Sunflower oil, or sunflower seed oil, is rich in vitamin E (1). It is gold in color, light, and offers certain important benefits. It is low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats (the healthy fats). Some sources state that this oil was first used by the American Indian tribes way back in 3000 BC. We don’t know how far that is true, but there is something we are sure of – the oil is worth knowing about.
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How Is Sunflower Oil Good For Your Health?
The most abundant nutrient in the oil is vitamin E. It also contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, and oleic acid. While linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fat, oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat.
A monkey study shows that these two components can enhance fatty acid profiles in the body (2). The linoleic acid in the oil also supports normal immune response.
Substituting animal fats with sunflower oil also cuts down the risk of cardiovascular disease (3).
The oil is available in different varieties – linoleic, mid-oleic, and high-oleic. Each varies in the amount of unsaturated and saturated fats, but their nutritional benefits are the same. Sunflower oil is one of the nutritionally rich natural foods – and it helps you in various ways.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Sunflower Oil?
The unsaturated fatty acids in the oil promote heart health. Sunflower oil also contains vitamin E, which has excellent benefits for the skin. The varied nutrients in the oil offer great health benefits.
1. Promotes Heart Health
The American Heart Association lists sunflower oil among those with less saturated fat and more of the better fats (4). You can replace solid fats in your diet (including butter and margarine) with sunflower oil. This can help prevent heart disease.
Sunflower oil also may have beneficial effects on the cholesterol profile. The unsaturated fats it contains are well metabolized in the liver. This contributes to improved cholesterol profiles (5).
Sunflower oil also lowers cholesterol levels. It also increases the levels of HDL (good cholesterol), thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (6).
2. May Promote Digestion
Some sources state that sunflower oil might have laxative properties – and this may ease digestion. We need more research in this regard, though.
3. May Enhance Oral Health
Sunflower oil is extremely beneficial for oil pulling. It reduces plaque-related gingivitis (7). The oil exhibits antibacterial activity against C. albicans, which is the most common cause of infections in people (8).
4. May Help Fight Cancer
In a mouse skin tumor model, sunflower oil had offered 40% protection against cancer. This was attributed to the sesamol in the oil (9).
However, we need more research to further establish sunflower oil’s chemopreventive properties.
5. May Fight Inflammation
Sunflower oil may prevent the gastric damage most NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) cause. When taken with indomethacin (an NSAID), the oil was found to reduce the adverse side effects of the drug (10).
We don’t know yet how effectively sunflower oil reduces inflammation as research is ongoing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it might help treat rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation. However, we need conclusive research in this aspect.
Also, sunflower oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Excess intake of these can trigger the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body (11). The standard American diet is already high in omega-6 fatty acids. Hence, you should be careful before adding sunflower oil to your diet – especially in this regard.
6. Fights Acne
Topical application of sunflower oil helps boost skin health. The oil is rich in vitamin E, a potent antioxidant. It may potentially fight the actions of the reactive oxygen species, which may have a role to play in acne (12).
Sunflower oil can also accelerate the recovery of the skin barrier. This can be attributed to the linoleic acid in the oil (13).
7. Helps Treat Eczema
When topically used, sunflower oil can have excellent anti-inflammatory effects (14). As discussed, the oil also improves the skin barrier. This way, it further enhances skin health.
The vitamin E in sunflower oil aids the treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema). Oral vitamin E treatment in 96 eczema patients resulted in improvement and near remission of the condition (15). The oil also may treat dry skin, which is another symptom of eczema.
As we saw, the vitamin E in the oil largely contributes to the oil’s skin benefits. The unsaturated fatty acids in the oil promote better health. The following section gets into the details of these constituents of sunflower oil.
What Is The Nutrition Profile Of Sunflower Oil?
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|From Carbohydrate||0.0(0.0 kJ)|
|From Fat||39.8(167 kJ)|
|From Protein||0.0(0.0 kJ)|
|From Alcohol||0.0(0.0 kJ)|
|Fats & Fatty Acids|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Total Fat||4.5 g||7%|
|Saturated Fat||0.4 g||2%|
|Monounsaturated Fat||3.8 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||0.2 g|
|Total trans fatty acids||~|
|Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids||~|
|Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids||~|
|Total Omega-3 fatty acids||8.6 mg|
|Total Omega-6 fatty acids||162 mg|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||1.8 mg||9%|
|Vitamin K||0.2 mcg||0%|
*Values sourced from nutritiondata.self, oil, vegetable, sunflower
The oil could be replete with healthy unsaturated fatty acids and using it in cooking is a sure-shot way to boost your health. But before you do that, you may want to know its potential ill effects.
What Are The Side Effects Of Sunflower Oil?
- Possible Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
Sunflower oil is beneficial during pregnancy and breastfeeding – it conserves vitamin A in breast milk that can be beneficial to the baby (16). But you need to reduce its intake – as the oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids that may not be healthy in large amounts (17).
- May Aggravate Diabetes Symptoms
Sunflower oil may increase fasting insulin and blood glucose levels due to its linoleic acid content (18). It may also increase post-meal blood fats. If you have diabetes, stay away from sunflower oil.
- May Cause Allergies
If you are allergic to plants like ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and chrysanthemums – you may experience allergies with sunflower oil.
We probably know now why the American Indian tribes have been using sunflower oil for thousands of years. This vegetable oil has impressive benefits; it is one of the healthy cooking oils. Keep in mind not to go overboard – as it contains omega-6 fatty acids that could already be abundant in your diet. You may want to supplement your diet with omega-3 fatty acids as well – through fish oil or flax seeds.
Do you use sunflower oil for cooking? What is your experience? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
What is the substitute for sunflower oil?
You can substitute sunflower oil with safflower oil and olive oil.
Is sunflower oil gluten-free?
Yes. Most cooking oils are naturally gluten-free. Sunflower oil is also gluten-free.
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