Properties and Benefits of Safflower Seeds

Properties and Benefits of Safflower Seeds: Also known as false saffron, safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a proud member of the thistle family. Safflower seeds are the main source of vegetable safflower oil and a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, notably Omega-9 and Omega-6.

Various clinical studies reported that a moderate safflower seed and oil consumption is beneficial for cardiovascular health, as long as there is also a healthy Omega-3 intake. Another study suggests that a small to moderate consumption of safflower seeds is efficient in reducing belly fat especially in post-menopausal women. Preliminary research shows that safflower oil and seeds may help reduce insulin sensitivity, again in post-menopausal women, and lower both cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

Safflower seeds benefits

The safflower plant looks very similar in appearance to an ordinary thistle plant, except for its bright yellow and orange flowers. Similar to thistles, safflower plants have deep roots which allow them to thrive in arid soils and regions with little rainfall. The plant can grow up to 1.5-2 meters in height and is known to have been cultivated since ancient times. Safflower flowers contain between 10 to 20 pale, pointy, white, edible seeds of no particular flavor, from which safflower seed oil, a vegetable oil commonly used for cooking, is collected.

Because safflower seed oil has no smell and no taste, it has come to replace regular sunflower seed oil in cooking. Although most of the safflower seed production goes into making safflower oil, a small part is sold as food supplements. Dried or powder safflower flowers are used as a culinary spice.

Safflower seeds

What are the health benefits of safflower seeds?
1) Rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids
. Safflower seeds are about 35% unsaturated fatty acids, mostly oleic (Omega-9) and linoleic (Omega-6) fatty acids. According to numerous studies focusing on the effects of dietary fatty acids on cardiovascular health, a diet rich in healthy unsaturated fatty acids, such as the Mediterranean diet, helps reduce cholesterol levels, regulates blood pressure and maintains blood vessels healthy and elastic due to the antioxidants properties of fatty acids.

The key is to maintain a healthy ratio of 1:1 (ideal) or 1:3 Omega 3- Omega 6, 9 fatty acids. Including fatty acids in one’s diet diet, either in the form of olive oil, safflower oil, linseed oil or sunflower oil, or in the form of walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or safflower seeds can have positive effects on cardiovascular health and reduce mortality associated to cardiovascular disease.

2) Excellent source of thiamine, pyridoxine and folate.
90-100% of the RDI of vitamin B1.
90% of the RDI of vitamin B6.
40% of the RDI of vitamin B9/100 g of safflower seeds.

In addition to ensuring good energy levels, safflower seeds help promote muscle tone, improve memory and concentration, protect the cells of the nervous system, support immunity, prevent Beriberi, anemia and paralysis and death in newborns.

3) Rich in iron, magnesium and phosphorus.
Iron: 4.90 mg (50% for adult males under 51, 25% for adult women under 51).
Magnesium: 353 mg (over 100% for adult women, around 100% for adult males).
Phosphorus: 644 mg (around 95% of the RDI for both men and women).

Safflower seeds are great against anemia, headaches and irritability. Moreover, they support muscle health, heart included, and increase calcium absorption in bones. Last but not least, safflower seeds help ease magnesium deficiency symptoms such as eyelid twitching, muscle spasms, extrasystoles and high blood pressure, promote strong teeth and bones and support digestion.

4) Good for skin, hair and nails. Safflower seeds and oil are rich in vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids, two important compounds for skin and hair care. The oil obtained from safflower seeds can be rubbed directly on nails to stimulate growth and moisturize the skin around the nails. Alternatively, it can be applied onto the scalp to nourish the skin and reduce redness, as well as to repair damaged hair and give it a healthy shine.

5) Great for reducing belly fat. According to several studies, daily consumption of small amounts of around 1-2 tablespoons of safflower seed oil led to a significant reduction in belly fat in post-menopausal women. This effect appears to have been caused by safflower seed oil regulating blood sugar levels and insulin response, which increased the body’s fat-burning response.

Overall, safflower seeds are a great source of iron, magnesium and phosphorus, vitamins E, B1, B6 and B9 as well as unsaturated fatty acids. A small to moderate consumption appears to positively affect cardiovascular health, support the activity of the nervous system as well as muscle health.

However, some people have reported allergic reactions to both safflower seeds and oil, which is why caution is required if you have never come into contact with the plant. Also, according to ongoing research, pregnant women should avoid safflower seeds, flowers and oil because they may increase blood flow in the uterus and possibly lead to a miscarriage.




4 thoughts on “Properties and Benefits of Safflower Seeds

  1. Hi, I was just wondering how I would prepare safflower seeds to eat. How would I go about boiling them? Would I eat them raw? Is it okay to eat by itself? Is there a certain amount or is there a limit to how much I should eat?

    • If you like nuts and seeds in general, you will surely enjoy eating raw safflower seeds as a snack, on their own. You can toast them in a pan for several minutes to increase their nutty flavor. Cooking recipes require mostly safflower flowers, but you can add either raw or slightly toasted or roasted safflower kernels to quite a few recipes.
      For instance, I recommend a cold rice salad with boiled brown rice, currants, cashews, sesame seeds, safflower kernels, one big, slightly bitter green bell pepper and a dressing made from sesame oil, safflower oil and lemon juice with maybe a bit of garlic. You can also try adding safflower kernels to a cabbage salad: grate a medium white cabbage and mix it with finely chopped dill, grated carrots, one part vinegar for three parts safflower (or sunflower) oil and safflower kernels.
      As for how much kernels you can eat, it is best to eat them with moderation. While they are healthy (rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, great for cardiovascular health and great source of B vitamins and essential minerals such as iron, magnesium and phosphorus), eating excessive amounts all the time might not be in your best interest. Fats accumulate and, whatever their type, they may cause problems over time. But a handful every now and then can have positive effects for your cardiovascular health, muscle tone, nervous system and bone health.

    • Unless you find safflower seed kernels or possess a safflower seeds shelling machine, you can use a small hammer to separate the kernels from their shells manually. Place the seeds on a wide wooden chopping board and crack them open with the hammer, then just separate the seeds from their shells. Hope this helps.

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