Are Sunflower Seeds Keto or Not?

Are Sunflower Seeds Keto or Not?

Are sunflower seeds keto or not?

If you’ve ever watched a Major League Baseball game, then you’ve probably noticed the baseball playing eating sunflower seeds and spitting out the shells while playing.

Or if you’re a cycling fan like I am, then you’ve watched the cyclists of the Tour de France speed by fields of sunflowers in the French countryside.

Image shows a typical colorful landscape in Provence, France. A sunflower field is combined with a lavender field in the foreground and a neglected barn in the background.
Sunflower field in France

Sunflower seeds can be part of a healthy, well-formulated ketogenic and low-carb diet in limited amounts. Like most seeds and nuts, sunflower seeds are high in calories and fats. Just a small handful of sunflower seeds can add 200 to 400 calories and still leave you hungry.

Sunflower and Sunflower Seeds – The History

Sunflower seeds come from the center and are the fruit of the sunflower plant (Helianthus Annuus). The use of sunflower seeds as a food source dates back over three thousand years in North America in the region that later became New Mexico and Arizona.

The sunflower was later brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. The sunflower became a popular plant in Europe and eventually was commercially grown in Russia in the 1800s. At about the same time, sunflower seeds were pressed and processed to produce sunflower oil.

The sunflowers now grown in North America are mostly of the Russian sunflower variety.

sunflower and sunflower seeds
Photo by Magdalena Smolnicka on Unsplash

Sunflower seeds nutrition

Sunflower seeds are a high calorie, high fat food. A 100 grams of sunflower seeds packs a whopping 580 calories, mostly from fat. That 100 grams is about 1 full cup of sunflower seeds and a normal serving size of sunflower seeds is usually about 1/4 cup. That smaller serving size of sunflower seeds still comes in at 145 calories with about 13 grams (about 117 calories) from fat.

Sunflower seeds do have some carbohydrate content, but almost half of the carbs are in the form of fiber, so the net carbohydrate effect of sunflower seeds is much lower that the listed total carbohydrates.

What kind of fats are in sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds also contain mostly polyunsaturated fats. They also have a high amount of monounsaturated fats and only a small amount of saturated fat. Almost all of the polyunsaturated fats in sunflower seeds are from linoleic (octadecadienoic) acid which is an omega-6 fatty acid. Oleic (octadecenoic) fatty acids make up almost all of the monounsaturated fats.

The saturated fats in sunflower seeds are divided between palmitic (hexadecanoic) and stearic (octadecanoic) fatty acids. These saturated fats are long-chain fatty acids.

Sunflowers that are bred for sunflower oil are breed to have differing amounts of fats depending upon the application of the sunflower oil.

Interesting Sunflower Facts

  • Wild sunflowers will often have multiple flowers on one stalk while domesticated sunflowers will only have one flower head.
  • Sunflower seeds contain a high amount of Vitamin E.
  • Unlike peanut allergies or allergies to tree nuts like cashews or almonds, an allergy to sunflower seeds is rare.
  • Sunflower seeds also have a high protein content.
  • When the sunflower was brought to Europe, it was first grown as a decorative or ornamental flower and not used for its sunflower seeds.
  • Baseball players began to favor sunflower seeds when there was a movement to stop players from using chewing tobacco.
  • Sunflowers may have been cultivated in North America before corn.
  • Sunflower oil also has many commercial uses such as a lubricant in engines.
  • Be careful of added salt in some of the commercial brands of sunflower seeds. Some brands can have a lot of added salt.

Are sunflower seeds keto or not?

Since sunflower seeds are low in carbohydrates and high in fats, sunflower seeds are keto and can be a healthy addition to a low- carb or keto diet in small amounts.

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