Sunflower, an ornament of every garden and a crop with various uses

Whether we see it in a field, garden or in a vase, its beautiful yellow flowers attract our attention.

Sunflowers are impossible not to notice.

Its seeds are considered a healthy snack, the oil obtained from them is used for frying.

But is sunflower oil healthy?

What variety of foods can seeds be added to for revitalization?

Discover with us all the secrets of this unique plant.

Sunflower and its species

There are more than sixty different species of sunflowers in the world, which come in different sizes, shapes and colors from bright yellow to fiery red. The two most important species grown worldwide are:

  • annual sunflower or Helianthus annuus – is grown mainly for the purpose of obtaining sunflower seeds and oil

  • Jerusalem artichoke , or Helianthus tuberosus – is grown for its potato-like tubers
Sunflower seeds, shelled and unshelled.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are not only suitable food for birds or rodents, but also for humans. Technically speaking, these are annual sunflower fruits. One large sunflower flower can contain up to 2,000 seeds. Sunflower seeds are harvested from dried flowers when they look plump and come loose easily. The black and white striped peel is not consumed. The seeds have a mild nutty flavor and can be purchased in two forms.

  • Unshelled sunflower seeds – the seed is hidden in a black shell with white stripes, which is removed before consumption. They are often roasted to enhance their flavor, but you can also buy them raw.

  • Shelled sunflower seeds – sometimes also referred to as sunflower kernels. This is a seed without a shell. Again, they can be eaten raw or roasted.

It is advisable to store the seeds in a cool, dry and dark place in airtight containers, as they are prone to rancidity. Shelf life can be extended by freezing.

How to consume sunflower seeds

  • Sunflower seeds are often added to various healthy breakfast mixes, granola or muesli bars. There are countless recipes, they are best combined with oatmeal, nuts and other types of seeds. Together with fruit or nuts, you can also eat them in homemade yogurt .

  • If you like a variety of vegetable salads, you can easily sprinkle sunflower seeds into them. In addition to serving as a decoration, they also add a number of nutrients to salads. Similarly, you can also use the seeds in recipes for salads with chicken or tuna.

  • Not only vegetarians will appreciate their use in mixtures for preparing vegetable burgers, meatballs or patties. They can also be used for stewed or grilled vegetables.

  • You can use both sunflower flour and the seeds themselves for baking. Homemade bread, buns or other delicacies can not only be decorated with them, but they can also be easily added to the dough in the same way as nuts.

  • Roasted sunflower seeds are suitable for decorating various cream soups , for example pumpkin, carrot, leek or broccoli cream.

  • An original use is offered by ground sunflower seeds, which can be used, for example, to wrap fish.

  • Together with other seeds, nuts and herbs, you can use sunflower seeds to prepare homemade pesto.
Soup with sunflower seeds.

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is produced by pressing sunflower seeds and extracting the oil. It is usually used for baking, frying and deep-frying. The potential benefits of sunflower oil depend on its type, composition and amount used. The oil should be stored in a closed bottle in a cool, dry place.

Sunflower oil mainly contains linoleic and oleic acid. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid is an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid. There are also types that contain stearic acid. These are used in many processed products and in industrial frying.

Sunflower oil in a glass jug.

Smoke point

A negative aspect of sunflower oil is the release of potentially toxic compounds when repeatedly heated above 180°C, for example during frying. Sunflower oil does have a high smoke point, which is the temperature at which it starts to smoke and decompose, but a high smoke point and does not correspond to the thermal stability of the oil.

One study found that sunflower oil released the highest amount of aldehydes compared to other vegetable oils in three types of frying techniques. Aldehydes are toxic compounds that can damage DNA and contribute to various diseases.

Sunflower oil and other oils

For this reason, it is preferable to use sunflower oil with a high content of oleic acid and a lower content of linoleic acid for frying. Olive and avocado oil are also rich in monounsaturated oleic acid and are less toxic when heated. Oils low in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as canola, are more stable in cooking than sunflower oil, high in linoleic acid.

Different types of vegetable oils.

Comparison of sunflower oil with other oils that we often use in the kitchen, i.e. rapeseed and olive.

Sunflower oil
100 g
Rapeseed oil
100 g
Olive oil
100 g
Energy 884 calories 884 calories 884 calories
Monounsaturated fatty acids 19.5 g 63.3 g 73 g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids 65.7 g 28.1 g 10.5 g
Saturated fatty acids 10.3 g 7.36 g 13.8 g

Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichokes are tubers of Jerusalem artichoke, which look like ginger root. The name was derived from the South American Tupinamb tribe, from which the French colonists once acquired them. Sometimes they are also called Jewish potatoes or Jerusalem artichoke. Since these tubers, unlike classic potatoes, do not contain starch, they are also suitable for diabetics. Jerusalem artichoke can be eaten raw or cooked, for example boiled, baked, fried or grilled.

  • Grated raw artichokes can be added to various spreads and salads. They are often combined with yogurt, mayonnaise or tartar sauce and lemon juice.

  • Raw Jerusalem artichoke juice can be drunk alone or in combination with other vegetable or fruit juices.

