“Sunflowers and your face fascinate me…” ~ Stevi Nicks
How can you look at a field of sunflowers, all their faces turned to the sun, and not smile? If flowers had a beauty pageant of their own, the sunflower would surely be voted Miss Congeniality. But this giant among flowers is also treasured for the bountiful health benefits in its seeds and the oil that is made from them. They have a long and illustrious history that spans from pre-Columbian to pre-galactic.
Here are some fun and healthy facts about sunflowers.
They’re so good for you. Sunflowers produce nutrient-dense seeds, an excellent source of beneficial fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, they can be eaten as part of a healthy diet. Sunflowers can be ground to make sunflower seed butter and sunflower seed flour. Add sunflower seeds to chicken or tuna salad, mixed-green salads or even scrambled eggs to add unique flavor.
They’re right at home. Like potatoes, tomatoes and corn, sunflowers didn’t originate in Europe. They were cultivated in North America as far back as 3000 BC, and were used for medicine, dye and oil. Spanish conquistadores introduced them to the Old World around 1500.
They’ll save your skin. Sunflowers are rich in vitamins A, B, C and E. They contain powerful anti-aging properties to fight off free radicals, the enemies of youthful skin, for a toned and glowing complexion. Sunflower oil is a powerful emollient that keeps hair moisturized and looking radiant.
The original sun worshippers. Sunflower blossoms face east in the morning and follow the sun as the earth moves during the day. As the flowers get heavier during seed production the stems stiffen, so mature flowers generally remain facing east. The French word for sunflower is tournesol, which means turns with the sun.
They’ll do your heart good. In Mexico, the flowers were believed to relieve chest pain. A number of Native American tribes believed the plant had healing powers – the Cherokee used an infusion of sunflower leaves to treat kidneys and the Dakota believed it “soothed chest pain and pulmonary problems.”
They’re out of this world. Astronaut Don Pettit took sunflower seeds along with him to the International Space Station in 2012 and regularly blogged about growing the first extraterrestrial sunflowers.
They’re very popular. Besides the joy sunflowers bring to people who love to look at them and who benefit from their nutritional value, they also are favorites of birds and other wildlife including deer, squirrels, raccoons, field mice, and chipmunks.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” ~ Helen Keller