Black Oil Sunflower Seeds and Inflammation

By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are a popular addition to the horse's diet. They are highly nutritious, offering protein, vitamins, and minerals and are especially high in magnesium (100 mg per ounce). BOSS are high in fat, as well, but the type of fat is mainly in the form of omega 6s, with very little omega 3 content. Since omega 6s are inflammatory, balancing with a source of omega 3s is important to consider, especially for the horse who is experiencing inflammation due to injury, aging, or obesity.

One cup of BOSS provides approximately 10,000 mg of omega 6s and only 34 mg of omega 3s. To bring this in line with the naturally occurring ratio of 4:1 omega 3s to omega 6s found in fresh grasses, you would need to feed approximately 2 cups of ground flaxseeds or 1 cup of chia seeds. 

Be certain to feed only the black seeds, typically purchased for wild birds; their shells are soft and easy to digest. Avoid the striped shelled seeds; their outer shell contains a large amount of indigestible fiber that cannot be managed by the microbial population in your horse's digestive tract.  



For Permission to Reprint

For permission to reprint this article, in part or in its entirety, please contact Dr. Juliet Getty directly at