Sunflower oil: healthy or not?

You read lately more often that sunflower oil is not as healthy as we’ve thought for years.

And that while many people use this oil almost every day in the kitchen. Time to dive deeply into the matter and to clarify.

What sunflower oil?

Sunflower oil is pressed from the seeds of sunflower (Helianthus annuus). A sunflower seed contains between 39% and 49% oil.

It is a clear, fairly thin, liquid vegetable oils, with high levels of vitamin E, a low content of saturated fat, and a high content of unsaturated fatty acids (omega 6 and 9).

Sunflower oil has a light yellow color, soft, neutral taste and shelf life of one year. Cold many people often oil on salads, and because it is resistant to heat, it is extremely popular as baking and frying.

Under the influence of light, heat and / or air can oxidize and become rancid sunflower oil. It may therefore be best stored in a cool dark place, tightly sealed and preferably in a dark bottle.

Fatty acid percentage in sunflower oil:

  • Linoleic acid (omega 6): 62% (polyunsaturated)
  • Oleic acid (omega-9): 20% (mono-unsaturated)
  • Palmitic acid: 5% (saturated)
  • Stearic acid: 4.5% (saturated)
  • Other fatty acids: 1.5%

How is sunflower oil?

The seeds of the sunflower are pressed with a hydraulic rotary press or expeller.

One by pressing the rotary press supplies cold-pressed virgin oil on. This form remains closest to nature, and should not be warmer than 30 degrees. Heat your oil more than the composition changes and is unhealthy.

For eg. shelf life of the oil to extend the virgin oil is heated and processed further.

These processed or refined sunflower oil is not only a longer shelf life, but also has a higher smoke limit (around 190 to 230 degrees Celsius). Note that at high temperatures, such as frying, much of the nutritional value and lost a lot of vitamins.

trans Fats

In addition to heating is hydrogenation another processing method that is often used. Hydrogenation is a chemical process that vegetable oil hardens at room temperature, so that it is spreadable and can be used in candy, cakes, cookies, potato chips, crackers, etc.

It makes the oil much longer shelf life and extra heat resistant. A major disadvantage of this process is that it produces trans fats. Trans fats (like many endorse scientific studies) very unhealthy.

In America, trans fats must be listed on the packaging labels, but Europe is still behind.

Unfortunately, clear labeling is the only way to know for sure whether a product contains trans fats or not.

Please note, if you read a packet of biscuits ‘sunflower oil’, they are often the unhealthy hydrogenated form.

This problem applies only to finished products, not on sunflower oil itself. Vegetable oils naturally contain no trans fats.

Nutritional value

Oils and fats are essential for good health. They provide calories and fat soluble hormones and vitamins help by transporting your body (especially vitamins A, D, E and K).

Fats and oils provide a healthy liver function and preventing infections and blood clots. [1,2,3]

Fats and oils always consist of a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. The nutritional value is determined by the combination of the different types of fatty acids. [4]

Long-term studies demonstrate that, for optimum health of the ratio of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats, 1: 1: 1 should be. (All this is still the subject of continuing research.) [5]

It is important to remember that the above in your intake of fats is a correct balance, not necessarily to the question whether a particular fat ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (except trans fats – which are very bad for us). [6,7,8]

Unsaturated fats in sunflower oil

Sunflower oil contains a combination of two saturated fatty acids (palmitic acid and stearic acid), monounsaturated (oleic acid, or omega-9), and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (linoleic acid, or omega-6).

Because unsaturated fats, the vast majority are in sunflower oil, I focus only on these fats.

Sunflower oil which you normally encountered in the shelves of the supermarket, generally has a ratio of 60-80% omega-6 and about 20% of omega 9.

The large amount of omega-6 is a problem. Let me explain why.

Important fats: omega 3 and 6

Your body is much different fats create. They are not necessary to include them regularly in your diet.

An exception are the essential fats omega 3 and omega 6. This should make the body or out of your diet.

But there is a snag. It is not only important to both ingest the fatty acids, it is also important that you get them in the right proportion.

Scientists agree that that ratio, the daily ratio of omega-6 to omega should be 3: 3: 1. [9.4] or better even 1: 1. [13]

However: in our Western diet is the ratio above about 15: 1.

