Snacking on chips is out of the question on a keto diet. Are sunflower seeds a keto alternative that wouldn’t kick you out of ketosis?
A lot of foods that make convenient evening snacks contain a high carb count and are therefore not suitable for the ketogenic diet.
Sunflower seeds, with only 3 net grams of net carbs per serving are high in fats and therefore, keto-friendly (*).
What kind of sunflower seeds are best suited to the keto diet? And are there any other benefits of eating sunflower seeds apart from their low cab count?
Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Sunflower Seeds?
Just like you might expect, sunflower seeds are the seeds that come from the sunflower plant, also known as the Helianthus annuus.
The seeds are harvested from large flower heads, which can contain up to 2000 individual sunflower seeds.
They are believed to have been domesticated by some of the western Native American tribes around 1000 BC (*).
There are 3 main kinds of sunflower seeds, depending on whether they are meant for the production of oil or for consumption. The kind that is grown for consumption has a shell that’s stripped with black and white lines.
Sunflower seeds have a mild nutty flavor and a crunchy texture that make them a great snack or an addition to salads. They can be bought with or without shells and can serve as an alternative to potato chips suitable for low-carb diets.
Are Sunflower Seeds Keto Friendly?
Most traditional ketogenic diets recommend staying under 30 grams of carbohydrates per day (*) while at the same time avoiding eating large amounts of carbs in a single serving to stay in ketosis.
This eliminates a lot of comfort foods that come to mind when you feel like having a snack. Sunflower seeds might be the keto snack you were looking for.
Depending on the brand, sunflower seeds contain around 175kcal, 3.9g of net carbs, 15g of fat, and 5.8g of protein, per 30g serving (*).
The higher fat content, a moderate amount of protein, and a very small amount of carbs make it a perfect keto food.
While sunflower seeds still contain carbs and you can find a nut with lower carb content than sunflower seeds, it would take 10 servings of sunflower seeds to sabotage your ketogenic diet.
Are Sunflower Seeds Nutritious?
While it’s important to pay attention to the carbs and macros to match the keto guidelines, you shouldn’t ignore the nutritional value of foods either.
A well-balanced ketogenic diet isn’t only low in carbs but also contains the vitamins and minerals that will boost your health.
Apart from being keto-friendly, sunflower seeds are also very nutrient-dense, containing around 12 different essential vitamins and minerals.
They are an excellent source of Vitamin E, with one serving containing around 50% of the RDI (*). Sunflower seeds also contain high amounts of Copper, Phosphorus, Selenium, and significant amounts of Zinc (*).
Sunflower seed Benefits
The rich nutritional profile makes sunflower seeds loaded with the following health benefits:
- They help to lower blood sugar levels (*)
- High levels of Vitamin E boost brain function (*)
- Copper helps in the production of red cells in your blood (*)
- Vitamin B6 promotes cardiovascular health (*)
- They help to maintain good cholesterol levels and promote heart health (*)
- Consumption of sunflower seeds can lead to improvement in lipid profile and decrease the triglyceride levels (*)
Are Sunflower Seeds Good for Losing Weight?
If you follow a ketogenic diet and maintain ketosis, your body starts utilizing fat instead of glucose for energy (*). Over time, this process helps you burn excess fat, aids weight loss, and provides some of the best benefits of keto.
Since sunflower seeds are a snack high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in total carbs, you can enjoy this food and maintain ketosis, which makes them a good choice if you’re trying to lose weight.
But if you only add sunflower seeds into your diet but break your ketosis with other foods, the seeds alone will not help you lose weight.
If you want to select the sunflower seeds that will help you lose fat the most, select raw unflavored sunflower seeds with no added ingredients and stick to the recommended serving size.
Apart from their lower carb content, this food contains a good amount of fiber and a great balance of macronutrients.
This can help you feel more full, prevent overeating, and thus, provide further benefits for your weight loss journey.
Sunflower Seeds and Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Sunflower seeds are high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, with 9.75g per 30g serving to be exact (*). Is that something you should worry about?
Omega 6 fatty acids sometimes get a bad rap among nutrition gurus. But this is because many processed foods contain a lot of omega 6 alongside added sugar.
