The sunflower family, native to the continent of North America, boasts of being the largest family of flowering plants in the world. Even though there is no questioning their popularity, there do exist quite a few myths about sunflowers. For instance, it is a popular belief that sunflowers exhibit heliotropism, i.e. they trace the Sun, and hence their orientation changes from east to west in course of the day. The fact, however, is that only young sunflowers follow the Sun, while the mature ones typically face east throughout the day.
Yet another myth.... or perhaps confusion would be the right word, when it comes to sunflowers is related to their seeds. While some people argue that sunflower seeds are true seeds, others are of the opinion that they are actually nuts. Amidst all this confusion, many people are left wondering what are sunflower seeds - nuts or seeds?
What is referred to as the 'sunflower seed' is actually the fruit of the sunflower plant. When it is de-hulled, the edible part of the same is exposed - this is referred to as the 'sunflower kernel'. There exist three different types of sunflower seeds - linoleic, high oleic and nusun, of which the linoleic variety is most common. These seeds are a quarter of an inch in length, angular in shape and grayish green or black in color. They are rich in linoleic acid - which happens to be one of the essential fatty acids required by our body.
Other than this, sunflower seeds also contain significant amount of proteins, B vitamins, vitamin E, dietary fiber, and a range of minerals. It is this sunflower seeds nutrition value which makes them an important constituent of daily diet for many people. These seeds are either sold with the shell, or as de-hulled kernel. While some people prefer to eat them as a snack, others use them as ingredients in various dishes or garnish the dishes with these seeds.
Are Sunflower Seeds Nuts?
Basically, a nut is defined as a single-seeded fruit (two in rare cases) which is typically characterized by a hard, dry outer covering which doesn't crack open when the fruit matures. A single-seeded fruit with a hard outer covering, that is what the sunflower seed is all about. Does that mean what we refer to as the sunflower seed is a sunflower nut in actual sense? All seeds are not considered as nuts, as seeds are also found in a range of fruits. Sunflower seeds happen to be one of the best example of this concept.
While sunflower seeds are not nuts, they are not seeds either. The term sunflower seed, which is often used to refer to the pericap of the hull, is actually a misnomer, while the technically correct term for the same is achene. In botany, the term achene, at times spelled as akene, refers to a type of dry fruit which is produced by certain species of flowering plants; the sunflower plant being one of them.
Sunflower seeds have a significant amount of unsaturated fats along-side saturated fats in them, and that makes many people believe that they are not good for health. The fact, however, is that everything depends on what amount of these seeds you consume, and it's highly unlikely that you will consume it in handful in one go. So it is safe to say that sunflower seeds are good for your health, as long as you don't end up overeating.