The sunflower is an annual plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. Its scientific name – Helianthus annuus – comes from the Greek words helios, i.e. the sun, and anthos, flower, referring to this plant's ability to always turn its head precisely in the direction of the sun.
The sunflower plant has its origins in Peru, where it was cultivated since 1000 B.C. During the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, the commander Francisco Pizarro discovered that the Incas considered the plant itself to be the image of their sun god, venerating it and using it in religious celebrations.
And there's more.
Additionally, Incan seers customarily used the seeds to read the universe. They would place the seeds in a spiral the length of three concentric circles, set counterclockwise, as in the motion of the sun. Subsequently, at the beginning of the 16th century, they were brought to Europe, and then spread around the world.
WHY IT SHOULD BE EATEN
Sunflower seeds are among the oilseeds with the lowest caloric value. They have a high vitamin content because they are rich in vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, and B12. For this reason, therefore, it is an ally of the nervous system, and strengthens bones and skin. In particular, it's worth knowing that vitamin B12 is virtually absent from food plants, and it is therefore advisable for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet to frequently eat sunflowers seeds.
Rich in valuable minerals including potassium, magnesium (a natural ally of the heart and invaluable against stress), phosphorus, iron, and zinc, sunflower seeds also contain lecithin, which helps prevent cholesterol, and chlorogenic acid, which has desirable antibacterial and anti-infective actions. We recommend the consumption of about 2 teaspoons per day.
Sunflower seeds are great added to salads, on cooked vegetables, and in breakfast cereals.
They also enrich bread dough, focaccias, breadsticks, and other baked goods. They are seldom used in Italian cooking, but should be more frequently used as they are a valuable source of vitamins.
Before adding them to a salad, they can be toasted for a few minutes in a frying pan with a bit of salt. In this way they become crunchier and more flavorful.
Sunflower oil is made from cold pressing sunflower seeds. It is used, above all, for frying foods, even though it is not among the oils that best resist high temperatures. It is also used as an emollient in cosmetics.