seeds with a serving of fruit, cut your portion in half. If, on the other hand, you are adding your seeds to your salad or side dish, keep your portion to about one tablespoon.

What's the difference between a sunflower seed and a sunflower kernel? 

Quite simply, the seed contains the kernel, which is the "meat" inside the shell. This can be a little confusing because some sunflower seed packaging uses the word "seed" even though they're only selling the kernel.

When you buy "sunflower kernels," the hull has been mechanically removed. The kernel can be sold raw or roasted. If you purchase "sunflower seeds" the seed is left intact with the kernel inside the shell. These can also be roasted and seasoned or eaten as is.

Can you eat the sunflower seed shell?

Technically you can eat the shell of a sunflower seed because the hull is primarily fiber. However, because they can be sharp and hard to digest and it's not recommended.

Eating too many can cause fecal impaction (FI), which is a severe form of constipation. Also, the sharp hulls can puncture or attach to the linings of the esophagus or digestive tract if not chewed properly.

It's not uncommon to hear reports of children eating too many sunflower seed shells. This may cause a rectal blockage, that can be treated by doctors. It often requires hospitalization to remove the blockage and restore normal bowel function.

How should I store sunflower seeds?

Because sunflower seeds have a high-fat content they are prone to go rancid quickly. It is best to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also store them in the freezer.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

You'll find sunflower seeds in most grocery stores. You can choose to purchase sunflower seeds with or without the shell. The main thing to consider is to choose those that are unsalted.

Sunflower seeds naturally contain no sodium. When they are roasted and salted, the same serving has about 210mg of sodium. This isn't terribly high, but if you monitor your sodium intake or are salt sensitive, it is something to consider.

You can add sunflower seeds to salads and side dishes. This adds fiber, texture, and heart-healthy fat to the dish. Simply roast them or include them raw.

Sunflower seeds also can be ground and used to dust meat and fish in low carbohydrate dishes. Toss some seeds into your yogurt, cottage cheese, or low-fat smoothie for additional flavor. They can also be added to muffins, breads, pancake mix, and desserts or used as an ingredient in homemade granola and trail mix.

Of course, you can eat the seeds on their own for a quick snack. To help control portions, measure out the seeds instead of just reaching into a bag or bowl. It's really easy to just keep eating these little morsels.

Lastly, sunflower seeds are also used to make sun butter, which is a good alternative if you have a peanut allergy. The seeds are also used to make sunflower oil.

Allergies and Interactions

There are reports of allergic reactions to a variety of seeds, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. In addition, the experts note that different types of seeds may cross-react. That means that if you have a known allergic to poppy seeds, you may also experience a reaction to sunflower seeds.

If you have a seed allergy or if you suspect an allergy to sunflower seeds, speak to your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

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