On occasion, you might find yourself with a bag of sunflower seeds purchased as a road trip necessity. These crunchy snacks carry you through long spells between highway exits in the same way "Punch Buggy" games and throwback tunes stifle boredom.
There was something oddly satisfying (and disgusting) about cracking seeds between your teeth and munching them into a pulpy mush, then spitting it out the car window; it is an occupying habit that still persists from the 1950s, the age of all-American baseball and chewing tobacco.
And like most vices of the 1950s (chewing dip, drinking Old Fashioneds before noon, driving without a seat belt), turns out chomping down sunflower seeds may be detrimental to your health.
According to the USDA, a quarter cup (about a handful) of dry roasted sunflower seeds (without the shells) contains 186 calories. And if you're plowing through several bags of David Seeds, those calories are racking up, which may cause weight gain.
According to Healthline, sunflower seeds are high in selenium, which is an important mineral for reducing oxidative stress from free radicals. However, consuming too much selenium can lead to toxicity -- brittle hair and nails, irritability, fatigue and skin rashes.
After a binging on the seeds, you might notice your mouth and teeth are sore and uncomfortable. That's because the sunflower shells, while fun to chew on, put stress on the teeth and may lead to fractures, damage and abrasions along your gums.
Sunflower seeds are not entirely unhealthy, however, but it's very easy to overindulge. Some brands contain chemical additives and flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate.
But, that doesn't mean you should be deprived. You can still enjoy the taste of sunflower seeds without the drawbacks. Little Things recommends sunflower seed butter, especially to those with a tree nut allergy. It contains healthy fats (which can help lower cholesterol) and more vitamin E, protein and magnesium than peanut butter.
When eaten in moderation, sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, folate, copper, niacin, protein and fiber. With almost all habits (especially vices), moderation is key.