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Left: dehulled kernel.
Right: Whole seed with hull
Botanically speaking, a sunflower seed is an achene. When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel.

For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are usually classified by the pattern on their husks. If the husk is solid black, the seeds are called black oil sunflower seeds. The crops may be referred to as oilseed sunflower crops. These seeds are usually pressed into sunflower oil. These seeds are considered the seed of choice for bird feeders.

If the husks are striped, the seeds are called striped sunflower seeds or "stripers." Due to their lower oil content, the crops are called non-oilseed sunflower crops. Striped sunflower seeds are primarily used for food; as a result, they may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.

There is a sunflower seed that is whitish, which has no current commercial use. Most commonly, sunflower seeds are black with white stripes or plain black.


''Source: [[Food and Agriculture Organization>UN Food and Agriculture Organization]] (FAO)
Rank Country 106 M/T Country area (km²)
1 6.3
2 4.7
3 3.7
4 1.9
5 1.9
6 1.8
7 1.0
8 0.9
9 0.7
10 0.5
World Total 31.1


Sunflower seeds are more commonly eaten as a healthy snack than as part of a meal. They can also be used as garnishes or ingredients in various recipes. The seeds may be sold as in-shell seeds or dehulled kernels. The seeds can also be sprouted and eaten in salads.

When in-shell seeds are processed, they are first dried. Afterwards, they may also be roasted or dusted with salt or flour for preservation of flavor. Dehulling is commonly performed by cracking the hull with one's teeth and spitting it out while keeping the kernel in the mouth and eating it.

In-shell sunflower seeds are particularly popular in Mediterraneanmarker countries, like Israelmarker and Turkeymarker, where they are called garinim and ayçekirdeği respectively. In Turkey and Israel, they can be bought freshly roasted in shops and markets and are a common stadium food. They are popular in Bulgariamarker, Romaniamarker, Spainmarker, Chinamarker, Iranmarker, and the United States.

Dehulled kernels have been mechanically processed to remove the hull. These kernels may be sold raw or roasted. These dehulled kernels are sometimes added to bread and other baked goods for their flavor. There is also sunflower butter, similar to peanut butter, but utilizing sunflower seeds instead of peanuts. Apart from human consumption, sunflower seeds are also sold as food for pets and wild birds in boxes and small bags.
Sunflower Seed

Pressed oil

Over the past decades sunflower oil has become popular worldwide. The oil may be used as is, or may be processed into polyunsaturated margarines. The oil is typically extracted by applying great pressure to the sunflower seeds and collecting the oil. The protein-rich cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed.

The original sunflower oil (linoleic sunflower oil) is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (about 68% linoleic acid) and low in saturated fats, such as palmitic acid and stearic acid. However, various hybrid have been developed to alter the fatty acid profile of the crop for various purposes.

In the future, sunflower oil could become a renewable bio-source for hydrogen. A team for the University of Leedsmarker has developed a workable method for the extraction of hydrogen from sunflower oil, through a chain of chemical reactions with nickel-based and carbon-based catalysts. However, while the plant's photosynthesis essentially captures the hydrogen, the energy necessary to liberate hydrogen gas from the hydrocarbons from sunflower oil is considerably greater than the energy of the liberated gas. Therefore, although sunflower oil could certainly be used for this purpose, it is not, by any means, a 'free' or even 'eco-friendly' source of energy.

Health benefits

In addition to linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, and mineral such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc. Additionally, they are rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. Sunflower seeds also contain one gram or less of sugar per serving.[9292]

See also


  1. Cornell University: What to Feed Birds
  2. FAO: Major food and agricultural commodities and producers
  3. National Sunflower Association : Sunflower Oil
  4. BBC NEWS: Sunflower oil boost to car future
  5. WHFoods: Sunflower seeds
  6. Science Daily: Sunflower Seeds, Pistachios Among Top Nuts For Lowering Cholesterol

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