Sunflower seeds

A sunflower

Enjoy a handful of mild, nutty-tasting sunflower seeds with their firm but tender texture to take care of your snacking needs.

Sunflowers are thought to have originated in Mexico and Peru. They are one of the first plants to be cultivated in the United States. They have been used for more than 5,000 years by Native Americans, using the seeds as a food and an oil source.

Spanish explorers brought sunflowers back to Europe. Although only recently popular in the United States, sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world. Today, the leading commercial producers of sunflower seeds include the Russia, Peru, Argentina, Spain, France and China.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E travels throughout the body neutralizing free radicals that would otherwise damage fat-containing structures and molecules, such as cell membranes, brain cells, and cholesterol. By protecting these cellular and molecular components, vitamin E has anti-inflammatory effects that result in the reduction of symptoms in asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin E plays an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Sunflower seeds are available shelled or not shelled. The shelled variety are more polite to eat, and take less work, but may not stay fresh as long as their unshelled cousins. If you select roasted sunflower seeds, select the “dry roasted,” so no extra fat is added in processing.

Enjoy your sunflowers sparingly, but with gusto. Here are some ideas:

Add sunflower seeds to your favorite seafood, poultry, pasta, potato, green or tofu salad.

Garnish mixed Cole slaw with sunflower seeds.

Add sunflower seeds to tomato sauce.

Use finely-ground sunflower seeds as a breading or crust, rather than flour.

Sprinkle sunflower seeds onto hot and cold cereals or breakfast yogurt.

RECIPE

Broccoli and Sunflower Seed Soup

Serves 4-6

Vegetable oil spray

1 cup chopped sweet onion ( such as Maui or Vidalia)

1 crushed garlic clove

1 pound chopped broccoli ( fresh, or frozen, thawed) ( about 4 cups)

1 ¼ cups vegetable broth

2 teaspoons white pepper

¼ cup sunflower seeds

Spray heavy pot with vegetable oil and heat. Sauté onion until soft, add garlic and continue to sauté until garlic is soft. Add remaining ingredients, except sunflower seeds and allow to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is tender. Place half the soup in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot and allow to heat, stirring until hot. Pour into serving dishes, garnish with sunflower seeds, and serve.

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