Eat some chicken, egg, a handful of nuts, and you get more than enough omega 6 inside. Use you also sunflower oil to prepare your meals, then we saddle our body unnecessarily with an ‘overdose’ omega 6.

Too much omega 6 causes an unhealthy relationship with omega 3. This “imbalance” makes you susceptible to infections, heart disease, arthritis, retinal aging and autoimmune diseases. [10]

The right balance

To get a good balance you need to do two things:

  1. Eat more omega-3
  2. Eat less omega-6

It is not just enough to eat more omega-3 rich foods. It is both important to less omega 6 consumed.

So you pull the balance quickly return to a healthy 1: 1 (instead of the unhealthy 15: 1 – which most people now have in their diet).

You now understand that it is not wise to use an oil with high omega-6 value.

Therefore I advise you not to choose ordinary sunflower oil. Looking for an alternative to your salads and frying – with minimal omega 6 (linoleic acid) and lots of omega 9 (oleic acid).

The good news is that this healthy alternative already exists …: the “high oleic” -zonnebloemolie. Unlike the current, old-fashioned, species that still dominate the market, you can still safely use this variant.

Sunflower oil 2.0: high oleic – the healthy alternative

Mid nineties, recognized the sunflower industry in America omega 6 above problem, and growers began to cultivate new hybrid sunflowers.

Not using COM, but through traditional, natural cross-pollination.

The oils are extracted from the kernels naturally contain high levels – 60 to 90% – monounsaturated fat (omega 9) and only 9% polyunsaturated fats (omega 6).

The opposite of the original sunflower oil!

These values ​​of the high oleic variant, which is on the market since 2000, are similar to those of avocados and olive oil.

Recent medical studies confirm that high-oleic sunflower oil helps reduce including LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk of strokes and heart failure. [11]

Compared to oil, the high oleic sunflower oil addition, a higher smoke limit, it is less susceptible to oxidation and thus longer, up to two years shelf life.

This species is also thicker and more stable molecules than ordinary sunflower oil. This makes them less affected by high temperatures.

You will also see that the high oleic variant is adopted quickly pushed back by the food industry, and hydrogenation. [12]

Fatty acid profile sunflower oil Monounsaturated polyunsaturated Saturated
Oleic acid (oleic)(Omega 9) Linoleic acid (linoleic)(Omega 6) Palmitic and stearic acids
High linoleic sunflower oil – original 20 69 9
High oleic sunflower oil – best! 82 9 9

Is high-oleic sunflower oil to get anywhere?

In our country is the food with the use of high oleic oil for the consumer market. I expect it is only a matter of time until we can fully get into the shops this new, healthier alternative.

You recognize high-oleic sunflower oil simply the mention of “high oleic” on the product packaging. In the Netherlands, the English term is also used.

Where this is not listed, you can also see yourself on the label or the oil is or is not high oleic. Look at the ratio between the mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids: the ratio must be at least 5: 1.

If you can find the oil is not easy yet, use temporarily or not at all sunflower oil.

Good alternatives to the current sunflower oil than olive oil for cold use on salads and in sauces and dressings; and coconut oil for frying and roasting.

Summary Jaspers advice

Despite a high vitamin E content, I recommend you to avoid ordinary sunflower oil. The oil contains a lot of omega 6 and interferes with the uptake of omega-3.

High-oleic sunflower oil contains much less of omega 6 and is therefore a much healthier choice.

Because the high oleic variant is not available right, I suggest you use the following oils and fats.

  • Frying: coconut oil.
  • Cold, such as seasoning or (salad) dressing: extra virgin olive oil.
  • Frying: coconut oil.
  • As a dietary supplement, krill oil (contains omega 3 and thus help improve your omega 6/3 ratio).

Limit food and drink products high in omega 6 and choose more foods with omega 3 as omega 3 eggs. Always think in terms of balance and proportion. Aim for a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of about 1: 1.

Be careful when reading labels on the packaging of biscuits, crisps, cakes etc. There is “Sunflower oil” on it, but chances are it actually comes to hydrogenated oil and trans fats in it. Avoid these products.

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