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Sunflower Seeds for Food Allergy Sufferers

helianthus_annuus_0001Being allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, and soy, I have been somewhat scared to try to eat a lot of seeds. Sesame seeds and poppy seeds are commonly on breads, and I have eaten those without a problem. However, trying new foods, like different types of nuts, has caused allergic reactions, so I have previously stayed away from eating seeds.

Over the last ten years I have seen an increase in the number of flax seeds and sunflower seeds in foods marketed to people with soy, nut, and dairy allergies. The first time that I found chicken nuggets marketed for food allergy sufferers with flax in it, I was shocked. I just could not believe that they would think that we would not be allergic to it. When I questioned the company, they said that allergic reactions to flax are rare. So I tried the chicken nuggets, and did not have an allergic reaction to them.

Recently, members of a food allergy discussion group on Facebook, Allergy Friendly Recipe Exchange, have posted recipes that included Sunbutter, a sunflower butter, which can be used as a peanut butter or nut butter substitute. I had not even thought to try sunflower products before out of fear. The members of the group responded that their children were allergic to peanuts, soy, and tree nuts, but were not allergic to sunflower seeds.

Now that I had seen the testimonies of people with food allergies to soy who regularly eat sunflower products like Sunbutter, I decided to give sunflower products a try myself. After researching the nutritional value of sunflower seeds and the availability of soy free and nut free sunflower products available in grocery stores, I was convinced that it would be a good addition to my diet if I found a product that I liked.

A website on the nutritional qualities of sunflower seeds says that allergies to sunflower seeds are rare, but can occur. Those that are allergic to more foods than the Big 8 Allergens, have reported being allergic to sunflower seeds. By including sunflower seeds in our diets, we could greatly increase the nutritional value of necessary nutrients that come from food instead of vitamins. Sunflower seeds are high in protein, anti-oxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins, Folic Acid, minerals, Potassium, fiber, and other important nutrients. The site states that a serving of sunflower seeds provides one with the recommended daily amount of several nutrients and a large amount of the recommended daily value of many other nutrients. While having food allergies can make it difficult to consume the daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals from plant based nutrients, sunflower seeds has the power to improve ones diet.

Sunflower seed products can be found in a variety of forms, without soy or peanuts as an ingredient. The seeds can be purchased in the shell, or without the shell as kernels. Sunflower kernels are sold as raw seeds or roasted, with or without salt and seasonings. Some roasted seeds have been roasted in a soy or peanut based oil, while others are roasted in sunflower oil or canola oil. One needs to be cautious about buying raw seeds, because they can become rancid and moldy quickly. Seeds are an excellent addition to a salad. Unsalted seeds can be added to bread, cookies, granola or even Pesto sauce. Sunflower oil can be found in more and more snack products, especially those that can be found in the all-natural and organic sections of grocery stores. This is an excellent plain tasting oil to cook with instead of vegetable oil or Canola oil. Sunbutter can be found as an ingredient in two Enjoy Life bars. However, one can easily substitute Sunbutter for peanut butter or any type of nut butter used in a recipe to make one’s own cookies, breads, bars, Granolas, or sauces. Sunflower kernels can also be found in packages of granola or snacks. Although I could find Somersaults in very few stores and did not like all of their flavors, the cinnamon flavor became one of my favorites.

While Sunbutter’s website has plenty of recipes to try, I had fun trying to substitute sunflower products for other ingredients in existing recipes. This Eggless Almond Butter recipe works very well with Sunbutter instead of almond butter. Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, or pumpkin pie spice greatly improves the flavor.

Roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, which can be found at Whole Foods Market, make an excellent addition to roasted vegetables. Try roasting potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and or other vegetables. At the halfway point, add the sunflower seeds when you stir the vegetables in the pan. I love to roast the vegetables with olive oil, rosemary and salt. After the vegetables are finished you can add other vegetables to the mix that don’t roast well at high temperatures like peas or broccoli. Sunflower seeds work well in stir fry or adding a handful to vegetables that will be cooked in the microwave, too.

By altering a Banana Bread recipe, I came up with a recipe for Banana Sunbutter Blonde Brownies.

Banana Sunbutter Blonde Brownies

2 c. All-Purpose Flour

3/4 c. Sugar

1/4 c. Melted Butter or Margarine

1 c. Mashed Bananas (about 2 bananas)

3/4 c. Sunbutter

1 t. Vanilla

1/2 t. Cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together. Grease a 8X8 or 9X9 square pan. Add cinnamon to the mix and/or sprinkle some on top. Cook it for 30 minutes.

I hope you have fun trying something new!

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