Sunflower is one of the most popular plants in the plant kingdom and it is recognized all over the world. It is known perhaps because of its product, which is sunflower oil, also for its usual false impression that the flower follows the sun during different times of the day and because of the unique shape of the flower which almost resembles the sun. The name sunflower in English is derived from the Greek word Helianthus, which is a combination of Helios meaning the sun and Anthos meaning a flower. Thus, the name sunflower.
Sunflower is native to America. Evidence of sunflower cultivation is present in southern part of United States and in some parts of Mexico, as early as 2300 BC. Some tribes of native Americans such as the Aztecs, The Otomis and the Incas have symbolized sunflower as the symbol of their deity the Sun and have worshiped it. The travelers visiting the Americas during 15th century brought the seeds of sunflower to Europe and from here they have become very popular around the world.
Can I give sunflower seeds to my kids?
Sunflower seeds can be introduced in your kid’s diet, but only if there are no risks. The major risks have been mentioned below.
Risk of Choking: It is advised parents not to feed whole sunflower seeds to their toddlers and kids below the age of 4. There is a high risk of choking for sunflower seeds and also the kids below the age of 4 do not have the ability to separate the hull and kernel in the mouth. According to New York State Department of Health, choking is the 4th leading cause of deaths in children below the age of 5. And hence, care should be taken while giving foods such as dried fruits, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
Risk of allergies: Sunflower seeds along with seeds such as sesame seeds and poppy seeds have been reported to cause allergic reactions in children. If you want to introduce sunflower seeds to your kids, first you should make sure that there are no allergy risks running in your family. Allergy risks include allergy to tree nuts, peanut allergy and the above mentioned allergies to seeds. Consult your pediatrician about this and introduce sunflower seeds only when you are very sure that there is obvious risk.
So, what is the best age to introduce sunflower seeds?
Adhering to the first risk of choking, you can introduce hulled sunflower kernel to your kids. High risk of choking comes from the presence of the hull, which needs to be cracked and spat out while keeping the actual seed in the mouth. So, if you give hulled sunflower seeds, the risk is minimized. Still, you have to make sure that your kid chews the seeds thoroughly.
Alternatively, if you are sure that there is no risk of allergic reactions, you can introduce sunflower seed butter as a spread on sandwiches.
Health benefits of sunflower seeds for Childrens
Here are some of the health benefits of adding sunflower seeds to your kids’ diet.
Good for digestion: Sunflower seeds have good amount of dietary fiber. This fiber is good for your kids as it adds bulk to the food. It absorbs more water and helps in easy bowel movement and relief from constipation and keep your kid’s gut healthy.
Calms the brain: Just like pumpkin seeds, even sunflower seeds have a good amount of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps in producing serotonin and melatonin. These hormones are some of the key ingredients for a good night’s sleep. Hence, if your child is suffering from insomnia, give sunflower seeds few hours before sleep.
Rich supply of amino acids: Sunflower is a good source of essential amino acids such as histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. These are known as essential amino acids because, the body cannot produce them naturally and they need to be supplied through the food that we eat. Fortunately, sunflower seeds contain all the essential amino acids. Amino acids play an important role in muscle development and metabolism and they are the building blocks of proteins.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Sunflower has good amount of vitamin E in it. Vitamin E has been noted to possess anti-inflammatory properties and has been known to reduce inflammations related to asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, influenza and cough, etc.
Reduces anemia: Anemia is a condition characterized by lack of red blood cells and lack of hemoglobin. If your child is anemic, giving sunflower seeds to your child can reduce anemia, as sunflower seeds are high in iron.
Bone development: Sunflower seeds are high in magnesium, a mineral which has a great role to play in bone development apart from calcium. While there is more and more focus on the intake of calcium, the intake of calcium should be well balanced with that of magnesium because magnesium helps in reducing the ill-effects of excess calcium in the body. A thumb rule of 2:1 ratio of calcium and magnesium daily intake needs to be followed.
Nutrition in Sunflower Seeds (Hulled and Dried)
According to the National Nutrient Database from the US Department of Agriculture, the nutrition found in sunflower seeds (hulled and dried) include
|Nutrition||Value per 100 g||Nutrition||Value per 100 g|
|Water||4.73 g||Energy||584 kcal|
|Protein||20.78 g||Total Lipid||51.46 g|
|Carbohydrate||20 g||Fiber||8.6 g|
|Sugars||2.62 g||Calcium||78 mg|
|Iron||5.25 mg||Magnesium||325 mg|
|Phosphorus||660 mg||Potassium||645 mg|
|Sodium||9 mg||Zinc||5 mg|
|Vitamin C||1.4 mg||Thiamin||1.4 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.33 mg||Niacin||8.3 mg|
|Vitamin B6||1.34 mg||Folate||227 mcg|
|Vitamin A||50 IU||Vitamin E||35.17 mg|