Everyone recognizes the bold, showy sunflower. But the plant's tasty seed is also distinctive. Enjoyed by everyone from kids and baseball players to chefs and nutritionists, these tiny seeds offers some big health benefits.

Sunflower seeds come from the head of the sunflower plant. Each sunflower can have as many as 2,000 seeds. Some plants are grown for the seeds that people eat, while the majority of sunflowers are grown and harvested for sunflower oil.

The shell that encases the sunflower seed is called the hull. "Most people choose to crack and remove the hull, but it's edible," says Jennifer Silverman, CNS, a holistic nutritionist in Bethesda, Maryland.

That said, sunflower seed shells are tough and made of indigestible fiber. Eating the shells or hulls can cause constipation, and the sharp edges may damage the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. It's best to avoid eating sunflower seed shells. The seeds, on the other hand, are good for you. They have a mild flavor, and can be enjoyed both raw and roasted.

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