7 Amazing Benefits of Sunflower Oil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The health benefits of sunflower oil include its ability to improve heart health, boost energy, strengthen the immune system, improve skin health, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, protect against asthma, and reduce inflammation.

What is Sunflower Oil?

Sunflower oil is a non-volatile oil that is extracted from sunflowers. Although most people are already familiar with sunflowers as plants, they don’t immediately think of sunflowers as a source of healthy vegetable oil. This oil can replace some of the less healthy cooking oils on the market. It can also be used in certain cosmetic applications. The main producers of the oil include Russia, Ukraine, and Argentina, but it is used throughout the world in the preparation of various cuisines.

Refine sunflower oil has a high smoke point of 440-450 degrees F, which is why it is suitable for deep-frying and pan-frying. It can also be used for roasting, grilling, and baking. 

It has many uses, including the following:

  • Cooking and frying
  • Cosmetics like lip balms and skin creams
  • Medicine for the heart as it is low cholesterol

Nutrition Facts

Oil, sunflower, linoleic, (partially hydrogenated)
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Energy [kcal]884
Energy [kJ]3699
Total lipid (fat) [g]100
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]41.08
Tocopherol, beta [mg]1.69
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]9.09
Tocopherol, delta [mg]2.04
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]5.4
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]13
16:0 [g]7.1
18:0 [g]5.5
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]46.2
18:1 [g]46
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]36.4
18:2 [g]35.3
18:3 [g]0.9
Phytosterols [mg]10
Sources include : USDA

Sunflower Oil Nutrition

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, sunflower oil contains predominantly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

One of the primary reasons for its growing popularity is its impressive fatty acid content, which includes palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, lecithin, carotenoids, selenium, and linoleic acid. The combination of fatty acids in the body are extremely important to maintain various elements of human health, and it can help maintain that balance.

Furthermore, some of those fatty acids, vitamin E (tocopherols) and other organic compounds act as antioxidants in the oil, which means that they can positively affect a huge range of conditions. It also has more polyunsaturated fats than any other commonly used vegetable oil. With the recent craze of eating healthy and searching for alternative options, sunflower oil is becoming quite desirable on the international market.

Health Benefits of Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil has a fascinating array of health benefits. Let’s explore them in detail.

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Many studies, including one published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, points out the benefits of the oil on cholesterol levels. Sunflower seeds have a compound named phytosterols, which is similar in structure to cholesterol. Consequently, it helps in countering cholesterol’s absorption in the bloodstream. As it often wins out, it ultimately results in overall lower amounts of cholesterol in the bloodstream. A 2017 study, comparing dietary fats of sunflower oil with saturated fats found that its consumption of results in lowering of the serum cholesterol, triglyceride concentrations, and LDL-C. It also increases HDL-C levels.

A bowl filled with sunflower seeds, a jar of sunflower oil and fresh sunflower flowers on a wooden table

Sunflower family: Flower, oil, and seeds Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Relief from Athlete’s Foot

Sunflower oil is also an effective remedy for providing relief from Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis). Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that starts between the toes. The topical application of the oil helps in curing it faster.

Skin Care

Sunflower oil, rich in vitamin E, is considered by many to be important in improving skin health and regenerating cells. This means your skin is better protected against damage from the sun, as well as the natural degradation that comes with age. These are changes that occur when free radicals are present in the body. Antioxidants, like vitamin E, neutralize free radicals, keeping them from destroying or damaging healthy cells. You can see an increased reduction in scars, quicker wound healing, and a healthier natural glow to your skin. This is a major reason why it is commonly used in cosmetic applications.

Some people use it for massaging premature infants with low birth weight or other complications. In certain traditional medicines, this process is thought to effectively lower the chances of developing skin infections. Since their organs (including their skin) are in an underdeveloped stage, the is believed to oil acts as a protective barrier. However, scientific research in this area has been inconclusive. One study shows that it does not harm the skin barrier, while another research found that it has almost no impact other than improvement in hydration.

Boosts Energy Levels

The fatty acid content in sunflower oil is connected to energy levels in the body. Saturated fats can make you feel sluggish, while unsaturated fats, which the oil has many, can keep you feeling energized and satiated for much longer.

Anticancer Potential

As mentioned above, sunflower oil is rich in antioxidants and substances that act as antioxidants. Vitamin E present in the oil has a group of compounds known as tocopherols. It is a powerful antioxidant that can eliminate free radicals before they can mutate healthy cells into cancerous cells. There are some ongoing research studies to verify its effects on a wider variety of cancers.

Reduces Inflammation

Asthma affects millions of people around the world, and this respiratory condition can range from mild to life-threatening. Sunflower oil has been positively correlated with a lower amount and severity of asthma attacks because of its anti-inflammatory qualities, which are derived from its vitamin content, as well as the beneficial fatty acids it contains. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined this and showed a promising impact between these anti-inflammatory properties and the reduction of respiratory conditions.

Protects Body

Fatty acids have a significant effect on the general immune system and increase the body’s ability to resist attacks by infection. Sunflower oil is a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which protects the skin by strengthening the membrane barriers, thereby making it harder for bacteria and viruses to enter the body.

A fatty diet, fast food, and a lack of exercise have the possibility of resulting in obesity. The generational trend is moving fast towards foods and meals with unhealthy ingredients that can have a lasting impact on your health. Many of these foods don’t provide any protein, vitamins, or essential nutrients. Sunflower oil can be a welcome alternative in such cases. 

Word of Caution: Although the fatty acids in sunflower oil are important and essential in our diet, it does have higher omega-6 content than most other vegetable oils. Excess intake of the oil can result in an imbalance of fatty acids in the body, which is dangerous. A 2018 study also shows its adverse effects on the liver.

As long as you monitor how your body is responding and how you feel, it can be a beneficial addition to your diet.

Storage And Use

Like a lot of oils, sunflower oil can become rancid if left in storage for too long. It is susceptible to air, light, and heat. High exposure can accelerate oxidation, which results in nutrient loss and rancidness. To counter this effect, it must be stored in a cool, dry place. It can be used in place of any dietary oil, especially in deep frying as it has a high smoking point and remains stable under high heat. The neutral flavor of the oil also makes it suitable for baking. Uses of sunflower oil include:

  • Deep-frying food like fish and chips.
  • Salad dressing.
  • Cooking oil
  • As the preferred fat and moisture component in baking food like carrot cake and cookies.
  • A vegan alternative to butter in baking or cooking.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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