FOOD

Is sunflower oil bad for you?

An expert weighs in.

Is sunflower oil good or bad for you? Compared to most other cooking oils out there, sunflower oil is very nutrient-dense. In fact, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, it may be beneficial for our health.

“Sunflower oil is made from the pressed seeds of sunflowers, and as such, is not bad for us at all,” accredited practising dietician, Natalie Von Bertouch, tells New Idea Food. “It’s high in vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant that is known to protect the health of our cells tissues and organs and may play a part in boosting our immune system.”

“It is safe to cook with and use in salads, although it’s best to consume in moderation as oils are still a fat and are therefore high in calories,” she adds. “I’d recommend using a variety of oils in your diet to maximise the health benefits each oil offers.”At the supermarket, you may find three different varieties of sunflower oil: organic, cold-pressed and high-oleic sunflower oil. The latter has been modified to be richer in oleic acid, which boosts the monounsaturated fat content. So how does sunflower oil measure up to other oils?RELATED:7 of the best substitutes for peanut oil
“If you’re tossing up between sunflower oil vs canola oil, always opt for sunflower oil,” Von Bertouch says. “While canola oil contains 10 micrograms of vitamin K, sunflower oil boasts almost double the vitamin E.”In addition, sunflower oil has much higher amounts of linoleic acid than olive oil (65% to olive oil’s 10%.) However, “olive oil is a better source of vitamin K, fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and minerals – making it a healthier choice overall.”

Benefits of sunflower oil

Health

1. Promotes heart healthSunflower oil contains phytochemicals such as choline and phenolic acid, which studies have found to be beneficial for the heart. Furthermore, it’s naturally free from trans fats, which is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.2. Provides energySunflower oil is loaded with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which provide the body with a good source of fuel.3. Lowers cholesterolResearch shows that including sunflower oil in the diet can effectively lower our total cholesterol levels as well as the build-up of ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. 4. Strengthens the immune systemSunflower oil’s antioxidant properties strengthen the cell membranes, making it harder for bacteria and viruses to enter the body. In addition, this increases our ability to fight off infections.5. Improves digestionAs sunflower oil is extremely light, it is better absorbed in your digestive tract than many other oils. It also acts as a mild laxative, which can help with constipation.6. Repairs the bodySunflower oil contains proteins that help in building and repairing the tissues and enzymes required for the healthy functioning of the body’s systems.RELATED:These are the 7 best substitutes for coconut oil

Cooking

Sunflower oil is a great multi-purpose cooking oil as it can withstand high temperatures (it has a smoke point of 230°C.) It is light amber in colour with a subtle nutty taste, making it perfect for both deep-frying vegetables and shallow-frying steaks and fish. It can also be used as a substitute for butter when baking cakes and muffins.

Skin

Because of its emollient properties, sunflower oil is often included as an ingredient in many cosmetics and medicines. Being rich in nutrients and antioxidants, it is effective in fighting acne, eczema, inflammation and general redness and irritation of the skin. It’s high vitamin E levels also help to neutralise free-radicals and slow ageing. 

Hair

Sunflower oil is incredibly nourishing for the hair and can preventing thinning, control frizz and combat dryness and damage. It can be applied directly to the scalp as a moisturising treatment or added to your regular shampoo and conditioner. RELATED:Bircher muesli with chia seeds

Nutritional information

1tbsp (13.6g) sunflower oil contains:120 calories (6.0% DV*)503 KJ13.6g total fat (20.9% DV) 1.2g saturated fats (5.6% DV)7.8g monounsaturated fats (26.9% DV)3.9g polyunsaturated fats (26.3% DV)0.0g carbohydrates (0.0% DV)0.0g sugars (0.0% DV)0.0g protein (0.0% DV)0.0g dietary fibre (0.0% DV)0.0mg cholesterol (0.0% DV)0.0g sodium (0.0% DV)0.0g water (0.0% DV)*Percent daily value (DV) based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Allergy information

Although an allergic reaction to sunflower oil is very uncommon, it can occur. Symptoms may include bronchial asthma, rhinitis, conjunctivitis, angioedema, contact dermatitis, skin lesions and anaphylaxis.

Substitutes

While there are many alternatives to cooking with sunflower oil, here are the 10 most popular options:
    1. Olive oil 2. Vegetable oil 3. Peanut oil 4. Canola oil 5. Walnut oil 6. Butter 7. Safflower oil 8. Grapeseed oil 9. Coconut oil 10. Avocado oil
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