Sunflower Oil Vs. Olive Oil – Which Is Better?

While both have benefits, one of them could be better for you and your family.

Medically reviewed by Gabrielle KaneGabrielle Kane, RDN, CSP, LD
By Tanya ChoudharyTanya Choudhary, ISSA Certified Specialist In Fitness & Nutrition  • 

While more of us are getting health-conscious, we are trying to make healthy choices in our diets as well. Sunflower oil vs. olive oil – which is better? This is a debate that many people are engaging in right now. While both these oils have their own health benefits, it is important to know which oil to use when. It is also important to know what amounts of these oils are good to use, and if any adverse effects need to be considered. Read on to make the right choice that best suits your health and lifestyle!

Sunflower Oil Vs Olive Oil

Olive oil bottles on the left and sunflower bottles on the right

Image: Shutterstock

Let’s compare both sunflower oil vs olive oil to know which one is better for our health:

Fat:

Chef pouring olive oil into a bowl of caesar salad because of it's healthy fat content

Image: IStock

Both the oils are plant-based and contain roughly 120 calories per tablespoon. Both are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (1), (2). These kinds of fatty acids are known to bring down the bad cholesterol in your blood while promoting good cholesterol (3), (4).

  • Linoleic Acid In Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil contains almost 65% linoleic acid while olive oil contains just 10% of it. It also contains omega 3 fatty acids and omega-6 omega 6 fatty acids, which enhance neurological functions and reduce inflammation (5).
  • Oleic Acid In Olive Oil: Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid, which is known to suppress oncogene in the body. So, the next time you use olive oil for your Caesar salad dressing, remember, you are fighting cancer as well! It is suggested that the consumption of meat may increase the risk of colorectal cancer. There is evidence that oleic acid may protect cells from mutating into cancerous cells and promote the death of cancerous cells (6), (7), (8), (9).
protip_icon Trivia
In some South American cultures, making food with sunflower oil is a community ritual because its flowers are considered sacred as they face the sun.

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E should be taken in healthy doses every day because of its various benefits. It reduces the formation of free radicals, which can lead to the development of certain types of cancer or chronic diseases. Vitamin E also prevents vascular complications like arteriosclerosis, chest pain, leg pain due to arterial blockage, etc.. It also alleviates diabetes and its symptoms. Vitamin E is used for asthma, skin disorders, cataracts, etc (10), (11), (12).

  • Sunflower oil:It is a rich source of vitamin E. It has been found that vitamin E found in sunflower oil can also prevent rheumatoid arthritis and colon cancer. People from countries that use olive oil and sunflower oil as their main cooking oils are found to have lower asthma rates (1), (13), (14).
  • Olive oil: This oil with a goldish-green color also contains a good proportion of Vitamin E. It is extensively used for cooking Mediterranean cuisine. The vitamin E found in other oils like canola, corn, or soybean is found in the gamma-tocopherol form, which has a negative impact on lung function. But olive oil and sunflower oil both contain vitamin E in the alpha-tocopherol form which has no such adverse effect (2).

Vitamin K:

Man pouring olive oil into a pan because it is rich in vitamin K

Image: Shutterstock

Vitamin K is another important nutrient that provides various health benefits. It serves as an important factor in the blood clotting mechanism and stops excessive bleeding. It also strengthens the bones and can prevent osteoporosis in older women.

  • Sunflower Oil:
    It has barely 1 microgram of vitamin K per tablespoon.
  • Olive Oil: 
  • It contains more than 8 micrograms of Vitamin K per tablespoon.


protip_icon Fun Fact
Greek poet Homer called olive oil “liquid gold,” while the Greek physician Hippocrates called it “the great healer” because of its medicinal properties.

Minerals:

Man and woman using olive oil as salad dressing because it is rich in minerals

Image: Shutterstock

Plant oils contain fewer mineral oils than those obtained from animal sources. Here is a comparison between the mineral content in sunflower oil and olive oil

  • Sunflower Oil:
     Being a vegetable oil, it does not offer minerals at all (1).
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is a fruit oil and has several minerals, although in trace amounts (17). It contains:
  • Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in your blood (18).
  • Potassium maintains which maintains muscle tone and heart health (19).
  • Sodium, which has functions similar to potassium
  • Calcium is which is good for bone and teeth (20).

Verdict: Olive Oil Is Better!

Woman choosing olive oil for consumption because it is healthy

Image: Shutterstock

From the above comparison, it is clear that olive oil is healthier than sunflower oil in terms of Vitamin K content, fatty acids, and minerals. Olive oil does not interfere with the omega 6 fatty acid and omega 3 fatty acid balance, whereas sunflower oil may increase the ratio of these fatty acids. The polyunsaturated fats in sunflower oil can make it go rancid more easily than olive oil. Olive oil also has a fruity taste unlike sunflower oil, which is bland.

