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A lot of treats in nature come wrapped in shells, hulls, peels, and rind. They are there to protect the fruit or nut on the inside from harm. It is standard procedure to peel an orange or to crack a walnut open as the outer layer is not edible and you want to quickly get to the good part on the inside. The outer layer is not necessarily dangerous or bad but it is nowhere near as pleasant as the fruit on the inside, which is why most people avoid it. With that said, the peel of an orange, lime, or lemon can be used in cooking or garnishing but it is not eaten raw. This has maybe gotten you thinking about the outer layers of smaller items such as sunflower seeds, perhaps. And thinking of this begs the question “can you eat sunflower seed shells?”
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What is a sunflower seed?
It would be quite unnecessary to tell you what a sunflower is as everyone already knows that. From a young age, you are shown a pretty, tall. and yellow flower that is called a sunflower. Some people find them so visually appealing that they end up loving them, which is understandable. However, unless you were exposed to a rather nature-focused childhood such as being a farmer or having nature-loving family members, surprisingly few people have actually seen a sunflower up close and maybe entirely unfamiliar with what they look like at a closer inspection.
Ignoring the stem and leaves, the sunflower itself has a brown head with yellow flowerings spanning out and making a circle. The head is where the seeds are located. It feels quite coarse and dry when you tap it, and you can scrape a knife over it and hear a low scratching noise similar to that of a french baguette. This may sound like a weird comparison but it is surprisingly accurate. The head is where all of the seeds are found, and they are quite dry and brittle thanks to their hull.
An average sunflower head is comprised of around 1000-2000 seeds which is a staggeringly high amount. The sunflower seeds can be easily removed from the rest of the sunflower and collected in a bowl, ready to be used in whichever way you want to.
Can you eat sunflower seeds?
Sunflower kernels are more than safe to eat with no problems whatsoever. However, eating them straight from the plant may be an issue as they still have the hulls attached. The hulls, sunflower seed shells, are a bit more of an issue when it comes to consumption. There are many reasons as to why you should avoid eating these, especially in large quantities. One of the main reasons is that after being chewed one, the shells will break apart which causes them to have jagged edges.
These edges, if not chewed more thoroughly could cut your esophagus and other places in your digestive tract. This is undoubtedly bad and is not something that you would want. You can argue to just chew them more thoroughly which would definitely work, although it is still recommended against.
Another reason as to why it is unadvisable to be eating sunflower seed shells is that they are mostly comprised of fiber which is known to cause a laxative effect when consumed in high quantities. Thanks to their naturally high fiber content, hard shells like this can be used in the construction and agriculture industries in order to make natural-fiber wood paneling which is an incredibly environmentally friendly alternative to other wood products.
This is because the seeds are naturally renewable and can be harvested from the kernel using a hulling machine. This means that no part of the sunflower seed goes to waste as the kernel can be sold to places that use them for culinary purposes such as making sunflower oil, while the hull can be used in construction.
When eating sunflower seeds, many people are told to chew them for a while and then spit them out. This is of course a good idea as you get to enjoy them without dealing with the shells. Another method is to shell them, and remove the hulls and then enjoy the consumption of the kernel. This can be salted and enjoyed similar to other food items such as sesame seeds.
Sunflower seed shells are also allelopathic which means they contain a chemical that encourages the growth of other plants, which in turn will also suppress weeds growing in such an area. This property can be used to make sunflowers an important part of any garden or flower bed as they look nice while also simultaneously encouraging the growth of other plants while ensuring that weeds do not grow. Sunflower seeds can also be used to make animal feed. It can be mixed with higher nutritional items and made into healthy pellets that can be consumed by animals.
FAQ – Can you eat sunflower seed shells?
Why you should not eat sunflower seeds?
Sunflower seeds are perfectly healthy and fine to be eaten. Their outer shells are the problem as they can be sharp when swallowed and also possess a lot of fiber that can create a laxative effect.
What are sunflower seed hulls good for?
Sunflower seed shells, hulls, can be used in construction to make natural-fiber wood paneling. This is a great environmentally-friendly alternative as it is renewable.
Can eating sunflower seed shells cause appendicitis?
The likelihood of this happening is incredibly rare. The ratio between people who develop appendicitis is so small that the two are barely linked.