Can You Eat Sunflower Seed Shells?

Can You Eat Sunflower Seed Shells

Sunflowers, other than looking extremely beautiful with their vibrant colors, offer major health benefits. Sunflower oil is one of its edible forms. Besides, sunflower seeds are equally good for health. 

If you wonder, can you eat sunflower seed shells, here’s all you need to know!

Sunflowers are commonly bright yellow flowers with brown in the center that ripen into heavy heads filled with seeds. They are heat-tolerant and attractive to pollinators. 

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

The flower of the sunflower plant bears the seeds in the middle of the flower. Technically, sunflower seeds are the fruits of the sunflower plant. They are harvested from the most significant flower head, and a single flower head may contain up to 2000 seeds. End of the sunflower season is when the seeds are harvested to make tasty snacks or re-plant.

Before we delve into, if sunflower seeds are edible, let’s find out the hidden potential of these wonder seeds.

Benefits of Sunflower Seeds

  • As snacks: Sunflower seeds are edible, making tasty snacks with a mild, nutty flavor. These seeds are rich in healthy fats and several vitamins and minerals (1).
  • As sunflower oil: There are said to be mainly two types of sunflower crop; one is used to grow for seeds and the other one is used to be grown in farms for the oil. The oil in sunflower seeds is rich in linoleic acid or omega-6 fatty acids (2).
  • Offer health benefits: Enriched in major vitamins, proteins, minerals and healthy fats, sunflower seeds may help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
  • Antioxidant properties: Sunflower seeds are also known to be a great source of antioxidants, that fights free radicals and protect cells from damage (3).
  • Weight management: The fiber content of the sunflower seeds promotes a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management when consumed in moderation.

Are Sunflower Seed Shells Edible?

Many treats in nature come wrapped in shells, hulls, and peels. They are to protect the fruit and nut from inside harm.

Shell/ Hull Of Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds have a white and greyish stripped outer shell, also known as a hull, that holds a kernel inside. The kernel, or the sunflower seed, is edible and soft to chew with nutty flavor. 

You can either remove the outer shell and eat the seeds or eat the whole seeds with its shell; however, the shell needs to be spit out and should not be consumed. The shells are difficult to chew and high in fibers called lignin and cellulose, which a human body cannot digest (4).

Health Risk Of Eating The Seed Shells

  • Intestinal damage: It is not harmful if you accidentally swallow small shell pieces. Still, eating many shells could be dangerous and cause serious health issues and blockage in your intestinal tract. The shell can collect in your large or small intestine and form a mass that can cause stomach or intestinal pain, constipation, or bowel impaction, resulting in hemorrhoids or tears in the large intestine.
  • Sharp edges of shell: The sunflower seed shell has sharp edges; if not chewed thoroughly, the shells will break apart, which caused them to have jagged edges, it could cut your esophagus and other places in the digestive tract.
  • Choking hazard: Since the seed shells are dry and have sharp edges, they could also cause choking hazard while swallowing.

Alternatives To Use Shells Of Sunflower Seeds

If a lot of sunflower seed is being consumed by you and collected on their shells, you can as well use them in several ways instead of throwing them away.

  • Mulch: The shells of the sunflower seeds can be used as mulch. They contain a chemical that allows the plants to grow, germinate and survive, which in turn will also suppress the development of the weed.
  • Animal feed: Grounded sunflower seed shells can also be used to make feed for poultry and ruminant animals like cows and sheep, providing roughage in their ration. It can be made into healthy pellets to be consumed by animals by mixing it with higher nutritional items.
  • Products: In industries, they often turn it into natural fiber wood paneling.
  • Fuel; The sunflower seed shells are commonly used as a source of fuel. The seed shells can burn all by themselves or pressed in to make pellet, or fuel logs along with other organic waste products like coconut shell and sawdust.

How To Eat Sunflower Seeds Safely?

How to eat sunflower seeds safely

Sunflower seeds are sold either in the shells or without shelled seeds. The ones with the shells are eaten by cracking open the outer shell with teeth and then spitting out the shells. The sunflower seeds make great snacks for people. 

Here are several ways seeds can be enjoyed eating.

  • Roasting the seeds and adding a little salt to it
  • Add to the trail mix, salads or baked goods such as bread
  • Sprinkle over cereals
  • Add to sauteed vegetables and chicken
  • Sprinkle inside the sandwich or into yogurt
  • Stir into homemade granola bars


The outer layer or the shell/peel of any fruit and nut is not necessarily dangerous or harmful, but it is also not as pleasant as the fruit on the inside, which is why most people avoid it. 

So, can you eat sunflower seed shells? NO. 

Try to avoid eating sunflower seed shells as they are too fibrous to digest for humans. At the same time consuming them may pose serious health hazards. Snack on sunflower kernels often- and stay away from the hulls.


  1. National Library Of Medicine – Nutritional Characteristics Assessment of Sunflower Seeds, Oil and Cake
  2. National Library Of Medicine – A review of phytochemistry, metabolite changes, and medicinal uses of the common sunflower seed and sprouts (Helianthus annuus L.)
  3. Springer Link – Antioxidant activity of phenolic compounds identified in sunflower seeds
  4. National Library Of Medicine – Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) Seed Hull Waste: Composition, Antioxidant Activity, and Filler Performance in Pectin-Based Film Composites

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