Are sunflower seeds fattening or good for weight loss?
Sunflower seeds are a source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and selenium. These are important nutrients for the body and because of this, sunflower seeds bring with them many health benefits. Some notable ones are improved heart health, cancer prevention, supporting thyroid function, balancing blood sugar levels and better skin.
At the same time however, sunflower seeds are high in fat, so you may be wondering if eating them is a good idea when trying to manage your weight. In this article we will explain whether sunflower seeds are fattening or not.
What causes weight gain?
Consuming more calories than you burn leads to weight gain. This is because the excess calories are stored as fat in various areas around your body. If you eat more than your body requires, you will become fat over time.
All foods have calories, but their numbers vary, depending on what the food is made up of. Those that are mainly made up of water, like fruits and vegetables, tend to be low in calories because water has 0 calories. On the other hand, foods that are made up of a lot of fat, like nuts and seeds, tend to be high in calories because fat has 9 calories per gram.
This can be clearly seen when you compare 100 g of a vegetable like spinach to 100 g of sunflower seeds. The former has 23 calories, whereas the latter has 584. The number of calories that a person should aim to consume is based on different factors, including their weight, height, age, gender, activity levels and overall goals.
You can use the calculator on this page to get an estimate of what your calorie intake should be.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 35 year old lady who weighs 150 pounds, is 5 feet 8 inches tall and exercises 4 times a week will need to consume approximately 2200 calories to maintain her weight, 1800 calories to lose weight and 1300 calories to lose weight fast.
A 1 ounce (28 g) serving of dried sunflower seed kernels has 164 calories, meaning on an 1800 calorie diet, they would provide around 9% of total daily calories.
This means that even when you are trying to lose weight, sunflower seeds can be a part of your diet. The important thing to note is that they should be eaten in moderation.
Any food, if eaten in abundance will lead to weight gain.
But since nuts and seeds are much higher in calories than most other foods, their intake needs to be monitored more carefully. However, they should not be avoided entirely, because they are highly nutritious.
Eating a 1 ounce or so serving every day is perfectly fine. Eating an entire cup on the other hand (which has more than 800 calories) on top of all of your other meals, will most likely lead to weight gain.
Can sunflower seeds be beneficial for weight loss?
Besides vitamins and minerals, sunflower seeds are also a good source of protein and fiber.
Protein is highly satiating, and eating protein rich snacks keeps you feeling full, which means you end up eating less throughout the day. Studies have found that increasing protein intake can lead to a significant decrease in overall calorie consumption.
And this study found that making one simple change and increasing fiber intake can assist with weight loss. Fiber swells up when it absorbs water, adding bulk to your stomach, thereby making you feel full for longer. Seeds such as chia, flax and sunflower are some of the best source of fiber available.
A 1 ounce serving of sunflower seeds provides you with 6 g of protein and 2 g of dietary fiber, making them a great food to snack on.
That being said, even though they are a good source of protein and fiber, they should still be eaten in moderation, because of their high calorie content.
How to eat sunflower seeds
Because of their versatility, sunflower seeds can be eaten in a number of ways, besides being eaten on their own. Below are some of the different ways that you can enjoy them.
Roast them with herbs and spices – they can be cooked in the oven with various other ingredients such as sea salt, chili flakes, cinnamon and dried oregano. To roast, drizzle them with some liquefied coconut oil and sprinkle with herbs, spices and condiments of your choosing. Mix everything well and place in a tray in an oven at 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) for 10 – 15 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy.
Add them to smoothies – together with fruits & vegetables, nuts & seeds go very well in smoothies. A tablespoon of sunflower seeds is plenty and you can find lots of delicious smoothie recipes online that use them. For example this smoothie has kale, banana, flax seeds, beetroot, avocado, guava, coconut water, spinach, pistachio nuts and (of course!) sunflower seeds in it. It is very filling and can be drunk at any time of the day, either as a main meal or a snack.
Use them in trail mix – trail mix is a mixture of dried fruit, nuts & seeds that was originally eaten by hikers to provide long lasting energy. Sunflower seeds can be used to prepare trail mix; combining them with almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, dried apricots, dried cherries and even air popped pop corn makes a delicious snack. Trail mix can be high in calories, but because it tastes great it is possible to eat too much, so you should monitor your intake when trying to lose weight.
Make sunflower seed butter – most people are well aware of peanut & almond butter. Sunflower seed butter is also available and you can make your own healthy version at home. To do so, all you have to do is process the seeds in a food processor until they are broken down into a thick buttery consistency. The butter can then be spread over toast or used to dip apples in.
Sprinkle them over oatmeal and salads – sunflower seeds add a nice crunch to ‘soft’ foods such as oatmeal and salads. You can also add them to soups in place of croutons.
If sunflower seeds are eaten in moderation, they will not cause weight gain.
Having a small serving is perfectly fine and brings with it many health benefits. In general, it is not one single food, but your diet as a whole that determines whether you gain weight.