Sunflower Seed Butter Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Sunflower seed butter
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Sunflower seed butter, sometimes called sunflower butter, is a creamy spread made from roasted sunflower seed kernels (Helianthus annuus). Sugar and salt are often added as well. You'll find sunflower seed butter in many grocery stores around the country but you can also make your own at home.

Sunflower seed butter is a peanut-butter alternative that can usually be used safely by those with a peanut allergy. In fact, many of the most popular brands of sunflower seed butter are processed in facilities that are free from the eight top food allergens so cross-contamination is not usually a concern for their customers.

Even though sunflower seed butter can be used just like peanut butter, it does not taste like peanut butter. The flavor is often described as more "earthy." Sunflower seed butter provides healthy fats along with vitamins and minerals including magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.

Sunflower Seed Butter Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 tablespoon (16g) of sunflower seed butter (with salt).

  • Calories: 99
  • Fat: 8.8g
  • Sodium: 53mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.7g
  • Fiber: 0.9g
  • Sugars: 1.7g
  • Protein: 2.8g

Carbs

If you consume just one tablespoon of sunflower seed butter, you'll get 99 calories, and 3.7 grams of carbohydrate. It should be noted, though, that some popular brands of sunflower butter list 2 tablespoons as a serving size. If you consume two tablespoons, you'll consume 198 calories and 7.4 grams of carbohydrate.

The carbs in sunflower seed butter come from fiber and added sugar. The amount of added sugar may depend on the brand you use or the recipe that you use to make it at home.

There are some brands, such as SunButter that make sunflower butter with no added sugar. If you consume those brands you'll consume 210 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate (2 grams of fiber, and less than one gram of sugar).

There is no recorded glycemic index for sunflower seed butter. But since this food contains few carbs and only limited amounts of sugar, it is not likely that it would have a substantial impact on blood sugar levels.

Fat

There are 8.8 grams of fat in a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter. The fat is primarily monounsaturated fat, which is considered to be a "good" fat. You'll get 6.24 grams in a serving, along with 1.6 grams of polyunsaturated fat, another healthy fat.

You may boost heart health when you use poly and monounsaturated fats to replace less healthy fats (like saturated fat) in your diet. There is less than one gram (0.75g) of saturated fat in a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter.

Protein

You'll increase your protein intake by 2.8 grams if you consume a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter and 5.6 grams if you consume two tablespoons. As a basis for comparison, peanut butter provides 3.6 grams per tablespoon and almond butter provides 3.4 grams of protein per one-tablespoon serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Sunflower seeds provide several important micronutrients. You'll benefit from these vitamins and minerals when you consume a spread made from the seeds.

For example, the butter is an excellent source of copper providing 0.3mg or about 33% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) which is based on a 2,000-calorie-per day diet.

A one-tablespoon serving of sunflower seed butter also provides about 49.8mg of magnesium or almost 12% of the RDA and you'll get 0.3 mg of manganese or about 14% of the RDA. Sunflower seed butter also provides smaller amounts of phosphorus and folate.

Health Benefits

Sunflower seed butter and other plant-based nut butters are increasing in popularity, so research investigating the potential benefits of these products is starting to ramp up.

In one published review comparing different types of nut butters, study authors noted that sunflower seed butter has more monounsaturated fat, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, vitamin E, and selenium, and less saturated fat than peanut butter. But study authors also noted that it has less fiber, calcium, and potassium than almond butter.

Currently, there are limited studies of the benefits specifically of sunflower seed butter. There are more studies investigating the health benefits of sunflower seeds, the butter's primary ingredient.

May Promote Healthy Weight Loss or Maintenance

Dietary fat helps boost satiety—the feeling of satisfaction and fullness that you get after eating. But fat also provides nine calories per gram as compared to carbs and protein that only provide four calories per gram.

For this reason, some people who are trying to lose weight may opt for a lower fat, higher protein and higher carb diet.

But studies have shown that consuming fat can reduce hunger levels and overall food intake. And when the National Institutes of Health conducted the large-scale POUNDS LOST trial, they found that people who ate higher-fat or lower-fat diets had similar rates of weight loss. The organization notes that both eating styles were equally successful when it came to weight maintenance.

But the type of fat you choose can make a difference in maintaining good health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are recommended rather than saturated fat because they have been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease by about the same amount as cholesterol-lowering drugs. And there may be additional benefits for those with type 2 diabetes.

A study published in Diabetes Care compared a high–monounsaturated fat diet with a high-carbohydrate diet in 124 people who were overweight or obese and had type 2 diabetes. The study lasted for one year with a follow-up assessment conducted at 18 months.

Researchers found that both diets produced similar results in terms of weight loss, body composition, waist circumference, diastolic blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, A1C, and fasting glucose and insulin. They concluded that a diet high in monounsaturated fat could be considered a reasonable alternative to lower-fat, higher carb diets.

