For many years, sunflower oil has been thought of as the least healthy oil for cooking because of its low smoking point (160 degrees Celsius Unrefined) and its association with fried foods. Besides, this oil has always had a bad reputation, because of the common saying that “oils make you fat.” Which, by the way, is a totally not true.
However, when people realized that palm oil is actually is the most unhealthy cooking fat, the interest in evidence-based characteristics of sunflower oil increased tremendously. And we started wondering if it is as bad as people think!
This article will reveal the truth about if sunflower oil is unhealthy, or beneficial to our wellbeing, and why!
Let’s dive in!
The health characteristics of sunflower oil are strongly dependant on whether it is high, medium, or low oleic.
Those oils are defined by their one characteristic: high oleic acid content (over 70%). This acid is naturally found in different vegetables, seeds, and nuts and is classified as monounsaturated fatty acid (omega 9).
The proven health benefits of this acid are shared in the US National Library of Medicine. Those are:
- Improved psychological functions (reduce depression, anxiety, stress, better concentration)
- Reduce the risk for the development of cancer, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases. (insulin resistance)
- Facilitates tissue healing process (wounds, cuts, organ and skin damage)
- Stronger immune system
- Neutralizes and reduces health damage caused by saturated fats (high LDL cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, arteries’ buildup)
In that sense, high oleic sunflower oil is extremely beneficial to our wellbeing in both psychological and physical perspective. In fact, this oil is not only rich in omega 9, but also omega 3 fatty acids. This way, it has been proven to have higher monounsaturated fat content than olive oil, and thus, stronger beneficial properties!
Another great advantage of this type of sunflower oil is that it is heat stable, thus it doesn’t “break” when hydrogenated, and has a very long shelf life, which will save you some additional trips to the store.
Nonetheless this oil is extremely healthy, it is not easy to be found on the market. To recognize it, pay attention to the labels and the percentage of oleic acid.
This is the sunflower oil that is most popular on the market. It has moderate oleic acid content, thus, it supplies the body with a relatively sufficient amount of omega 3 and 9. Another benefit is that it doesn’t go off easily, yet, in the long term consumption, it doesn’t provide us with the full health benefits of high-oleic oils.
Mid-oleic oils are not as healthy and beneficial as the high-oleic ones, because they are richer in saturated fats, which neutralize the unsaturated fats.
Low oleic oils (Linoleic oils)
These oils are poor in omega 3 and 9, but rich in omega 6 fatty acids (also referred to as Linoleic acid). This may seem to be “okay” at a glance, but such an imbalance in the fatty acid levels imposes severe risks for cardiac and nervous system issues in the long run.
In fact, according to the guidelines posted in University Medical News, the ratio between omega 3, 6, and 9 should be on average, 3:1 (in favor of omega 3). However, as linoleic oils are not balanced in the right way, they have to be consumed with additional omega 3 sources.
This means that linoleic sunflower oil is absolutely not suitable for direct consumption or cooking in the long run.
Whichever oil you desire to buy, you can always find its type indicated on the label. And now, as you know the scientific truth about the REAL sunflower oil (not the heavily-processed one), you will not be “hostage” of faulty myths and legends about its unhealthy properties.