Made by pressing sunflower seeds, sunflower oil's mild flavor makes it a popular cooking oil in the United States. While it's pure fat, sunflower oil contains unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, so it's a good addition to a heart-healthy diet. It also has a high smoke point, which makes it suitable for high-heat cooking.
What you may not know is that there are two versions of sunflower oil. The most commonly-used is the original sunflower oil, also known as linoleic sunflower oil. This form is rich in vitamin E and is also 65 percent unsaturated. It also contains mega-6 fatty acids. The second form, known as high oleic sunflower oil, is high in monounsaturated acids. This variety is used in non-dairy creamers, for baking and as a spray oil for cooking and making dressings.
Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects cells from the ravaging effects of free radicals. This means it can help reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer caused by free radical damage. Vitamin E also helps to boost the immune system and prevent and fight disease. It is also involved in the expression of enzymes, which aid in metabolic processes.
A 2005 study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" showed that consuming sunflower oil can help decrease levels of bad or LDL cholesterol. The study indicated that people who used sunflower oil instead of a cooking oil containing saturated fats reduced their LDL levels by up to 14 percent over a period of 10 weeks. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Use a light hand when adding sunflower oil to your cooking -- even though it's healthy, it's still high in calories. Use a tabelspoon of oil to saute your vegetables, and get the pan hot to prevent the oil from being absorbed into your food. In addition, watch out for foods contain hydrogenated sunflower oil. This oil has undergone chemical processing and contains trans fats, which pose a serious health risk.
- National Sunflower Association: Sunflower Oil
- Health Food Guide: Health Benefits Of Sunflower Oil
- Whole Living: Choosing Healthier Oils
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin E
- "Journal of the American Dietetic Association"; A Diet Rich in High-Oleic-Acid Sunflower Oil Favorably Alters Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol, Triglycerides, and Factor VII Coagulant Activity; Allman-Farinelli M.A, et al.; July 2005
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.