Is sunflower oil bad for you?
When you search for the benefits of sunflower oil you’ll be met with a mixed bag of answers ranging from it’s good for you to avoid at all costs.
Here’s what you need to know about the fourth most popular cooking oil in Australia.
Sunflower oil comes in a wide variety of forms and is one of the predominantly used oils for deep frying and commercial cooking.
Many healthy snacks announce when they've been baked in sunflower oil, giving the impression sunflower oil is healthy and good. Which, sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.
Sunflower oil and your health
A study published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmacological Research shows that sunflower seeds can assist with regulating blood sugar levels in people with diabetes Type 2.
The Journal of Clinical Lipidology also been shown that consuming 25ml of sunflower oil over a xx period can result on a reduction of LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.
So, is sunflower oil bad for you, or is sunflower oil good for you?
Sunflower oil is highly processed
Sunflower seeds contain iron and oleic acid which are healthy and good for you. Once the oil is extracted however, things begin to change. In its most wholesome, organic and pure form, sunflower oil is a blessing. It can help reduce cholesterol, improve your skin and make your hair shiny.
But the reason it’s so popular in commercial cooking is because when it's processed it can be cooked at high temperatures (repeatedly) and not break down. This process, called hydrogenation, also makes the oil able to last for long periods before turning rancid.
In other words, it can be used in deep frying over and over and can remain on kitchen shelves for ages before going off. Good for business, but not so good for our health.
Unfortunately, most of the sunflower oil that’s on the shelves is made of hydrogenated oil that has very little nutritional value.
As you can imagine, the quality of this oil, although beneficial commercially, loses much (if not all) of its health potency. Opt for cold pressed sunflower oil which will still contain the natural antioxidants and vitamins.
Australians love sunflower oil
According to a report by the Australian Sunflower Association, sunflower oil jumped from being the 7thmost popular cooking oil (1958-1962) to number 4 (1996-2001).
The volume consumption increased dramatically too, from 1.9 million tons to 9.14 million tons per year.
We’re consuming a lot of sunflower oil. Which wouldn't be a bad thing if we were using the right kind.
Of all the seed oils, Sunflower oil contains the highest level of a-tocopherols: the most active form of vitamin E. It's also high in oleic acid. Again, it sounds like this golden oil is a health tonic.
But, look a bit closer and you'll see it's not the whole truth.
Some seeds are naturally farmed to be high in oleic acid which is good as it helps prevent the oil going rancid too quickly.
But as it replaces palm oil in commercial cooking, mutant breeds of sunflowers are being farmed to have high levels of stearic acid (used as an emulsifier in cosmetics and haircare) and are also bred to be less likely to go rancid.
A study published in the OCL Journal says "An indirect consequence of this treatment used to preserve food safety is that micronutrients of interest are also partially eliminated reducing the nutritional quality of the oil."
Even if you’re one of the rare people who are allergic to sunflower seeds, studies have shown that sunflower oil is likely to produce a negative rather than positive allergic reaction. In other words, you are unlikely to be allergic to the oil.
Skin and hair
Research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences shows that topical application of sunflower oil can have a therapeutic effect on the skin and is particularly beneficial for wound healing and atopic dermatitis.
The study confirmed that cold pressed oils had the highest nutritive properties so we’re not talking supermarket or home brand oil here. To reap the beauty benefits of sunflower oil you’ll need to source a premium brand like Melrose from a health store.
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