Sunflower seed

Sunflower seed
Left: dehulled kernel. Right: Whole seed with hull

The sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). The term "sunflower seed" is actually a misnomer when applied to the seed in its pericarp (hull). Botanically speaking, it is more properly referred to as an achene. When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel.

There are three types of commonly used sunflower seeds. Linoleic (most common), high oleic, and Nusun. Each variety has its own unique levels of monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fats. The information in this article refers mainly to the linoleic variety.

For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are usually classified by the pattern on their husks. If the husk is solid black, the seeds are called black oil sunflower seeds. The crops may be referred to as oilseed sunflower crops. These seeds are usually pressed to extract their oil. Striped sunflower seeds are primarily used for food; as a result, they may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.



Top Sunflower Seed Producers - 2005
Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)[1]
Rank Country 106 M/T Country area (km²)
1  Russia 6.3 &1000000001709824200000017,098,242
2  Ukraine 4.7 &10000000000603700000000603,700
3  Argentina 3.7 &100000000027804000000002,780,400
4  China 1.9 &100000000095980860000009,598,086
5  India 1.9 &100000000031664140000003,166,414
6  United States 1.8 &100000000096290910000009,629,091
7  France 1.5 &10000000000632759000000632,759
8  Hungary 1.3 &1000000000009302800000093,028
9  Romania 1.3 &10000000000238391000000238,391
10  Turkey 1.0 &10000000000783562000000783,562
11  Bulgaria 0.9 &10000000000110993000000110,993
12  South Africa 0.7 &100000000012210370000001,221,037
World Total 31.1


Sunflower seed kernels, dried
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 2,385 kJ (570 kcal)
Carbohydrates 18.76 g
- Sugars 2.62 g
- Dietary fiber 10.5 g
Fat 49.57 g
- saturated 5.20 g
- monounsaturated 9.46 g
- polyunsaturated 32.74 g
Protein 22.78 g
Thiamine (vit. B1) 2.29 mg (199%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.25 mg (21%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 4.5 mg (30%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 6.75 mg (135%)
Vitamin B6 0.77 mg (59%)
Folate (vit. B9) 227 μg (57%)
Vitamin C 1.4 mg (2%)
Vitamin E 34.50 mg (230%)
Calcium 116 mg (12%)
Iron 6.77 mg (52%)
Magnesium 354 mg (100%)
Manganese 2.02 mg (96%)
Phosphorus 705 mg (101%)
Potassium 689 mg (15%)
Sodium 3 mg (0%)
Zinc 5.06 mg (53%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Sunflower seeds are more commonly eaten as a healthy snack than as part of a meal. They can also be used as garnishes or ingredients in various recipes. The seeds may be sold as in-shell seeds or dehulled kernels. The seeds can also be sprouted and eaten in salads. However, eating expired sunflower seeds may cause stomach irritation such as bloating or diarrhea due to the rotting of the seed.

When in-shell seeds are processed, they are first dried. Afterwards, they may also be roasted or dusted with salt or flour for preservation of flavor. Dehulling is commonly performed by cracking the hull with one's teeth and spitting it out while keeping the kernel in the mouth and eating it.

In-shell sunflower seeds are particularly popular in Mediterranean and Asian countries, including Egypt, Syria, Israel, Turkey, and Malaysia, where they may be called garinim, ayçekirdeği, or kuaci. In Turkey, Syria and Israel they can be bought freshly roasted in shops and markets and are a common stadium food, while in Malaysia they can be bought freshly packed in various roasted flavors. They are also popular in countries worldwide including Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, China, Morocco, Iran, Canada and the United States.

Dehulled kernels have been mechanically processed to remove the hull. These kernels may be sold raw or roasted. These dehulled kernels are sometimes added to bread and other baked goods for their flavor. There is also sunflower butter, similar to peanut butter, but utilizing sunflower seeds instead of peanuts. Apart from human consumption, sunflower seeds are also sold as food for pets and wild birds in boxes and small bags.

