Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds (Helianthus annuus) and contains high levels of linoleic acid, which is an omega-six polyunsaturated fatty acid (linoleic acid, LA).
Sunflower oil is popular thanks to its mild and pleasant flavor. Cold-pressed sunflower oil has a light amber color and a slightly nuttier flavor than refined sunflower oil. Cold-pressed sunflower oil can be added to salads, dressing, and sauces. It may be used for gently steaming vegetables, but it is not suitable for cooking at high temperatures. Refined sunflower oil has a more neutral flavor and a much lighter, pale yellow color. It can be heated to temperatures of up to 180 °C; however, there is a risk of trans fats developing.1
Which oil is ideal for frying? High-oleic sunflower oil has a high smoke point and is ideal for pan-frying and deep-frying at temperatures of up to 210 °C.
Sunflower oil is common in baby food. It is also often used to make margarine or mayonnaise because of its yellow color. Please note: Even though sunflower oil has a high content of unsaturated fatty acids, the ratio of omega-6 (LA) to omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) is very poor. Sunflower oil contains high quantities of omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation. Which oil is healthier: canola oil or sunflower oil? Canola oil contains a much higher content of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. You can read more about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the link in the box as well as further down in the text.
Ingredients: 250 g whole grain spelt flour, 150 g rolled oats, 200 mL high-oleic sunflower oil, 80 g brown sugar, 1 packet baking powder (about 4 teaspoons), 1 pinch salt, 150 g blueberries, 3 bananas.
Preparation: Mash bananas and blueberries and mix well with all other ingredients. Grease a cake pan, dust with flour, and pour batter into the pan. Bake at 200 °C for about 35–40 minutes.
You can find vegan recipes with sunflower oil at the bottom of the text or in the sidebar: “Recipes that have the most of this ingredient.”
You can find refined sunflower oil in all major supermarkets such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Extra Foods, Metro, and Freshmart (Canada); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl (Great Britain); Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and Harris Farm (Australia). You can recognize sunflower oil by its pale-yellow, almost transparent color. Sunflower oil contains hardly any valuable nutrients because it has usually been treated at high temperatures and with chemical solvents (e.g., hexane). Its main advantages are that it can be heated to high temperatures and that it has a long shelf life.
You may be able to find organic cold-pressed sunflower oil at selected supermarkets, organic supermarkets, health food stores, and online. Cold-pressed sunflower oil is often referred to as native. It contains valuable nutrients and has a more intense color and flavor. Organic oil is never refined, and at most partial deodorization is allowed. However, many organic associations are critical of deodorization and have prohibited its practice. Cold-pressed sunflower oil is made by dehulling, grinding, and pressing sunflower seeds and has a flavor that some people perceive to be bitter, tart, or even rancid.2 If sunflower oil tastes rancid, this usually means that the oil has undergone too much oxidation or has been exposed to water.
Of course, not the oil, but wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) can be found growing along roadsides and hiking paths and in weed fields with rubble.
Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds. Machines are used to clean and dehull the seeds. Cold-pressed sunflower oil is made using a mechanical press. Mechanical pressing does not heat the oil to temperatures above 40 °C. While it may be assumed that virgin, cold-pressed sunflower oil is never heated to temperatures above 30 °C, there is no evidence of this in laws or regulations.3 However, olive oil production is subject to temperature restrictions (see the ingredient olive oil).
Sunflower oil is refined through hot pressing, which involves steaming sunflowers at temperatures around 100 °C or using chemical solvents (e.g., hexane). These processes extend the shelf life of the sunflower oil, preserve a particular flavor, modify the color of the oil, and allow it to be processed further for industrial purposes.
Refining removes undesirable and toxic substances from the oil such as pigments, odors, flavors, and bitter substances.4
Refined sunflower oil has a greater yield; however, the process results in an oil that has fewer nutrients, phytonutrients, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
When stored in a sealed vessel in a dark and cool place, sunflower oil keeps for over one year, and refined sunflower oil can be used for up to two years. Cold-pressed sunflower oil, on the other hand, should be placed in the refrigerator after opening and be consumed quickly. It is better to keep the oil in several small bottles rather than one large bottle in order to reduce the exposure of the oil to oxygen.
Sunflower oil contains 884 calories/100 g, the entirety of which is fat. Saturated acids account for about 10 % of sunflower oil’s calories. The ratio of omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) to omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) is 616:1.5 DEBInet reports that 100 g sunflower oil contains 50.18 g omega-6 fatty acids and 0.18 g omega-3 fatty acids, which is a ratio of 280:1.
It is worth mentioning that sunflower oil contains considerable quantities of vitamin E (41 mg/100 g). Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role as an antioxidant in the body and increases the oil’s storage life. Hemp oil and hazelnut oil contain comparable amounts of vitamin E. Wheat germ oil contains significantly higher quantities of alpha-tocopherol, at 149 mg/100 g.5
Sunflower oil also contains small amounts of vitamin K: 5.4 µg/100 g. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin mainly found in green vegetables and lettuce. Spinach contains 483 µg/100 g and leek contains 46 µg/100 g. Canola oil contains 13 times more vitamin K than sunflower oil, at 71 µg/100 g.5
Cold-pressed sunflower oil retains most of the vitamins and fatty acids found in sunflower seeds.
Select CLICK FOR under the photo of sunflower oil to see the nutrient tables. These tables provide complete nutritional information, the percentage of the recommended allowance, and comparison values with other ingredients.
Sunflower oil is said to help diabetics thanks to the monounsaturated oleic acid it contains. It also allegedly reduces resistance to the hormone “I.”6 Studies on cell cultures show that oleic acid suppresses the activity of tumor cells.7,8 However, natural sunflower oil contains only 19.5 % of monounsaturated oleic acids (18:1), whereas almonds and almond milk contain 31 %, canola oil between 60 and 70 %, and safflower oil 74 %.