While too much omega 6 can raise your blood pressure (*), it is an essential fatty acid with health-boosting benefits.
It is important to keep Omega 3 and Omega 6 in balance. You can boost your consumption of Omega 3 with keto-friendly foods like fatty fish, including salmon or mackerel.
We recommend avoiding highly processed sunflower seeds. This is because roasting them at high temperatures can reduce their nutrient content, damage their healthy fats and even lead to the formation of a harmful compound called acrylamide (*).
What Sunflower Seeds Are Suitable For the Keto Diet?
Raw sunflower seeds present the best keto choice in terms of nutrition as well as the number of carbs. This doesn’t mean that only raw sunflower seeds are keto-friendly.
The ingredients and carbs vary depending on the brand so when buying sunflower seeds that are not raw; we recommend reading the label to find out whether they are suitable for keto.
Some brands of roasted or activated sunflower seeds might be suitable but if you want to have full control over the ingredients, you can roast the seeds at home.
This way, you can add the oil and spices of your choice and boost their flavor without increasing the carb content.
Sunflower seeds with added flavors, such as BBQ, or chili, are usually not keto-friendly. These usually contain added ingredients, sugar, and higher carb content.
Stay away from honey or chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. They contain a lot of added sugar and are therefore not suitable for a low-carb diet.
Popular Sunflower Seed Brands and Which to Buy?
Are some of the popular brands of sunflower seeds keto-friendly?
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These roasted and salted sunflower seeds contain 3 grams of net carbs per serving, making them a good keto-friendly brand (*).
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These original sunflower seeds contain 2 grams of net carbs per serving size. If you consume the recommended serving, these sunflower seeds are keto-friendly (*).
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While these popular sunflower seeds are highly processed food and even though they only contain 3 grams of net carbs per serving, they also contain maltodextrin. This is a high-glycemic sweetener that is not suitable for the keto diet (*).
How to Eat Sunflower Seeds on a Keto Diet?
Here are some of our suggestions for incorporating sunflower seeds into keto-friendly meals.
- Raw sunflower seeds make a great snack and are the best keto option. They have the best nutritional profile, plenty of vitamins and minerals, and the lowest amount of net carbs. Raw seeds can not only help with boredom but also make you feel full and satisfied.
- Adding sugar-free spices and oil to sunflower seeds and roasting them over for a few minutes can transform this food into an indulgent snack without spiking the total carbs.
- You can use sunflower seeds when making keto recipes and baked goods for their desirable texture and nutty flavor.
- Adding sunflower seeds to salads can add Vitamin E, boost their nutritional value as well as adding texture and a crunch to your recipe.
- Sunflower seed butter that contains no added ingredients can be a great alternative to peanut butter. You can eat sunflower seeds with keto crackers, spread it over some keto bread or use it as a dip for celery sticks or other keto-friendly vegetables.
Nuts and Keto Diet: What Nuts Can You Have on Keto?
Nuts are high in fats as well as fiber and are believed to be one of the keto-approved food groups. But the calories and net carbs between different types of nuts vary greatly.
Depending on which type you choose, we recommend paying attention to the serving size to ensure you won’t be accidentally kicked out of ketosis.
Some of the most keto-friendly nuts with a very low amount of carbs include pecans, brazil nuts, macadamias, and walnuts.
Limit your portion sizes when consuming chia seeds, flax seeds, or cashews since they can contain up to 10 grams of total carbs per serving.
The Bottom Line: Are Sunflower Seeds Keto-Friendly?
The sunflower seeds are high in fat, fiber and contain only around 4 grams of net carbs per serving, making them a great snack suitable for low-carb diets.
Apart from a suitable macronutrient profile, sunflower seeds provide many Vitamin E, Vitamin A, essential omega 6 fatty acids, and minerals that can help prevent heart disease and provide other health-boosting benefits.
They can be enjoyed raw, or roasted but if you want to snack on sunflower seeds with added flavor, we recommend adding spices and roasting them yourself.
Sunflower seeds can be a great alternative to potato chips, but they can also be used in salads, baked goods, or enjoyed in the form of sunflower seed butter with other keto-friendly foods.
Up next: Are pumpkin seeds keto-friendly?