The study of botany reveals that a sunflower seed is a small, one-seeded, and indehiscent fruit. The edible remnant which is taken out by removing the hull or the cover is known as sunflower kernel. Talking about the commercial usage of sunflower seeds, it is differentiated on the basis of the patterns on its husk. For instance, if the husk is dark black, the seeds are named as black oil sunflower seeds. The seeds are called striped sunflower seeds or 'stripers', when the husks are striped. The sunflower seeds are generally processed into sunflower oil using various oil mill machinery.
The crops of sunflower seeds are known as non-oilseed sunflower crops because of their low oil content. The striped sunflower seeds can be called as confectionery sunflower seeds as they are primarily used for the food purposes. There is another variety of sunflower seeds that is whitish and is currently not used for commercial purpose. The most common variety is plain black or black with white stripes.
So far as the processing of in-shell seeds goes, these are initially dried and later on may be dusted or roasted with salt for preserving their flavor. In-shell sunflower seeds are specifically popular in Mediterranean countries such as Turkey and Israel. Besides they are very common in countries like Bulgaria, China, Iran, Romania, Spain and US.
The hull of the sunflower seeds can be removed through mechanical processes to obtain the dehulled kernels. These kernels can be sold raw or as roasted product. Also, these are used with baked products like breads for adding flavor to them. Sunflower seeds are also offered as food for pet animals, birds and are available in small packets or boxes.
The health benefits of sunflower seeds are numerous. It is a rich source of linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid. It is also a great source of protein, vitamins like vitamin B and vitamin E, dietary fiber, iron, zinc and calcium. One of the distinguished advantage of sunflower seed is that it is rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. The oil content in sunflower seeds is 32-40% which is quite lower as compared to the groundnut, Castor seed, coconut, palm oil seeds, sesame seeds and linseeds. There are also some of the edible oil seeds that have even lower oil content than the sunflower seed. For instance cotton seeds and soybean have oil content ranging from 18-22%. The palm fruit, another edible oilseed has oil content ranging in between 20-22%.