A 2017 study showed that regular consumption of linoleic acid counteracts type 2 diabetes.9
In vivo studies have shown a reduction in blood cholesterol levels in people with dyslipidemia when they regularly consume sunflower oil.10 However, studies commissioned by the oil industry exclusively focus on the benefits of oil and ignore side effects or comparisons to other, more nutritious foods.
Read the following section to learn about the harmful aspects of sunflower oil, which offset any health benefits.
All refined vegetable oils contain fatty acid esters of 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified as a “possible human carcinogen” in 2011. Refined vegetable oils and vegetable fats are some of the most concentrated sources of 3-MCPD fatty esters. These fatty esters are also found in solid fats such as margarine. Infant formula was proven to contain large quantities of fatty acid esters because of the refined fats and oils that go into making it. In most cases, it is the final stages of refining and deodorizing oils such as sunflower oil that 3-MCPD fatty esters develop. In some cases, they may also develop during steam treatment. Companies do not have to indicate whether their oil was refined on the label, so you should assume that oils are refined if they are not labeled as “cold pressed” or “native.” Animal fats such as butter and lard do not contain 3-MCPD esters, as they are not usually refined.11
Certain food technology processes can transform cis configurations of unsaturated fatty acids into trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids can lead to lipid metabolism disorders and promote coronary heart disease. Hydrogenation can change the texture and stability of oils and harden them. In the production of margarine, for example, unsaturated fatty acids are converted into saturated fatty acids.12 However, it is possible to reduce the content of trans fatty acids in food.13 Many European countries have introduced a limit on trans fats in food, meaning that just 2 % of a given product’s fat content can be trans fats.14
Cold-pressed sunflower oil contains a particularly large amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Although omega-6 fatty acids are important, they promote inflammation when consumed in excessive amounts. Since we generally consume too much of these fatty acids, we should try to consume more omega-3 fatty acids. This can help to improve the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in our diet (LA: ALA). A healthy ratio of omega-6 (linoleic acid) to omega-3 fatty acids is 5:1 or less. Oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnut oil. However, avoiding oil altogether and consuming nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 instead is a healthier option. You can find more about this on the page about olive oil.
Sunflowers may occasionally cause pollen and food allergies. They are in the same allergen group as mugwort and other plants in the daisy family.
What is sunflower oil good for? Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic method of treatment in India. Sesame oil was also used to practice oil pulling and is effective against Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus acidophilus. In Russia, sunflower oil is considered an agent that pulls out toxins from the body thanks to the work of the Ukrainian doctor Fedor Karach. Oil pulling is supposed to prevent pathogens from developing in the mouth and throat area. Oil pulling is also said to have a positive effect on rheumatism and stomach and intestinal problems.7
Sunflower petals are also used in traditional medicine. They can be made into a tincture or tea to treat fever, for example, in the case of malaria or lung disease.15
Sunflower oil can also be applied externally to massage aches or to treat wounds that are healing poorly. Sunflower oil is said to have laxative effects.15
Sunflowers originated in North and Central America. Spanish explorers brought sunflowers to Europe. They were then extensively cultivated in the Russian part of Ukraine. Russia and Argentina are the largest producers of sunflowers.16 Sunflower oil is the fourth most produced oil in the world, after palm oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.17
Sunflowers are annual plants that can grow up to 3 m tall, although this is rather rare.18 They have thick, hairy, strong stems that are filled with pith and hairy leaves arranged alternatively on the stem. The flower heads are large and can reach up to 35 cm in diameter. Sunflowers bloom in summer from July to September. Sunflower seeds contain highly varied amounts of fat depending on the variety of the sunflower.15 The average annual yield is approximately 2.5 t/ha, while approximately 10 t of harvest residues will remain on the field.19
Short-stemmed varieties of sunflowers are preferable for harvesting ripe sunflower seeds. Tall, leafy cultivars are suitable for silage.
High-oleic sunflowers (HO) are sunflowers that have been selectively bred (not genetically modified!) to obtain a high-oleic acid content of 75–93 %. Normal sunflower varieties contain between 14 and 39.4 % oleic acid.20 The high percentage of oleic acid also increases the heat and oxidation stability of the oil.21 The smoke point of high-oleic sunflower oil is approximately 220 °C.
Genetically modified sunflowers are controversial — they are said to be resistant to drought, heat, insecticides, herbicides, and plant diseases. In some countries such as Canada, genetically modified sunflowers can be cultivated.2
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are easily confused with Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) around the period of flowering, with both species belonging to the same genus. Jerusalem artichokes can be used for their oil seeds as well as their inulin.
Sunflowers are an ideal source of pollen for bees, insects, and birds. When grown in small gardens and on meadows, sunflowers can help to protect bees.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) belong to the Asteraceae family, also known as composite. Their seeds contain about 50 % oil.
The sunflower is also known as the common sunflower, the Kansas sunflower, and mirasol.
High-oleic sunflower oil containing more than 90 % oleic acid is used in the chemical industry to make products such as lubricants. It is also used in cosmetics.21
Sunflower oil is also a component of industrial paints, varnishes, and artist-grade oil colors. It is used as a preservative for processing leather and in textile manufacturing.
Sunflower oil is also used as a fuel, but more research is needed in this area.
According to Wikipedia, sunflower oil biodiesel (sunflower oil methyl esters) accounted for approximately 10 % of all biodiesel (fatty acid methyl esters) produced in Europe in 2007.
In May 2019 there was a scandal about “adulterated olive oil,” where olive oil was mixed with sunflower oil and soybean oil.