What is it?
Sunflower seeds come from the yellow flower many of us have seen covering fields
The sunflower produces grayish-green or black seeds encased in tear-dropped shaped gray or black shells with white stripes. These seeds have a very high oil content and are the source of sunflower oil. Shelled sunflower seeds have a mild nutty taste and firm, but tender texture.
What can I do with it?
Sunflower seeds can be eaten whole, raw or roasted with salt. The seeds can also be ground into a versatile seed flour or seed butter.
The flour made from sunflower seeds can be used in gluten free baking. It is a useful substitute for nut flours like almond if you have nut sensitivities or allergies. Baking with sunflower flour yields light baked goods with a soft texture.
This is a very useful and versatile all round flour, gluten free and high in fibre. It can be used in many types of baked goods from breads to crackers. Baked goods incorporating sunflower flour are usually moist and relatively light with a nice crumb, texture and mouth feel. Crackers made with sunflower flour are crunchy, crisp and hold together more than well enough to be used for dips. Most seed crackers are either brittle or gummy (like flax crackers) but not sunflower crackers. They also have a lovely golden brown colour when dried.
Sunflower seed flour can be used as an affordable substitute for almond and other nut meals or flours in many recipes. When combined with nut flours it lightens the mix whilst retaining the nut flavour. It also reduces the overall cost as it is significantly less expensive than most popular nut flours.
Sunflower flour works well in many applications where other oil seed flours such as flax seed flour will not. Several factors contribute to this, not least of which is that sunflower flour is less inclined to become soggy when mixed with water or other wet ingredients. It also does not suffer from the somewhat gummy texture or sticky mouth feel often encountered with flax. Be aware that Sunflower flour will turn green when it comes in contact with baking soda!
What could it do for me?
Sunflower seeds are a unique food, rich in many types of essential, and sometimes hard to get, nutrients. In fact, sunflower seeds make my Top 10 List for foods rich in Vitamin E, copper, B Vitamins like thiamine, phosphorus, selenium, and more.
Sunflower seeds provide a healthy source of essential fatty acids just like nearly all types of nuts and seeds. Their specific fatty acids are in the form of linoleic acid. Additionally, sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of fiber, amino acids (especially tryptophan) which make up the building blocks of proteins, B Vitamins, phytosterols, and more.
We have been led to believe that consuming fat can lead to unwanted weight gain. The opposite is in fact true, consuming healthy fats actually leads to a healthy cardiovascular system. It also contributes to a stable healthy body weight, and reduced levels of body-wide inflammation.
Healthy sources of fats like those found in sunflower seeds are actually the building blocks for cell membranes. They also allow your body to balance hormones, help to slow down absorption of food during meal time so that you can go longer without feeling hungry, and also act as carriers for important fat- soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
What can I substitute?
If you do not have to consider nut allergies or sensitivities, almond or macadamia flour would be good substitutes. Baking results may however not be identical.
How do I store it?
Since sunflower seeds have a high fat content and are prone to rancidity, it is best to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They can also be stored in the freezer since the cold temperature will not greatly affect their texture or flavor.