Sunflower Seed


The hulls, or shells, are mostly composed of cellulose. They decompose slowly. They are sometimes burned as biomass fuel.

Pressed oil

Over the past decades sunflower oil has become popular worldwide. The oil may be used as is, or may be processed into polyunsaturated margarines. The oil is typically extracted by applying great pressure to the sunflower seeds and collecting the oil. The protein-rich cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed.

The original sunflower oil (linoleic sunflower oil) is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (about 68% linoleic acid) and low in saturated fats, such as palmitic acid and stearic acid. However, various hybrids have been developed to alter the fatty acid profile of the crop for various purposes.[2]

In the future, sunflower oil could become a renewable bio-source for hydrogen. A team for the University of Leeds has developed a workable method for the extraction of hydrogen from sunflower oil, through a chain of chemical reactions with nickel-based and carbon-based catalysts.[3] However, while the plant's photosynthesis essentially captures the hydrogen, the energy necessary to liberate hydrogen gas from the hydrocarbons from sunflower oil is considerably greater than the energy of the liberated gas. Therefore, although sunflower oil could certainly be used for this purpose, it is not, by any means, a 'free' or even 'eco-friendly' source of energy.

Nutritional value

In addition to linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, some amino acids (especially tryptophan), Vitamin E, B Vitamins (especially vitamin B1 or thiamine, vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid and folate), and minerals such as copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc.[4] Additionally, they are rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.[5]

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • sunflower seed — noun edible seed of sunflowers; used as food and poultry feed and as a source of oil • Hypernyms: ↑edible seed • Part Holonyms: ↑common sunflower, ↑mirasol, ↑Helianthus annuus • Substance Meronyms: ↑sunflower oil, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • sunflower-seed oil — noun oil from sunflower seeds • Syn: ↑sunflower oil • Hypernyms: ↑vegetable oil, ↑oil • Substance Holonyms: ↑sunflower seed * * * noun see s …   Useful english dictionary

  • sunflower seed weevil — noun : any of several weevils (genus Desmoris) with larvae that feed and develop in sunflower seeds …   Useful english dictionary

  • sunflower seed oil — Oil from the seeds of Helianthus annuus (family Compositae); the glycerides consist mainly of the mixed triglycerides, each containing one or two linoleic acid radicals; used as a food, and in dietary supplements …   Medical dictionary

  • extracted sunflower seed — išlukštentų saulėgrąžų rupiniai statusas Aprobuotas sritis pašarai apibrėžtis Šalutinis aliejaus gamybos produktas, gaunamas ekstrahuojant išlukštentas saulėgrąžas. atitikmenys: angl. extracted sunflower seed; sunflower cake vok. Sonnenblumenex… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • Sunflower oil — is the non volatile oil expressed from sunflower ( Helianthus annuus ) seeds. Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. Composition Sunflower oil contains predominantly linoleic acid in… …   Wikipedia

  • sunflower oil — noun oil from sunflower seeds • Syn: ↑sunflower seed oil • Hypernyms: ↑vegetable oil, ↑oil • Substance Holonyms: ↑sunflower seed * * * noun or …   Useful english dictionary

  • sunflower — /sun flow euhr/, n. 1. any of various composite plants of the genus Helianthus, as H. annuus, having showy, yellow rayed flower heads often 12 in. (30 cm) wide, and edible seeds that yield an oil with a wide variety of uses: the state flower of… …   Universalium

  • sunflower cake — išlukštentų saulėgrąžų rupiniai statusas Aprobuotas sritis pašarai apibrėžtis Šalutinis aliejaus gamybos produktas, gaunamas ekstrahuojant išlukštentas saulėgrąžas. atitikmenys: angl. extracted sunflower seed; sunflower cake vok. Sonnenblumenex… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • sunflower oil cake — noun : the residual cake remaining after the expression of oil from sunflower seed and used chiefly as a cattle feed …   Useful english dictionary

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