(NaturalNews) Sunflowers are the earthly representation of the sun. They have such an affinity for the life giving force that they twist on their stems so their faces can bask in sunlight all through the day. Photons from the sun are stored in the DNA of the sunflower, making its seed resonate with the photons in human cells. This resonance is good for mind as well as body, and makes sunflowers one of the top foods for fighting depression.
Key nutrients raise serotonin levels and boost nerve function naturally
If we believe that we are what we eat, it is clear that nerves depend on what they are fed. While all of the wealth of nutrients found in sunflower seeds contributes to nerve health, sunflower seeds are particularly rich in key nutrients that have a direct impact on alleviating depression. Their high levels of magnesium counterbalance calcium, helping to regulate nerve function. And the substantial content of the amino acid, tryptophan, enhances serotonin production and thus improves mood.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that pass messages between nerve cells in the brain. They have a tremendous impact on overall mood and feelings of well being. Serotonin is one of the body's most important neurotransmitters. When released, serotonin gives a relaxing, content feeling that relieves emotional tension. This feeling is often described as mellowness. It is serotonin's profound effect on the mind that makes Prozac, Paxil, and other antidepressants such popular drugs. These drugs act by artificially keeping serotonin levels high. Higher serotonin can be naturally achieved by eating sunflower seeds, and there are no side effects.
Carbohydrates are needed to help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier and get to where it can work its wonders. Sunflower seeds offer the perfect blend of tryptophan and carbohydrates making them an ideal functional food to fight depression. Dark meat from poultry is also high in tryptophan, but needs carbohydrates added to be effective. Increased serotonin is why a Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, potatoes and stuffing provides such a relaxing sense of well being that the diner is soon asleep on the couch. Sunflower seeds are the perfect vegetarian alternative to such a food orgy.
Vitamin B-6 is also necessary to fuel the body's normal depression-fighting chemical reactions. B-6 deficiency is common in Americans, particularly when considered in light of the absurdly low RDA of two milligrams. Sunflower seeds are a good source of B-6, giving them a three way punch against depression.
Sunflower seeds have a long history of benefiting people
Sunflower seeds are one of the first plants to be cultivated in the U.S. They have been used by Native Americans for more than 5,000 years as a food source and for their oil. Parts of the flowers, roots and stems have been used for varied purposes including pigment dye, but the bright yellow petals of the sunflower are considered poisonous to humans.
Health benefits of sunflower seeds are extensive
Some people think sunflower seeds are for the birds. They can be seen picking through all the other seeds in the feeder to get to the prized sunflower seeds. Birds are smart enough to go for the finest in nutrition. Sunflower seeds also supply all the nutrients needed by the human body with the exception of vitamin D. They are extremely rich in vitamin E, the primary fat-soluble antioxidant in the human body. Vitamin E roams the body looking for free radicals to put out of business. This action keeps fat-containing molecules from being damaged and leading to early aging. Vitamin E protects against inflammation too, making it a potent fighter of arthritis, cancer and diabetes.
One-quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains over 90% of the daily value of vitamin E. This makes sunflower seeds extremely helpful in protecting cardiovascular health by preventing free radicals from damaging cholesterol. Only after being damaged can cholesterol stick to blood vessel walls and begin the process of atherosclerosis which leads to clogged arteries, heart attack, and stroke. People with a high intake of vitamin E are at much lower risk of dying from a heart attack than are people whose vitamin E intake is inadequate.
Sunflower seeds are loaded with potassium, so needed in the American diet to balance the effects of sodium. Potassium controls the pressure inside cells while sodium controls the pressure outside cells. Sodium concentrations are more than ten times lower inside than outside cells, and potassium concentrations are about 30 times higher inside than outside cells. The concentration differences between potassium and sodium across cell membranes create an electrochemical gradient known as the membrane potential.
A large amount of energy in the body is dedicated to maintaining the sodium/potassium concentration gradients, underscoring the importance of the balance between sodium and potassium in sustaining life. Tight control of cell membrane potential is critical for heart function, nerve impulse transmission, and muscle contraction. This dedication of body energy to maintaining sodium/potassium balance is what makes fatigue the most obvious symptom of potassium deficiency. Heart rhythm irregularities also signify the need for more potassium.
