Sunflower seeds are a popular food, commonly eaten as a snack, sprinkled on dishes, and added to baked goods.

They’re a nutritional powerhouse packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

However, since they’re high in fat and calories, you may wonder whether sunflower seeds are a good choice for weight loss.

This article covers how sunflower seeds affect your weight.

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Sunflower seeds are packed with protein, healthy fat, and fiber (1).

Though the exact nutritional values vary depending on how sunflower seeds are cooked and flavored, 1 ounce (28 grams, or roughly 1/4 cup) of shelled, dry-roasted sunflower seeds contains the following (1):

  • Calories: 165
  • Total fat: 14 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 9 grams
  • Saturated fat: 1.5 grams
  • Carbs: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 5.5 grams

Sunflower seeds also supply 21 essential vitamins and minerals, including 49% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E and 41% of the DV for selenium per 1-ounce (28-gram) serving (1).

Due to their high fat content, sunflower seeds are calorie-dense.

However, the type of fat found in sunflower seeds — namely unsaturated fat — may be highly beneficial for your heart.

Research suggests replacing saturated fat in your diet with unsaturated fat to help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood and reduce heart disease risk (2, 3).

Summary

Though sunflower seeds are calorie-dense, they supply high amounts of protein, healthy fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

While research on sunflower seeds and weight loss is lacking, the nutrients in these seeds may aid weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness, preserving muscle mass, and helping you stick to a weight loss plan longer.

May keep you full and prevent overeating

Eating snacks helps reduce hunger and may help prevent overeating at subsequent meals (4).

Though sunflower seeds haven’t been studied specifically, research suggests that similar snack foods — like nuts — promote fullness and do not lead to overconsumption at later meals (5, 6).

Additionally, the major nutrients in sunflower seeds — namely fat, protein, and fiber — have been shown to be particularly filling (7).

For example, one-third of the fiber in sunflower seeds is soluble — the type of fiber that may help manage weight by adding bulk to your stools, slowing digestion, and increasing feelings of fullness (8, 9).

May help you maintain muscle

Research has shown that people with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories — even while resting (10).

When following a reduced calorie diet, studies have suggested that over 35% of the weight loss may be from muscle (11).

To limit muscle loss, many studies suggest eating adequate protein, along with performing resistance exercises (12, 13, 14).

As shelled sunflower seeds contain around 2 grams of protein per tablespoon (10 grams), they’re a great way to boost the protein content of your snacks and meals (1).

For example, you can dip apple slices in sunflower seed butter or sprinkle shelled sunflower seeds onto your salad as a tasty source of added protein.

May help you stick to your diet plan

Ultimately, a successful weight loss plan is one you can stick to.

Fiber — like that found in sunflower seeds — may help. Health authorities recommend that women consume 25 grams of fiber daily, while men should consume 38 grams per day (15).

In one 6-month study involving 345 people on a severely calorie-restricted diet, those who consumed the recommended daily intake of fiber were more likely to adhere to their diet plan (16).

What’s more, participants who increased their fiber intake the most shed more weight. On average, every 3.7-gram increase in daily fiber was associated with an additional 3 pounds (1.4 kg) of weight loss (16).

Additionally, research suggests flexible weight loss plans tailored to food preferences are easier to comply with (17).

In other words, if you enjoy sunflower seeds, eating them may help you follow a diet long term.

Summary

The protein, fat, and fiber in sunflower seeds may help support weight loss.

Sunflower seeds can be a healthy addition to any weight loss plan.

You can buy sunflower seeds shelled or unshelled. They’re also available raw or roasted and in different flavors.

Here are some healthy ways to enjoy sunflower seeds:

  • By themselves. Try a handful of sunflower seeds — shelled or unshelled — for a quick and nutritious snack.
  • Trail mix. Enjoy shelled sunflower seeds with nuts, other seeds, and dried fruit.
  • As a topping. Sprinkle shelled sunflower seeds on salads, oatmeal, yogurt parfaits, casseroles, and other dishes.
  • Sunflower seed butter. Spread sunflower seed butter on whole grain breads and crackers, or use it as a dip for fruit.

Keep in mind, some brands of sunflower seeds are especially high in sodium.

While sodium is an essential mineral, getting too much is linked to high blood pressure (18).

To avoid excessive salt intake, opt for unsalted, lightly salted, and reduced sodium varieties. Also consider eating plain rather than flavored sunflower seeds, as these are typically lower in salt.

Additionally, certain sunflower seed and sunflower seed butter products may contain added sugars. Since added sugars supply calories but offer little to no nutritional value, it may be beneficial to limit them when trying to lose weight (19).

Both sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter are calorie-dense, with the latter providing nearly twice the calories per tablespoon (16 grams) as the former. Monitor your portion sizes to avoid exceeding your daily calorie needs (20).

Summary

Sunflower seeds can be enjoyed by themselves as a snack, in trail mixes, as sunflower seed butter, or as a topping for numerous dishes.

While calorie-dense, sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients that may help support weight loss.

Protein, fat, and fiber are especially filling, making sunflower seeds an optimal choice for snacking.

As long as you watch your portion sizes, you can eat sunflower seeds in a variety of healthy ways.

Add them to trail mixes, use them as a nutrient-dense topping for salads and other dishes, enjoy them as sunflower seed butter, or eat them on their own.

Shop for unsalted sunflower seeds online.