Sunflower seeds are the gift of the beautiful sunflower, a plant with rays of petals emanating from its bright yellow, seed-studded center. The sunflower’s Latin scientific name, Helianthus annuus, reflects its solar appearance since helios is the Greek word for sun, and anthos is the Greek word for flower.

Sunflower Seeds’ Phytosterols Lower Cholesterol

Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts, are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers.

Phytosterols beneficial effects are so dramatic that they have been extracted from soybean, corn, and pine tree oil and added to processed foods, such as “butter”-replacement spreads, which are then touted as cholesterol-lowering “foods.” But why settle for an imitation “butter” when Mother Nature’s nuts and seeds are a naturally rich source of phytosterols—and cardio-protective fiber, minerals and healthy fats as well?

In a study in the November 2005 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers published the amounts of phytosterols present in nuts and seeds commonly eaten in the United States.

Sesame seeds had the highest total phytosterol content (400-413 mg per 100 grams), and English walnuts and Brazil nuts the lowest (113 mg/100grams and 95 mg/100 grams). (100 grams is equivalent to 3.5 ounces.) Of the nuts and seeds typically consumed as snack foods, sunflower seeds and pistachios were richest in phytosterols (270-289 mg/100 g), followed by pumpkin seeds (265 mg/100 g).

Sunflower Seeds, Dried

0.25 cup

205.20 calories

Nutrient Amount DV
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin E 18.10 mg 90.5 7.9 excellent
vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.82 mg 54.7 4.8 very good
manganese 0.73 mg 36.5 3.2 good
magnesium 127.44 mg 31.9 2.8 good
copper 0.63 mg 31.5 2.8 good
tryptophan 0.10 g 31.3 2.7 good
selenium 21.42 mcg 30.6 2.7 good
phosphorus 253.80 mg 25.4 2.2 good
vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) 2.43 mg 24.3 2.1 good
folate 81.86 mcg 20.5 1.8 good
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%