The sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus).
There are three types of commonly used sunflower seeds: linoleic (most common), high oleic, and NuSun. Each has its own unique levels of monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
The solid black husked variety (black oil sunflower seeds) is usually pressed to extract their oil. Striped sunflower seeds are primarily used for food
Sunflower oil is typically extracted by applying pressure to the sunflower seeds. It is used as is, or can be processed into polyunsaturated margarines. The protein-rich residue from the pressing is used as 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.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of dietary fibre, some amino acids, vitamin E and B vitamins (including thiamine, pantothenic acid, and folic acid). They are also rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols boasting a low glycemic index as well as high levels of protein and minerals including magnesium and copper.
Widely eaten as a healthy snack, sunflower seeds can also be used as garnishes or cooking ingredients and are also sold for pet food and wild birds.
The hulls, or shells, are mostly composed of cellulose and decompose slowly. They are burned as biomass fuel.