The Amazing Kernel - A Powerhouse of Benefits
According to research completed in March 2001 by Dr. K. Phillips of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, sunflower kernel is rich in a number of components that have been shown to protect against cardiovascular and other diseases and to act as antioxidants and anticarcinogens; thus the kernel can be considered a functional food. When considered in aggregate, the amazing kernel adds a nutritional wallop to a wide array of products such as breads, muffins, crackers, and snack foods.
This is good news for consumers who are increasingly interested in functional foods. It's also good news for manufacturers of baked goods and snack foods, because it provides the opportunity to consider kernel as an ingredient in new products in order to deliver upon this growing demand.
What are functional foods?
While an exact definition continues to evolve, functional foods provide benefits beyond basic nutrition. They may prevent certain disease(s) or promote better health. Most foods are functional, at least to some degree, since they provide important nutrients essential for good health. Here are a few examples:
- Tomatoes contain "lycopene" which may decrease the risk of developing certain cancers,
- Onions and garlic contain "diallyl sulfide" which lowers LDL cholesterol and maintains a healthy immune system,
- Cranberries and chocolate contain "proanthocyanidins" which have been shown to improve urinary tract health and may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease,
- Sunflower kernel, the edible heart of the sunflower seed, is a good source of phytochemicals (non-nutrient plant chemicals) that can be protective against disease.
What specific phytochemicals are prevalent in kernel and what are their respective health benefits?
In comparison to other nuts and foods high in these compounds, sunflower kernel contains high levels of vitamin E, betaine, phenolic acids, and choline. In addition, kernel is a good source of arginine and lignans compared to some nuts. Each of these compounds, while perhaps unfamiliar to the layperson, has been studied by the scientific community and shown to offer a variety of health benefits.
|Vitamin E (tocopherols)||May protect against cardiovascular disease|
|Betaine ||May protect against cardiovascular disease|
|Phenolic acids (chlorogenic acid) ||Antioxidant and anticarcinogen|
|Choline ||Plays a role in memory and cognitive function|
|Arginine ||Potential heart benefits|
|Lignans ||May protect against heart disease and some cancers; lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides|
A brochure containing charts that describe in detail the comparisons of the kernel to other food products (almonds, walnuts, soybeans, hazelnuts, pecans, eggplant, beef steak, eggs, tuna, chicken, and turkey, to name a few) is available for downloading in a PDF format (see link at bottom of page). The brochure also includes references to the scientific resources used in the brochure's data.
For multiple copies of the brochure, contact the National Sunflower Association at (701) 328-5132 or toll free (888) 718-7033. The brochure may also be ordered using NSA's online catalog.