Are Sunflower Seeds Keto-Friendly?

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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Finding snacks when doing keto might be challenging, especially when craving something crunchy. While there are some low-carb snack brands out there, their products are often highly processed and therefore not a good choice to include in your diet too often. 

Luckily, there are snack foods that are both crunchy and natural! But not all of them are low in carbohydrates. So, are sunflower seeds keto-friendly? 

We’ll find out by looking not only at macros, but also nutrition information, varieties, and even   alternatives for other ways to add something crunchy to your day. 


What are sunflower seeds?

This food is obtained from the sunflower plant. On average, one flower can produce more than 2,000 seeds, which are covered in a striped black and white shell. The shells are difficult to digest, so they are typically removed from the kernel before eating.
There are two types that you can harvest. One is used for eating and the other for oil production. 
They have a nutty taste and a crunchy texture, ideal for those looking to snack on something. You can also grow sprouts out of them to increase their nutritional content. 


Sunflower seed nutrition facts

Nuts and seeds are considered very nutritious foods. They are often high in vitamins and minerals that are good for a healthy lifestyle. 

Serving size: 1/4 cup (36 g), plain, unsalted, without shell

  • Calories: 210
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Net carbs: 4.7 g
  • Total carbs: 8.7 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 7 g

As you can see, ¼ cup of plain sunflower kernels has only 4.7 grams of net carbs. 

This food is a good source of plant-based protein, ideal for those trying not to rely on animal products to reach their daily protein requirements. 

Additionally, they are high in vitamin E, selenium, manganese, and copper, all of which are essential nutrients for your body. 

One thing to consider is that they are high in omega-6 fatty acids. While this is not a problem, ideally you want a balance of omega 6 and omega 3 to really boost anti-inflammatory properties in the body. To compensate, you might want to add foods high in omega-3 (salmon, mackerel, tuna, chia, and hemp). 




Are you allowed to eat sunflower seeds on keto?

Yes! Sunflower seeds are keto-friendly. 

They are a great option for those looking to snack or add something crunchy to a salad. Being a high source of fat, it can easily help you reach your total fat requirements—a challenge some people might have at the beginning of doing a ketogenic diet. 

Remember that if we decrease the carbs, we need to have a greater fat intake (70-80% of our calories) to supply the energy we need. 


How many sunflower seeds can you have on a keto diet? 

Since they are low in carbs, you can eat a regular serving size without worrying about surpassing your total carbs requirements. ¼ cup, which is equal to 4 tablespoons, has only 4.7 g net carbohydrates. (These calculations are for just the edible kernel, so emember to remove the shell before measuring the amount.)

However, you still need to be careful since they are a high-energy dense food. If you are on a journey to lose weight, even though you are doing keto, you still need to be careful with your caloric intake. A caloric deficit is always needed to lose weight. 

Thus, the amount that you consume depends on the total calories you want to eat daily. That same ¼ cup serving size has 210 calories, which should be fine for most people. Those with high caloric requirements could have a greater intake. 


What types can you have on keto? 

Most types of the sunflower seed are keto-friendly, but this may not be true for all brands, especially for flavored varieties like barbecue or ranch. Check the nutrition label for the carb count and pay attention to the serving size to get an accurate idea of what your limits should be.

The most common way of having this food is raw or toasted. You can find them with a shell, which is very good for those that want an interactive snack. However, you need to find a place to remove and dispose of the shells. 

If you don’t like to have them raw or toasted, there are other forms that you might want to consider: 

  • Seed butter. While you can buy this at the store, you can always make it at home by toasting the seeds and blending them using a blender or food processor until you get a creamy texture, about 10-15 minutes.  
  • Flour. You place the toasted seeds in a blender or food processor, and before it turns into butter, you get a powder or flour mix. You can either buy it or make it at home. 
  • Oil. This is the result when you press the seeds and get the liquid part of them. 
  • Sprouted. This is when you germinate them and shoots come out. Place ½ cup of seeds into a jar full of water. You then cover it with a sprouting cover and let them soak overnight. Drain and rinse until they start sprouting. Make sure to keep them spread out to allow air to get to each of them.




What can you eat them with?

One of the benefits of this food is that you can have them with anything of your choice. You can have them on their own for something to snack on, or mix them with other ingredients

  • If you decide to blend them into butter, you can spread this on your favorite keto bread or use it to make a salad dressing. 
  • To add an extra crunchiness to your favorite salad, you can sprinkle them on top to have different textures. 
  • Another great way to use them is as a crumble on top of your favorite low-carb fruit or yogurt.
  • Finally, one of my favorite ways to have it is as a replacement for pine nuts in pesto. I can assure you it gives it a whole new taste. 

Any way that you decide to add them is an excellent choice to add more nutrients to your ketogenic diet and avoid any nutritional deficiencies. 


Keto-friendly sunflower seed alternatives

If you are not a fan of this food, there are other keto-friendly sunflower seed substitutes that you can have. Here is a list of other low-carb nuts and seeds: 

While these are all great for keto, remember that they might still have some carbs, which you need to contemplate in your daily carbohydrate intake. 


FAQ about sunflower seeds on a keto diet

Do you still have some questions regarding this crunchy food and a ketogenic diet? Here you can find some answers to the most frequently asked questions. 

Chia is lower in carbs. In 1 oz, you get 138 kcal and 2.2 g of net carbs for chia, or 165 kcal and 3.7 g for sunflower. Still, both are good options, so you can alternate between them to have variety in your diet. 

Yes! You can have the oil in a ketogenic diet. Oils are carb-free, so they are excellent options to increase the fats in your diet. 
However, store-bought versions of this type of oil are often highly processed and use both heat and chemical extraction methods. It’s better to snack on the whole seeds and use a minimally processed oil like extra virgin olive oil instead. 

Yes, they are ground versions of these seeds that are tuned into a powder. 
For those looking to make baked goods, it’s an excellent option to consider. You can even create blends of different keto-friendly flours to get different nutrients and properties. 

Yes, in 4 tablespoons of these seeds you get 4.7 grams of net carbs. This is not a significant amount for someone on a ketogenic diet. 
However, you still need to keep track of them since every gram counts towards your daily carb intake. 

Yes! They have a similar nutritional content as the regular untoasted kind, but they provide an extra crunchiness and flavor. 
Make sure to choose those that are low in sodium (less than 140 mg per serving) to avoid having a high sodium diet which could lead to high blood pressure. 

No, while they are a keto-friendly option, they are still high in calories. This means that if you are not careful you might be eating more calories than your body needs, which leads to weight gain. 


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