So, the next time you go shopping for cooking oil, make sure you make the right choice!

What oil do you use for cooking? Have you tried olive oil? Share your views with us in the comments section below.

Infographic: Nutritional Differences Between Sunflower Oil And Olive Oil

People are becoming health conscious and are trying to choose healthier food options for their diet. However, we see many people around confused about which oil is healthier, sunflower or olive oil?

Check out the infographic below to learn about the nutritional difference between both oils.

nutritional differences between sunflower oil and olive oil (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Save the high-quality PDF version on your device now.

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Download Infographic in PDF version

The presence of higher amounts of vitamin K, fats, and minerals in olive oil makes it a clear winner over sunflower oil. Moderate intake of these plant oils that are low in saturated fats may help strengthen bones, prevent osteoporosis, and stop excess bleeding. The vitamin E in these oils may help prevent colon cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. However, the polyunsaturated fats in sunflower oil can make it go rancid easily (as compared to olive oil). But the two oils can improve the ratio of omega 3 to 6. Hence, choose the right cooking oil to reap the right benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I avoid sunflower oil?

According to research, one of the drawbacks of sunflower oil is that it emits high levels of toxic aldehyde fumes when exposed to high heat for extended periods (21). Hence, you should limit your use of the oil and fry foods only at low heat. Also, reduce the use of sunflower oil for frying dipping, baking, grilling, roasting, and sautéing.

Which oil is better than olive oil?

Avocado oil has similar nutrition as olive oil and has a higher smoke point (it can be used for frying as well). Avocado oil could be a better alternative to olive oil.

Which oil is best for the heart?

Canola oil and olive oil are ideal for suppporting heart health (22).

Which oil is best for daily use?

Use olive oil for cooking and rice bran oil for frying whenever possible. These oils are ideal for daily use.

Key Takeaways

  • Olive oil contains vitamin K and essential fatty acids. These nutrients help fight various inflammatory diseases in the body.
  • Olive oil is rich in antioxidants. Hence, it is often preferred as a cooking oil by health-conscious people.
  • While sunflower oil also has various health benefits, olive oil is a better choice due to its fruity flavor and high antioxidant content.


Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

    1. FoodData Central – Oil sunflower
      https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1750349/nutrients
    2. FoodData Central – Oil olive extra virgin
      https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/748608/nutrients
    3. Saturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Modulation by Replacement Nutrients
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2943062/
    4. High–monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations
      https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/70/6/1009/4729123?login=false
    5. Fatty Acids Composition of Vegetable Oils and Its Contribution to Dietary Energy Intake and Dependence of Cardiovascular Mortality on Dietary Intake of Fatty Acids
      https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/16/6/12871/htm
    6. Oleic acid the main monounsaturated fatty acid of olive oil suppresses Her-2/neu (erbB-2) expression and synergistically enhances the growth inhibitory effects of trastuzumab (Herceptin™) in breast cancer cells with Her-2/neu oncogene amplification
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0923753419478782
    7. Meat Consumption and Colorectal Cancer: a Review of Epidemiologic Evidence
      https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/59/2/37/1826072?login=false
    8. Antitumor effect of oleic acid; mechanisms of action: a review
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23588432/
    9. Olive oil intake and cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis
      https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0261649
    10. Vitamin E and Cancer
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S008367290776017X
    11. Vitamin E and Cardiovascular Disease
      https://journals.lww.com/americantherapeutics/Abstract/2010/05000/Vitamin_E_and_Cardiovascular_Disease.20.aspx
    12. The Use of Vitamin E in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10641960701361601
    13. Oilseed crop sunflower (Helianthus annuus) as a source of food: Nutritional and health benefits
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7500752/#fsn31783-bib-0047
    14. What Are the Effects of a Mediterranean Diet on Allergies and Asthma in Children?
      https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2017.00072/full
    15. Vitamin K: an old vitamin in a new perspective
      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.4161/19381972.2014.968490
    16. On risks and benefits of iron supplementation recommendations for iron intake revisited
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0946672X07000648
    17. FoodData Central – Oil olive salad or cooking
      https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171413/nutrients
    18. On risks and benefits of iron supplementation recommendations for iron intake revisited
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0946672X07000648
    19. Potassium and Health
      https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/4/3/368S/4591617?login=false
    20. Calcium supplements: benefits and risks
      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/joim.12394
    21. Toxic aldehyde generation in and food uptake from culinary oils during frying practices: peroxidative resistance of a monounsaturate-rich algae oil
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6412032/
    22. Cooking oil/fat consumption and deaths from cardiometabolic diseases and other causes: prospective analysis of 521120 individuals
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8048052/
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