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Is Sunflower Oil Bad For You?
Sunflower oil is one of the most popular cooking oils worldwide and can easily be found in any grocery store. Over the past years, people have become more careful about the types of oil they consume due to an increase in certain health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, high blood pressure, and more.
Like all oils, you should first study whether they are healthy for you or do they have any adverse effects. The same applies to sunflower oils. Is sunflower oil bad for you or good? Here is all you need to know about sunflower oils and exactly how healthy they are for you:
What is Sunflower Oil?
Sunflower is a vegetable oil produced by pressing the seeds of the sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus). While native North Americans first cultivated the sunflower plant, it was first commercially produced in Russia in the 1830s and slowly spread worldwide.
Today, it is one of the most widely used oils, especially for frying and roasting. This oil is produced by pressing the seeds to extract its oils or through solvent extraction using chemical solvents such as hexane.
It is mainly filled with linoleic acid (Omega-6), oleic acids, antioxidants, and plenty of vitamin E, all important nutrients for the body. This is why it is advertised as one of the healthier types of vegetable oils compared to others. But is it really as healthy as they say?
Sunflower Oil “Health Benefits”
For a fair analysis of whether or not it is bad for you, we should first consider its touted “Health Benefits”…
1.) Low Saturated Fats
One of the major reasons it is touted as a healthier option is its low saturated fat content. It carries two types of unsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated (linoleic acid) and monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid). Depending on the concentration of these fatty acids, there are three types of sunflower oils:
- High oleic sunflower oil that contains roughly 80% oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acids)
- Mid-oleic sunflower oil with around 65% oleic acid and 25% linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acids)
- High linoleic sunflower oil that contains around 30% oleic acid and 60% linoleic acid
Typically high oleic sunflower oils are the healthier variant filled with monounsaturated fatty acids. Adopting a diet that has lower saturated fats and instead carries unsaturated fats can help lower the risk of heart disease.
2.) Reduces Cholesterol
Consuming Sunflower seed oil can also help reduce harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as bad cholesterol and promote healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) also known as good cholesterol.
Studies show that consuming a diet rich in high oleic acid sunflower oil can reduce LDL levels in the blood.
3.) Promotes Heart & Brain Health
Sunflower oil has also been associated with boosting heart health and reducing the risk of heart disease, especially when you use it in place of saturated fats. This is because the monounsaturated fat content in the oil can help decrease the total LDL cholesterol.
Higher blood cholesterol levels increase the risk of coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular diseases, making sunflower consumption a healthier choice.
Apart from this, it is also rich in vitamin E, which is proven to slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and can help promote better cognitive performance with aging.
Adverse Side Effects of Consuming Sunflower Oil
Till now, the benefits of sunflower oils we have listed are mainly associated with high oleic sunflower oil. It should be noted that not all sunflower oils are healthy, depending on their PUFA composition. Those with higher PUFA content are much more unstable and can lead to several adverse health effects. Here are some of the most common adverse effects:
1.) High Levels of Omega-6
Most sunflower oils are much higher in their linoleic acid (PUFA) content, also called Omega-6. Too much of this fatty acid can lead to serious health concerns.
Omega-6 has arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that induces inflammation in the body. Studies show that too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation which in turn triggers an increase in blood pressure, cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s.
2.) Higher Calories
Oil is 100% made of fat and is also very rich in calories. Unless you take sunflower oil in moderation, it can easily lead to an increase in excess fat in the body. Making it a regular part of your diet may therefore contribute to obesity and certain health risks.
The Omega-6 content in sunflower oil also plays a large part in the development of obesity. Various studies performed also prove that an increase in Omega-6 ratios can increase the risk of developing obesity. Noticing a trend with Omega-6? AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS!!
3.) Toxic Compounds
One of the major drawbacks of consuming Sunflower seed oil is the release of potentially toxic compounds when heated. It has a very high smoke point at around 450°F and is often used in deep frying, stir-frying, and sautéing.
This is the point where the oil will start burning and smoking, and the compounds inside the oil may start to break down. In the case of sunflower oil, even if it doesn’t reach its smoke point, it can release toxic fumes that carry aldehydes. Nearly all oils release aldehydes, but sunflower oil releases much more in quantity.
Aldehydes are very toxic compounds, and studies show that their release from frying oils can cause damage to the DNA and lead to mutagenic and carcinogenic effects.
You also need to consider how it is made because processed, refined sunflower oils tend to have higher PUFA content and should be avoided. These PUFAs are known for their carcinogenic effects, inflammation, asthma, diabetes, and other effects.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – The Healthy Alternative to Sunflower Oil
Considering the many negative effects of consuming sunflower oil, you should always choose a sunflower oil substitute.
Olive Oil, in particular Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), is considered the world’s healthiest oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is far superior to sunflower oil and all vegetable oils. This is because Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the least processed oils, containing plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Is Sunflower Oil Bad For You Conclusion:
Sunflower oil is becoming more and more popular among cooking oils but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily healthier! In fact, from this article you can now see just how unhealthy and dangerous a diet consisting of Sunflower and other Seed/Vegetable Oils can be. It is imperative to make a switch to healthier alternative such as Extra Virgin Olive Oils to cook your foods in. With EVOOs not only do you experience less adverse health effects but you also enjoy countless health benefits! Make the switch today and your body will be forever grateful 🙂
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