  • Similar to potatoes, they can be cooked in a variety of ways, baked, baked or fried like fries. They can also be used to make porridge or patties similar to potato pancakes. They can be used both peeled and with the skin.

  • Pickling them in a sweet and sour pickle is interesting, similar to the case of cucumbers.
Jerusalem artichokes ready to peel.

Jerusalem artichokes versus potatoes

From the point of view of Jerusalem artichokes, it is interesting to compare them with classic potatoes, sweet potatoes and artichokes, to which they are often compared.

Jerusalem artichoke raw with skin
100 g
Raw potatoes with skin
100 g
Raw sweet potatoes with skin
100 g
Raw artichoke
100 g
Energy 73 kcal 77 kcal 86 kcal 47 kcal
Water 78 g 79 g 77.3 g 84.9 g
Carbohydrates 17.4 g 17.5 g 20.1 g 10.5 g
Proteins 2 g 2.05 g 1.57 g 3.27 g
Fats 0.01 g 0.09 g 0.05 g 0.15 g
Fiber 1.6 g 2.1 g 3 g 5.4 g

Jerusalem artichoke raw with skin
100 g
Raw potatoes with skin
100 g
Raw sweet potatoes with skin
100 g
Raw artichoke
100 g
Vitamin C 4 mg 19.7 mg 2.4 mg 11.7 mg
Vitamin B1 0.2 mg 0.081 mg 0.078 mg 0.072 mg
Vitamin B2 0.06 mg 0.032 mg 0.061 mg 0.066 mg
Vitamin B3 1.3 mg 1.06 mg 0.557 mg 1.05 mg
Vitamin B6 0.077 mg 0.298 mg 0.209 mg 0.116 mg
Potassium 429 mg 425 mg 337 mg 370 mg
Phosphorus 78 mg 57 mg 47 mg 90 mg
Magnesium 17 mg 23 mg 25 mg 60 mg
Calcium 14 mg 12 mg 30 mg 44 mg
Iron 3.4 mg 0.81 mg 0.61 mg 1.28 mg

What does sunflower contain?

Sunflower is very rich in various nutrients, especially healthy fats, beneficial plant compounds and several vitamins and minerals. Among the minerals, it stands out mainly for its high content of manganese, copper, selenium and zinc. As for vitamins, it is rich in the whole range of B vitamins and vitamin E.

Nutritional values of sunflower seeds

It is interesting to compare sunflower seeds with other popular types of seeds such as pumpkin, flax, sesame and chia.

Sunflower seeds
100 g
Pumpkin seeds
100 g
Sesame seeds
100 g
Flax seeds 100 g Chia seeds 100 g
Energy 584 calories 559 calories 573 calories 534 calories 486 calories
Water 4.73 g 5.23 g 4.69 g 6.96 g 5.8 g
Carbohydrates 20 g 10.7 g 23.4 g 28.9 g 42.1 g
Proteins 20.8 g 30.2 g 17.7 g 18.3 g 16.5 g
Fats 51.5 g 49 g 49.7 g 42.2 g 30.7 g
Fiber 8.6 g 6 g 11.8 g 27.3 g 34.4 g
Different types of seeds in wooden spoons.

Vitamins and minerals

Sunflower seeds
100 g
Pumpkin seeds
100 g
Sesame seeds
100 g
Flax seeds 100 g Chia seeds 100 g
Vitamin B1 1.48 mg 0.273 mg 0.791 mg 1.64 mg 0.62 mg
Vitamin B2 0.355 mg 0.153 mg 0.247 mg 0.161 mg 0.17 mg
Vitamin B3 8.34 mg 4.99 mg 4.52 mg 3.08 mg 8.83 mg
Vitamin B5 1.13 mg 0.75 mg 0.05 mg 0.985 mg
Vitamin B6 1.34 mg 0.143 mg 0.79 mg 0.473 mg
Vitamin C 1.4 mg 1.9 mg 0.6 mg 1.6 mg
Vitamin E 35.2 mg 2.18 mg 0.25 mg 0.31 mg
Potassium 645 mg 809 mg 468 mg 813 mg 407 mg
Phosphorus 660 mg 1230 mg 629 mg 642 mg 860 mg
Magnesium 325 mg 592 mg 351 mg 392 mg 335 mg
Manganese 1.95 mg 4.54 mg 2.46 mg 2.48 mg 2.72 mg
Calcium 78 mg 46 mg 975 mg 255 mg 631 mg
Zinc 5 mg 7.81 mg 7.75 mg 4.34 mg 4.58 mg
Iron 5.25 mg 8.82 mg 14.6 mg 5.73 mg 7.72 mg

With a sunflower in the kitchen

Did you know that you can eat a lot more from sunflower than just the seeds? You can enjoy both the buds of sunflowers and the petals of mature flowers. The stalks, which resemble stalked celery, and the leaf are also edible. Young leaves are soft and tender, older leaves can be a bit hard and stringy. They can be added raw to salads or cooked like spinach. Pour hot water over the leaves to make sunflower tea.

