Looking for a healthy snack? A handful of unsalted sunflower seeds will take care of your hunger, while also enhancing your health by providing significant amounts of vitamin E, magnesium and selenium. Sunflower seeds are available shelled, unshelled, salted and unsalted year round at your local supermarket. They have been used for more than 5,000 years by the Native Americans, who used the seeds as a food and oil source as well as the flowers and stems for things such as dye pigment. The nutrients found in sunflower seeds can provide anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits, help lower cholesterol, as well as calm your nerves, muscles and blood vessels.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals that can damage fat-containing structures such as brain cells. Vitamin E has significant effects that result in the reduction of symptoms in asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin E also has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer and play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Sunflower seeds also help lower cholesterol with the use of phytosterols and vitamin E. Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol. When present in the diet in sufficient amounts they are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol. Vitamin E helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol which enables cholesterol to adhere to blood vessel walls and initiate the process of atherosclerosis.
Sunflower seeds are also a good source of magnesium. Numerous studies have demonstrated magnesium’s power to help reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, and prevent migraine headaches. Magnesium is also necessary for healthy bones and energy production. In addition, magnesium counterbalances calcium helping to regulate nerve and muscle tone. In many nerve cells , magnesium serves as a natural calcium channel blocker helping to keep our nerves, blood vessels and muscles relaxed.
These tiny little seeds also provide hair benefits as well thanks to the protein, biotin, potassium, zinc, iron, B vitamins, and calcium also found in sunflower seeds. When shopping for sunflower seeds the unsalted variety is much more beneficial to the salted variety. They are often sold prepackaged but can also be purchased in bulk. Since sunflower seeds have a high fat content and they are prone to rancidity, it is best to keep them stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Sunflower seeds can be added to your favorite tuna, chicken, or turkey salad recipe as well as your garden fresh salads.
Fit Tip of the Week: Are you ready??
Recent studies have shown that seven out of 10 people who start and exercise program drop it within a few months. There are many reasons that people drop out but one of the major problems is that people often start an exercise program without doing any planning up front and being unprepared for the commitment involved. Sherri McMillian, MSc discovered the four basic qualities or “laws” that people who are successful in adhering to their fitness routine and achieving success. McMillian has dubbed these laws “The Laws of Success” and most people adhere to these laws without even knowing it. Often these laws are used as a self-evaluation to determine if someone is really ready for exercise. Use these laws as food for thought if you’re thinking about making the transition to an active lifestyle.
1. The Law of Possession: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” The first law is taking ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of your exercise program. It’s often tempting (and I’ve heard this countless times) to blame your husband, wife, or kids, work, or throw responsibility to your group exercise instructor or personal trainer. Truth is, you’re the one that actually exercises. Fitness professionals and family can’t do the work for you. Family can support and fitness professionals help educate and provide resources but ultimately it’s up to you to put down the McDonald’s and get off the couch. As I tell my clients, I can give you the tools and show you how to use them but you’ve got to be willing to get your hands dirty and use them yourself.
2. The Law of Effort: “Anything worth having is worth working for.” To achieve any goal in today’s world you’ve got to be willing to work for it though discipline, willpower, character, persistence and a commitment to delayed gratification. The same thing is true with exercise. Sticking with an exercise program is hard work but you can do it! The feeling of pride and triumph from achieving your fitness goal by sticking with your exercise routine will be lasting and immeasurable.
3. The Law of Consistency: “Stick to the game plan.” Researchers have found that one characteristic common among those who adhere to exercise is that they generally move toward their goal one step at a time and are committed to constant, never-ending improvement. Consistency and persistence are vital to achieving results. If you get off track for a week or so, it’s no big deal, but if you regularly tempted to avoid your program, success will not be yours.
4. The Law of Self-Efficacy: “If I think I can or can’t do something, I’m probably right.” The minute you start doubting yourself about making changes required for an active lifestyle, you’re setting yourself up to for failure. You must believe in yourself and believe that you can do it. When you believe it you can achieve it. But don’t think you have to do it alone. You can get support from a personal trainer, an exercise instructor, family and friends, and even on-line exercise buddies or forums.
I honestly believe that living an active lifestyle is 40% physical and 60% mental. How can you ever hope to win the game if you’re head isn’t in it and you’re just going through the motions. By taking responsibility for your actions, putting forth an honest effort, being consistent and believing in yourself you can be successful at achieving a lasting active lifestyle. That being said, ask yourself, are you ready?
G. Nicole Shea, B.S., ACSM-CPT
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
Zumba Fitness Instructor