How many calories are in raw unshelled sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds are a popular snack food and ingredient that provide a good source of nutrients. However, many people wonder just how many calories are in these small seeds, especially when eaten in the raw, unshelled form. Knowing the calorie content can help you determine appropriate portion sizes and fit sunflower seeds into a healthy diet.

Calories in Raw, Unshelled Sunflower Seeds

Raw, unshelled sunflower seeds contain on average about 673 calories per 100 grams, which is equal to 1.47 calories per sunflower seed. This calorie count comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database.

Here is a quick overview of the calorie content in 100 grams of raw, unshelled sunflower seeds:

– Total calories: 673
– Calories from fat: 638
– Calories from carbohydrates: 27
– Calories from protein: 8

The high calorie count comes primarily from the high fat content of sunflower seeds. Even though these are raw seeds with the shell still intact, over 90% of the calories come from fat.

Serving Sizes

The calorie content can also be calculated per typical serving size:

– 1 ounce (28g) of unshelled sunflower seeds contains about 188 calories
– 1/4 cup (35g) of unshelled sunflower seeds contains about 235 calories
– 1/2 cup (70g) of unshelled sunflower seeds contains about 470 calories

So if you eat a 1/4 cup serving, you are consuming 235 calories, which is 12% of a 2,000 calorie daily diet.

Factors Affecting Calorie Content

Several factors affect the calorie content in raw, unshelled sunflower seeds:

Type of Sunflower Seed

There are different types of sunflower seeds, including linoleic, high oleic, and nusun. The type with the highest monounsaturated fat content is high oleic sunflower seeds. These tend to have a higher calorie content than traditional linoleic sunflower seeds.

Degree of Shelling

As you might expect, shelled sunflower seeds contain more calories per gram than unshelled seeds. When the hull or shell is removed, you are left with only the edible seed kernel which is higher in fat and calories.

A quarter cup of unshelled seeds contains about 235 calories, while a quarter cup of shelled seeds contains about 570 calories. So shelling doubles the calorie density.


Roasting sunflower seeds can alter their calorie content slightly. The roasting process may change the moisture content, which concentrates the calories into a smaller gram weight.

One study found that roasted seeds had about 5% more calories per gram than raw seeds. The effect was relatively small, but roasting may increase calorie density to some degree.

Form Calories per 100 grams
Raw, unshelled 673
Raw, shelled 1015
Roasted, unshelled 707
Roasted, shelled 1064

Fat Content

Since the majority of calories in sunflower seeds comes from fat, the more fat they contain, the more calories they will provide. The fat content can vary based on sunflower seed variety.

For example, high oleic sunflower seeds contain over 82% monounsaturated fat and only 10% polyunsaturated fat. Meanwhile, linoleic sunflower seeds contain about 66% polyunsaturated fat and only 20% monounsaturated fat.

In general, higher monounsaturated fat content equates to more calories per gram.

Nutrient Profile of Raw Sunflower Seeds

Despite being high in calories and fat, raw sunflower seeds have an excellent nutritional profile.

Here are some of the main nutrients found in 1 ounce (28g) of raw, unshelled sunflower seeds:

– Calories: 188
– Fat: 16g
– Carbs: 5g
– Fiber: 2g
– Protein: 6g

Raw sunflower seeds also contain:

– Vitamin E: 82% RDI
– Thiamin: 31% RDI
– Manganese: 32% RDI
– Copper: 24% RDI
– Selenium: 28% RDI
– Phosphorus: 16% RDI
– Magnesium: 16% RDI

They provide a high amount of vitamin E, an important antioxidant. They are also a good plant-based source of thiamin, copper, selenium, and manganese.

Additionally, sunflower seeds provide phytosterols, special plant compounds that help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

So while high in fat and calories, sunflower seeds offer valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, phytosterols, and plant protein.

Ways to Reduce Calories in Sunflower Seeds

Here are some tips to lower the calorie content when enjoying sunflower seeds:

– Choose raw over roasted – Raw has slightly fewer calories than roasted per serving.

– Leave shells on – The shells displace some of the volume, so you eat fewer seeds overall.

– Weigh portions – Measure portions rather than eating by volume to control serving size.

– Drink water – Staying hydrated helps you feel full with smaller portions.

– Avoid flavorings – Skip added oils, sugars, and salt that add extra calories.

– Pair with protein – Eat seeds alongside Greek yogurt or eggs to balance the meal.

– Watch portions – Stick to the recommended 1 ounce (28 gram) serving size.

– Opt for unsaturated fat – High oleic seeds provide more monounsaturated fat.

– Eat in moderation – Sunflower seeds are healthy but high in calories, so enjoy in moderation.

Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

Here is an overview of some of the top health benefits associated with eating sunflower seeds:

Heart Health

Sunflower seeds contain high amounts of vitamin E and phytosterols that can help reduce cholesterol and lower heart disease risk. The unsaturated fats may also help improve cholesterol levels.


The antioxidants in sunflower seeds, including vitamin E and selenium, can help fight inflammation in the body.

Bone Health

Sunflower seeds provide nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and copper which play a role in bone mineralization and preventing deficiency.

Muscle Function

The magnesium in sunflower seeds helps maintain muscle functioning and performance. Sunflower seeds can help prevent muscle cramps related to magnesium deficiency.

Blood Sugar Control

Sunflower seeds provide protein, fiber, and healthy fats that help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce spikes and crashes after eating.

Skin Health

Vitamin E protects cell membranes from oxidative damage, including skin cells. Getting enough vitamin E can help reduce sun damage to skin.

Cancer Prevention

Sunflower seeds are high in antioxidants and healthy fats which may help prevent certain cancers. However more research is needed on their direct cancer-fighting effects.

Nutrient Absorption

The magnesium in sunflower seeds helps activate enzymes that are important for absorbing and metabolizing other nutrients in the body.

Stress Reduction

Sunflower seeds provide nutrients like magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, and healthy fats that help regulate mood, reduce anxiety and depression, and moderate stress response.

Potential Downsides of Sunflower Seeds

Despite their nutritional benefits, there are some potential downsides to consider regarding sunflower seeds:

High in Calories

With almost 700 calories per 100 grams, sunflower seeds are one of the more calorie-dense foods. It’s important to watch portion sizes if trying to manage your calorie intake.

Phytic Acid Content

Sunflower seeds contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that can bind to minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium and reduce their absorption. However, this effect seems to be minimized if you eat a nutritious diet overall.


Sunflower seeds are among the tree nuts and seeds that are common allergens, especially for children. Fortunately, sunflower seed allergy tends to be milder than reactions to nuts like peanuts or almonds.

Acrylamide Formation

Roasting or frying sunflower seeds at high temperatures may produce acrylamide, a potentially toxic compound. Buying raw, unshelled seeds prevents acrylamide exposure.


Sunflower oil can become rancid quicker than other oils when exposed to heat, light, or oxygen. Storing seeds properly and avoiding old inventory reduces rancidity issues.

Gut Discomfort

Eating a lot of sunflower seeds may cause digestive upset, gas, bloating, and cramping in those with irritable bowel syndrome or intestinal inflammation issues.

Finding the Right Balance

Moderation and proper portion control are key when snacking on high-calorie seeds like sunflower seeds. About 1 ounce or 28 grams per day makes a healthy addition to a balanced diet for most people. This provides a good amount of nutrients without going overboard on calories from fat.

Focus on keeping shells on, avoiding extra salt or flavorings, and measuring portions to get the benefits of sunflower seeds without unwanted side effects. They can be a nutritious plant-based snack when consumed mindfully and in appropriate amounts.

For variety, you can swap sunflower seeds for other seeds like pumpkin or chia from time to time. This will provide different nutrient profiles to complement your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about the calorie content of sunflower seeds:

Are raw or roasted sunflower seeds healthier?

Raw sunflower seeds are slightly healthier, as roasting may destroy some heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin E and polyunsaturated fats. However, the difference is small, especially if you eat shells on.

Are unshelled or shelled seeds better for weight loss?

Unshelled seeds are better for weight loss and controlling calories, since the shells displace volume. Shelled seeds pack over 50% more calories per gram.

What are some tips for cutting calories with sunflower seeds?

Tips include measuring portions instead of eating by volume, choosing raw over roasted, leaving shells on, avoiding additional oils/salt, and adding proteins to your snacks.

Can you eat too many sunflower seeds?

It’s possible to overdo it on sunflower seeds since they are so high in calories. Stick to the recommended 1-ounce serving per day at most, and be sure to account for the extra calories.

Are sunflower seeds healthier than other seeds like pumpkin seeds?

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds have different nutritional profiles, but both provide benefits. Alternating between seeds gives you a variety of nutrients. Portion size matters most when comparing health effects.

The Bottom Line

Raw, unshelled sunflower seeds contain approximately 673 calories per 100 grams, or 1.47 calories per seed. The high calorie count comes primarily from their high fat content, over 90% of which comes from fat.

Enjoying sunflower seeds in moderation, about 1 ounce per day, provides a healthful dose of nutrients like vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Just be mindful of portion sizes to keep calories in check and avoid potential digestive issues.

Pair sunflower seeds with other healthy whole foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and dairy. This makes them an excellent addition to a balanced diet. Alternating sunflower seeds with other nutritious seeds can also help diversify your nutrient intake.

By understanding sunflower seed nutrition and calories, you can incorporate this nutritious snack into your diet in a healthy way.

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