One-quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains more than 30% of the daily value for selenium in a form with much greater bioavailability than can be obtained from selenium supplements. Selenium has been shown to protect against cancers by inducing DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells, and by inducing cancer cells to die. Selenium is incorporated at the active site of many compounds, including cancer fighting glutathione peroxidase, one of the most powerful antioxidant enzymes found naturally in the body. When glutathione peroxidase levels are too low, toxic molecules are not able to be disarmed, and are left to create havoc in the body damaging DNA and promoting cancer.
That same quarter-cup of sunflower seeds also contains more than 32% of the daily value of magnesium, a mineral that does a lot more than keep people in a good mood. Magnesium is natures channel blocker, preventing calcium from overly activating nerves, sending too many messages, and causing excessive muscle contractions. Magnesium deficiency contributes to high blood pressure, muscle spasms that include the heart muscle, and spasms of the airways that characterize asthma. Migraines, muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue are also symptomatic of magnesium deficiency.
A quarter-cup of sunflower seeds is a rich source of manganese, containing 37% of the daily value. Manganese is critical in the activation of enzymes without which many key nutrients will remain unused by the body. Some of these enzymes are necessary for bone formation and may be needed for thyroid hormone production. Manganese is a component of nerve health and is another player against depression. It is a catalyst in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol, and facilitates protein and carbohydrate metabolism.
Many physiological processes are impacted by manganese deficiency. Some of the symptoms of shortage are loss of hair color, hearing loss, dizziness, skin rash, bone loss and osteoporosis, excessively low cholesterol levels, and reproductive health issues.
Sunflower seeds act as a natural pH buffer because of their high mineral content. Keeping the body at optimal pH, which is slightly to the alkaline side, has been recommended as one the best means for protecting the body against the ravages of Morgellons disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases.
Sunflower seeds are user friendly
Although some people like the hands on involvement of shelling sunflower seeds as they are eaten, buying them already shelled is easy to do. The seeds should be kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Kids like a snack bag of seeds to take outside, or as an addition to lunch. An adult snack bag makes a great mid-morning or afternoon energy booster.
It's easy to add sunflower seeds to any meal. Add them to hot or cold breakfast cereal or sprinkle them on yogurt. Mix into cream cheese for a bagel spread. Add them while mixing muffins or multi-grain breads. Top your lunch salad with sunflower seeds. Pack a pita with salad and crunchy sunflower seeds. Add them to any stir fry or pasta dish, and incorporate them into tuna, chicken or shrimp salads. Add sunflower seeds to trail mix, or mix them up with assorted dried fruits.
For the best in nutrition, taste and digestibility, soak or sprout sunflower seeds. The wisdom of Mother Nature has implanted seeds with enzyme inhibitors so they can remain viable for a long period of time. This inhibitor can make seeds difficult to digest. When seeds are soaked or sprouted, the process of nature is imitated; the inhibitor is lost, and the nutrients contained in the seeds are released along with enzymes that make them highly digestible. The full flavor of soaked or sprouted seeds is also released. Several online retailers sell already sprouted organic sunflower seeds that are plain, with added sea salt, or really spiced up. The amount of different sprouted organic seed products available creates enough variety to keep the interest level high.
Make up a batch of live granola
Instead of buying baked granola at the supermarket that is made with vegetable oil, create a really healthy choice with raw soaked grains and seeds.
Ingredients 2 cups rolled oats (soaked overnight in fresh apple juice and drained) 1 cup buckwheat groats (soaked overnight in fresh apple juice and drained) 1 cup shelled sunflower seeds (previously soaked or sprouted for 1 day) 1 cup raisins 1 cup sesame seeds 4 Tbs maple syrup 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp or more fresh ground cinnamon Enough fresh fruit juice to create the consistency you like
Stir together all the ingredients except the raisins and sesame seeds. The mixture should stick together in clumps. If it doesn't, add some of the fruit juice. Spread out on a dehydrator tray at 105 for about 6 hours. When dry and crunchy, add the raisins and sesame seeds and seal it all in an airtight container. Eat as cereal or bag as snacks.
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.