Buds are best boiled, try lightly steaming or blanching them. In butter with a little garlic and salt, you get a simple side dish that tastes like an artichoke. Just remember to remove the green parts around the base of the bud before cooking. Sunflower petals are also edible. Just tear them off and add them to salads. Sunflower sprouts have a fresh taste, they are great in salads, spreads, for decoration or as a side dish.

Plate with roasted sunflower flower.

Sunflowers and health

Sunflower is rich in healthy fats, beneficial plant compounds and several vitamins and minerals. These nutrients may play a role in reducing the risk of common health problems, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. What specific effects on our health are we referring to?

  • Cardiovascular disease and diabetes – due to the content of vitamin E, magnesium, and linoleic fatty acid, sunflower seeds help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. In addition, the seeds contain special plant substances that block an enzyme that causes vasoconstriction. Sunflower oil with a high content of oleic acid, which lowers the level of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, also helps prevent cardiovascular diseases.

  • Inflammation – while short-term inflammation is a natural immune response, chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many chronic diseases. For example, elevated levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in the blood are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The seeds help reduce its level effectively.

  • Antioxidants – sunflower seeds contain a whole range of antioxidants including chlorogenic acid, vitamin E and others. A diet high in antioxidants is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease.

  • Stress reduction – the high magnesium content in sunflower seeds is great for calming nerves and relaxing muscles. Magnesium helps regulate the excessive activation of nerve cells caused by calcium in the body. Too much calcium can lead to headaches, migraines and tension.

Potential risks of sunflower seeds

  • Sodium – if you’re watching your salt intake, keep in mind that the peels that people commonly suck before cracking open are often coated in salt.

  • Cadmium – Sunflowers tend to take up cadmium from the soil and store it in the seeds. This heavy metal can damage the kidneys with long-term exposure to high amounts.

  • Nausea and digestive problems – eating large amounts of seeds at once can result in constipation. For this reason as well, it is recommended not to exceed the amount of 30 grams per day. Other digestive problems can be caused by eating poorly stored seeds in which the oil has gone rancid.

  • Allergy – allergy to sunflower seeds and other products is relatively rare, but it can occur.

Potential risks of sunflower oil

Although much evidence suggests that sunflower oil is beneficial for health, there are concerns that it may also be associated with negative health consequences. Types of sunflower oil that are not high in oleic acid contain more linoleic acid. This is converted in the body to arachidonic acid, which can create inflammatory markers and signaling compounds that promote weight gain. Other potential disadvantages of sunflower oil are related to its excessive heating.

Sunflower seed flour.

Sunflower products

In addition to oil, sunflower seeds are also used to produce medicines, paints or biodiesel, as well as feed for farm animals. In this case, mainly the remains of the seeds that remain after obtaining the oil are used.

Sunflower oil is probably the first product derived from sunflower seeds that comes to mind. The possibilities of its use in the kitchen are countless. However, the oil is also used in medicine to produce a number of ointments and in the cosmetics industry.

Sunflower flour is another product that can be obtained from the seeds. First, oil is pressed from the seeds, and flour is then ground from the defatted dry matter. It is a great helper especially when baking. It can be used alone or in combination with other flours. It not only gives the dough a different taste, but also elasticity and reduces the gluten content, as it is gluten-free. It can be added to both sweet and savory doughs, it is often added to the dough when baking bread.

Sunflower butter can be purchased or simply prepared at home. Simply blend the sunflower seeds in a food processor. If you want a more liquid consistency, you can add a small amount of coconut oil to the seeds. Transfer the resulting paste into a jar and store in the refrigerator. Butter is suitable for greasing and baking.

Sunflower dye can be obtained from the bright yellow petals, a natural dye that can be used on cotton, linen or silk. Just cover the petals with water and boil.

Harvesting seeds from a flower.

Cultivation and attractions

Sunflowers belong to the Asteraceae family. Its size and flower color depend on the species. The annual sunflower can reach a height of around 3 meters and its flower can be up to 30 centimeters in diameter. In fact, it is not a single flower, but an inflorescence that is composed of several flowers. The largest producer of sunflower seeds is currently Russia, followed by Ukraine and the countries of the European Union. Outside of Europe, sunflowers are also widely grown in Argentina, China and Turkey.

It comes from North America, where it was domesticated by Indian tribes as early as 3,000 BC and was used as food, dye, decoration, medicine and building material. Spanish explorers then brought it to Europe in the 16th century, where it became a popular decorative flower. Cultivation for the purpose of oil production did not begin in Europe until the 18th century.

Blooming sunflower field.

Sunflowers and turning behind the sun

Thanks to its giant flower and bright yellow color, it reminded our ancestors of the sun. The proper name Helianthus comes from the Greek words helios, or sun, and anthos, or flower. However, this is not the only connection this bright flower has with its namesake star. As the sun travels across the sky during the day, sunflowers are known to turn their heads to follow its movement. This phenomenon is called heliotropism.

In fact, this only applies to sunflower buds, the developed flowers usually remain facing east the entire time. Stretching towards the sun and devotedly following its movement, sunflowers have become a symbol of loyalty, devotion and admiration.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)