May Help Limit Cell Damage

Sunflower seeds are known to contain antioxidants. Antioxidants help to protect that body from cellular damage that is caused by free radicals. Your body creates free radicals naturally, but environmental toxins (such as cigarette smoke) also contribute to free radicals in the body.

Experts suggest that you get antioxidants from food sources rather than supplements. Seeds and other foods like fruits, and vegetables provide antioxidants along with other nutrients.

May Reduce Inflammation and Disease Risk

Certain components of sunflower seeds (helianthosides, triterpene glycosides, α‐tocopherol) may provide anti-inflammatory benefits to the body and may be beneficial in the prevention of some chronic diseases. And phytosterols found in sunflower seeds are associated with reduced blood cholesterol, improved immune response, and risk factors for certain diseases such as cancer.

Phytosterols are plant-based sterols that are similar in structure to the cholesterol found in the body. But when consumed in the diet, they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. This can help to lower the body's level of blood cholesterol levels.

Research has suggested that consuming 2 grams of phytosterols per day may be able to reduce your LDL cholesterol by 8% to 10%.

Safe Alternative for Those With Nut or Peanut Allergies

Tree nuts and peanuts are two of the top eight allergens. So, having products available to people with those allergies is important. People with a peanut allergy or a tree nut allergy can usually consume sunflower seed butter as a safe alternative.

However, it is important to read product labels. Some commercially produced sunflower seed butters may be processed in facilities that also process peanut or tree nut products. So there is a risk of cross-contamination.

Some brands specifically state on the label that their facility does not process peanuts, tree nuts, or other allergens.

Allergies

Allergies to sunflower seeds are uncommon, but there is at least one published report of a case.

Reported symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Red rashes
  • Welts
  • Swelling of the pharynx
  • Swelling of the mouth and tongue

The medical experts who reported the case guessed that sensitivity to proteins found in sunflower along with a cross-reaction with mugwort pollen allergens were the main causes of the allergy.

There are also reports of allergic reactions to other types of seeds, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). And other experts have noted that different types of seeds may cause cross-reactions.

If you have a known allergy to one type of seed, 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.

Adverse Effects

While there are some reported adverse effects to consuming whole sunflower seeds, it is unlikely that you will have any when consuming the nut butter.

Most problems related to sunflower seeds come from consuming the whole seed, including the hard outer shell. This shell is completely removed when sunflower seeds are processed to make nut butter.

Varieties

There are a few different types of sunflower seed butter. Just like with peanut butter, you're likely to find both crunchy and creamy varieties on store shelves. Crunchy sunflower seed butter has whole seed pieces blended into the butter.

You may also find sunflower seed butter packed in single-serve containers for people who want to consume the nut butter on the go.

When It’s Best

Sunflower seeds are usually harvested in the summer, but you can buy sunflower seed butter at the supermarket year-round. You'll find it in the aisle with peanut butter and other nut butters.

Storage and Food Safety

Commercially prepared sunflower seed butter does not need to be refrigerated. However, it will keep longer if you store it in the fridge. Manufacturers report that their sunflower feed butters are usually good for one year from the time they are manufactured.

Also, note that sunflower seed butter can have natural oil separation that occurs typically three or more months from the date of production. They suggest stirring the butter before using it. You can also try flipping the jar (from right side up to upside down) between uses.

If you make your own sunflower seed butter at home, it should remain refrigerated and should be consumed within a month. You can also freeze the seed butter for up to about three months.

How to Prepare

If you prefer to control the ingredients in your sunflower seed butter, try making your own at home. This allows you to choose whether or not to include added sugar or salt. You can also include other ingredients such as chocolate or cinnamon.

To make your own batch of the butter, you'll first need to roast your sunflower seeds. Use 2-3 cups of hulled sunflower seeds. Spread them on a baking sheet (there's no need to add oil) and roast in a preheated 350-degree oven. Keep a close eye on them to prevent burning. Pull them out when they have a golden color and a toasty, fragrant smell.

Next, you'll add the sunflower seeds to a food processor. This part of the process takes some patience. Process the seeds until they form a powder (about five minutes). Continue to process the mixture until it starts to form a lumpy ball. This may take another three minutes or so. Then finally, process for another two to four minutes, and eventually the mixture will become creamy.

When the butter has reached your desired consistency, add in whatever flavorings you choose. Most people report that a little bit of sugar and salt goes a long way in making this butter delicious. Otherwise, the sunflower seed butter can be bland. You might also consider adding chocolate, vanilla extract, cinnamon, or a tiny drizzle of coconut oil. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or in the freezer.

Use sunflower seed butter like you would use other nut butter. Enjoy it on top of apple slices, on bread or toast, or with a banana. You can also replace peanut butter in baked good recipes with sunflower seed butter in a 1:1 ratio.

But manufacturers suggest that you should reduce the baking soda or baking powder amount by about one-third to prevent your baked goods from turning green—the result of a harmless chemical reaction. Adding a small amount of lemon juice may help as well.

Recipes

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