Sunflower Seeds and Oil During Pregnancy: Safety and Benefits

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Do you love eating sunflower seeds as a quick snack or even as a topping to a salad? First, let’s discuss the considerations of consuming sunflower seeds and sunflower oil during your pregnancy. 

Overall, sunflower seeds are safe and nutritious snacks for you during your pregnancy. However, opt for the lower sodium varieties. 

From shelled versus unshelled, roasted seeds versus raw, and much more, let’s dive deeper into the information regarding sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, and pregnancy. Read on to learn more! 

Are Sunflower Seeds Safe When Pregnant? 

In general, sunflower seeds are a safe and healthy seed to consume while you are pregnant as long as you are not allergic. Let’s break down some of the common variations of these seeds and considerations for your pregnancy. 

Raw vs. Roasted: Whether you consume raw sunflower seeds or roasted sunflower seeds is entirely up to personal preference. It does not impact the nutritional content of the seeds or their safety during pregnancy. However, most of these seeds you find at the grocery store are dry-roasted.

black and white sunflower seeds

Shelled vs. Unshelled: Sunflower seeds can be purchased either still in the shell or as kernels. This one is also up to your personal preference. However, be careful with the unshelled kernels as it is easy to over-consume them because they are very small and can be eaten very quickly. 

Flavored and Salted vs. Unseasoned: Many sunflower seed brands at the grocery store offer flavored versions as unique as ranch, pizza, bbq, or even taco! Additionally, many choose the unflavored sunflower seeds that are just roasted and salted. Stick with unsalted or low-sodium varieties of sunflower seeds, if you can.

Consuming excess amounts of salt in your daily diet can increase the potential risk of heart diseases, such as heart attack and stroke. 

Sunflower Seed Mixes: Sunflower seeds are a popular ingredient in trail mixes and snack mixes as well. These mixes are great high-protein snacks as long as you opt for the lower-sodium varieties. 

The Benefits of Sunflower Seeds During Pregnancy 

Sunflower seeds are great for pregnant women because they are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins (source: Cleveland Clinic). Additionally, these are excellent source of antioxidants, such as selenium and vitamin E.

B vitamins are essential in providing you with energy, strength, and good health, especially in the first and third trimesters when your energy is likely very low (source: American Pregnancy Association). B vitamins in the foods you eat can also help support your healthy growing baby. 

sunflower oil, seeds and flower on a wooden table

Also, as mentioned above, these seeds are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemical compounds found in many foods. They protect the cells in your body from harmful free radicals that can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions (source: Cleveland Clinic). 

The recommended serving size of nuts or seeds is approximately 1/2 an ounce (source: American Heart Association). Therefore, consuming a 1/2 an ounce to one ounce of sunflower seeds a day is a good healthy amount. 

Is Sunflower Oil Safe During Pregnancy?

Sunflower oil is safe during pregnancy when used in moderate amounts. However, as with any oil, it is best to use just a small amount, such as a tablespoon, because it is high in fat — even if this fat is unsaturated.

Unsaturated fat is considered healthy because it can protect your heart, as opposed to saturated fat, which can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. 

Typical sunflower oil is high in linoleum acid, a polyunsaturated fat, and low in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat). Linoleic acid leaves the oil more susceptible to oxidation and less stable when cooking at high heat, such as when it is used for deep frying (source: Tufts University).

However, high oleic sunflower oil is better for cooking at high temperatures because it has a decreased amount of linoleic acid and higher amounts of oleic acid, as the name suggests. In addition, both regular sunflower oil and the high oleic sunflower oil are good for heart health (source: Tufts University).

However, olive oil also has the same heart health benefits as unsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid, but is less harmful when heated (source: Food & Chemical Toxicology). 

In conclusion, I hope you found this article helpful in breaking down the amazing benefits and health risks of consuming sunflower oil and how to safely and healthfully include it in your pregnancy diet.