There are certain foods that bring more than taste to your diet, rich in nutrients and energy they are worth including in your weekly shopping.
Food therapy is a broad term for the benefits to the body of a healthy, varied and nutritional diet of fresh foods.
Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine. A robust immune system, not only attacks external opportunistic pathogens, but also works to prevent rogue cells in the body from developing into serious disease.
NOTE – If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor. If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.
Today I am going to cover a seed that is also used as an oil and is readily available in supermarkets all year round. The sight of sunflowers as you drive through France on the way to England has always typified the weather and lifestyle of Mediterranean countries. They are one of my favourite flowers and I used one as a logo for my business in Ireland.
The seeds are a fantastic powerhouse of nutrients and including them regularly in your diet will give your overall health a great boost. The oil is great for cooking with or using in salad dressings.
Sunflower seed origins. It is believed that they originated from Mexico and Peru and they have been cultivated for around 5000 years, which is incredible. Native Indian Americans have used the seeds to eat and the oil for that length of time and they also used the leaves, roots and stems for medicine and dyes.
Powdered dry seeds have been used for centuries as a remedy for bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, influenza and coughs. It was even believed that growing the plant in your garden prevented you getting flu’s and colds. It actually was valued for its beauty as well as its health benefits.
The Spanish explorers bought back seeds from South America and after being grown in Spain its use spread into France and into the rest of Europe. Russian and Eastern Europe have used it as an oilseed crop since the 18th century and the first commercial production of the oil was in 1830. Apart from South America, Spain, France and Russia, China is also a large commercial producer. The larger seeds are used for eating and the smaller ones for the oil industry.
What about the nutritional properties?
Sunflower seeds are very high in Vitamin E, B1 and have healthy amounts of B-complex vitamins, manganese, magnesium, copper, tryptophan, selenium, phosphorus and Folate. One of their great benefits is the amount of protein that they contain along with essential fatty acids.
Of particular benefit are the high levels of Vitamin E, magnesium and selenium. Vitamin E; As an antioxidant it protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body such as LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage and blood vessels. It can be used topically for skin health and is involved in the reproductive system. It may help prevent circulatory problems that lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease by preventing clots from forming. It improves the pulmonary function of the lungs and enhances the white blood cells ability to resist infection.
Magnesium: It is essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP the fuel the body runs on. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium. It is needed to balance calcium in the body and too much can result in very low levels of calcium.
Selenium: A very important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancer. There are concerns that our soil that crops are grown in such as grains is becoming selenium depleted which effects the amount found in our daily diet. It is such an important nutrient that having a handful of sunflower seeds three or four times a week would be very beneficial.
What about the high fat content of Sunflower seed and oil?
Actually Sunflower seeds contain what we term good fat in the form of essential fatty acids.
Essential fatty acids are very important to us, because they regulate oxygen use in the cells, are needed for healthy glandular function and increase levels of energy. Additionally they can alleviate allergies, symptoms of PMS, help lower LDL (lousy cholesterol) and raise HDL (healthy cholesterol), lower blood pressure, and they can lubricate joints and relieve the symptoms of arthritis.
The health benefits of these nutrients inSunflower seeds.
Apart from the anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis the high content of Vitamin E will also help prevent degenerative disease in the joints and the brain and lungs. Vitamin E is also essential for women going through the menopause as it can help with some of the more distressing symptoms such as hot flushes. As an antioxidant it prevents free radical damage and this applies to cholesterol as well. When cholesterol is oxidised it becomes unstable and forms plaque on the walls of the arteries. This in turn narrows the artery restricting blood flow and allowing clots to form.
The magnesium in sunflower seeds not only helps regulate the flow of calcium between blood and bone but also helps keep our nervous and muscular system healthy. Spasms are extremely painful including those that are part of the symptoms of a heart attack; magnesium helps prevent this happening. Magnesium has also been found to be helpful in Asthma and reducing migraine headaches as it works like Vitamin E in an inflammatory capacity.
Selenium has long been regarded as a possible preventative for cancer. We need to detox our bodies naturally every day of the harmful toxins we have taken in through our skin, by breathing and in our food. The liver is home to many very powerful antioxidant enzymes specifically designed to get rid of toxic waste, one of which is Glutathione peroxidase. Selenium is very important in the manufacture of this enzyme and may be why it is so powerful as an anti-cancer agent. Selenium is one of those antioxidants that not only encourages cells to repair themselves but also persuades cancerous cells to self-destruct.
What are the different ways to eat Sunflower seeds?
The best way is to use them for snacks or to throw into your salads. A very powerful but tasty way to eat your seeds and nuts is to make your own mix from pumpkinseeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts. A handful once a day will provide you with all the above nutrients, as they are all packed with them. I love walnuts and seeds in my salads and have a handful every day in that way. You can grind the seeds up and use in sauces for your meat, fish and chicken. You can add to a homemade muesli mix.
Recipe for crunchy brown rice to accompany fish or chicken or on its own with a lush garden salad.
Cook sufficient brown rice for the number of guests that you have in vegetable stock. Cover to keep warm.
For the rice mix.
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4 oz. of chopped mushrooms.
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
- 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons sultanas
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.
- 1 tablespoon of good quality Sunflower oil.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat the sunflower oil in the pan and then added the onion, mushroom and pepper.
- Cook until soft and browning and then add the sunflower seeds and almonds.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large bowl add your ingredients to your rice and mix thoroughly.
- Garnish with the parsley and serve with salad and meat or fish of your choice.
©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2022
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the Food Therapy Series…
A little bit about me nutritionally. .
About Sally Cronin
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.
Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.
As always I look forward to your comments and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them.. thanks Sally.