Is sunflower oil healthier than olive oil?

Sunflower oil is good for frying, due to its high smoke point. But, it isn’t as healthy as olive oil, which is particularly rich in polyphenols.

How sunflower oil is made?

There are 2 types of sunflower oils in the market.

The first type is the cold-pressed or extra-virgin sunflower oil. The hulls are removed, and the seeds are broken into smaller pieces. Oil is squeezed out, through pressure. This process doesn’t involve any high heat. But, the cold-pressed method isn’t efficient. It doesn’t remove all oil from the seeds.

On the contrary, the common refined sunflower oil is made by pressing pre-heated seeds. The heat makes oil flow more easily. Furthermore, companies use a solvent named hexane. This chemical increases the amount of oil that can be extracted, leaving no remaining oil in the seeds.

But, this process alters the natural characteristics of the oil. The next step is to heat the oil to remove the chemical taste. Sunflower oil is heated again to comply odor, color, and taste of the final product to the customer’s preferences.

Nutritional value of sunflower oil

The common sunflower oil contains: (1).

  • saturates fatty acids: 10% of the fat content,
  • monounsaturated fatty acids: 19.5% of the fat content,
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids: 66% of the fat content

Furthermore, sunflower oil contains only vitamin E. It contains 41 mg per 100g. A tablespoon of sunflower oil contains about 5.6 mg of vitamin E, or 37% of the Daily Value (DV).

Moreover, it contains traces of vitamin K.

Olive oil has a different nutritional value. It’s 80% monounsaturated fatty acids, while it’s poor in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids are good for the heart when consumed in moderation.

Furthermore, olive oil is a good dietary source of vitamins E and K. Most noteworthy, olive oil is particularly rich in polyphenols, which have many health benefits.

Sunflower oil is rich in omega-6s

Omega-3s and omega-6s (linoleic acid) are the main polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-9 (oleic acid) is a type of the healthy monounsaturated fatty acid.

There are 3 types of sunflower oils.

sunflower oil with 65% linoleic acid & 25% oleic acid

It’s the most common commercial sunflower oil. It’s about 65% polyunsaturated fatty acids. This type of sunflower oil is bad for you because it’s particularly rich in omega-6s.

Although, we need omega-6s, too much can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, oxidative stress, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory diseases, and autoimmune diseases (2,4,7).

People used to follow the same amount of omega-3s and omega-6s. Nowadays, we consume 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. This is bad for health.

Moreover, there are only a few foods rich in omega-3s.

The 65% Linoleic acid sunflower oil has a smoke point of 227oC (440oF). It isn’t the best choice for frying, though. Other types of sunflower oil with higher smoke points are used in food industry.

Olive oil has an even lower smoke point. Certainly, olive oil isn’t suitable for frying or cooking.

sunflower oil with 80% oleic acid & 10% linoleic acid

This is known as High Oleic Acid Sunflower oil.

Oleic acid is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid. Consuming foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids in moderation is good for the heart.

This type of sunflower oil remains stable without hydrogenation and has a longer shelf-life. Due to these benefits, high oleic acid sunflower oil is widely used in the food industry.

sunflower oil with 65% oleic acid & 25% linoleic acid

This is also known as Mid-Oleic acid sunflower oil. It’s the most common sunflower oil. It’s the sunflower that you’ll buy in a store.

This type of sunflower oil has a smoke point of 232oC (450oF).

Olive & sunflower oil can make you gain weight

Both sunflower and olive oil are high in calories. They have 120 calories per tbsp!

If you want to lose weight, better consume no more than 1 tbsp a day. Overconsumption of any vegetable oil can make you gain weight.

Sunflower oil isn’t GMO

Sunflower hasn’t been genetically modified. All varieties are natural crossbreeding. Olive oil is non-GMO vegetable oil as well (8).

On the contrary, most commercial canola, soybean, corn, and cottonseed oils are GMO vegetable oils.

Sources:

  1. US Department of Agriculture – Sunflower oil
  2. NCBI: The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
  3. Chemometric studies of the effects of milk fat replacement with different proportions of vegetable oils in the formulation of fat-filled milk powders: Implications for quality assurance.
  4. Omega-6 vegetable oils as a driver of coronary heart disease: the oxidized linoleic acid hypothesis
  5. NCBI: Effect of the replacement of dietary vegetable oils with a low dose of extra virgin olive oil in the Mediterranean Diet on cognitive functions in the elderly
  6. Randomized trials of replacing saturated fatty acids with n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in coronary heart disease prevention: Not the gold standard?
  7. NCBI-PMC: An Increase in the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio Increases the Risk for Obesity
  8. NCBI-PMC Sunflower seed allergy
  9. NCBI-Pubmed.gov: Sunflower oil is not allergenic to sunflower seed-sensitive patients.