Sunflower is a source of an extremely healthy vegetable oil that can replace some of the less healthy cooking oils on the market. Sunflower oil is also used in certain cosmetic applications, for reasons which we will explore later in this article. Sunflower oil is a non-volatile oil that can be extracted from sunflowers relatively easily. The main producers of sunflower oil are Russia, Ukraine, and Argentina, but it is used throughout the world in various cuisines.
- Sunflower oil has an impressive fatty acid content, which includes palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid. The combination of fatty acids in the body are extremely important to maintain various elements of human health, and sunflower oil can help maintain that balance.
- These fatty acids, as well as vitamin E and other organic compounds, act as antioxidants in sunflower oil, meaning that they can positively affect a huge range of conditions that people regularly suffer from. It also has more polyunsaturated fats than any other commonly used vegetable oils.
Some of the health benefits of sunflower oil include its ability to improve heart health, boost energy, strengthen the immune system, improve your skin health, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, protect against asthma, and reduce inflammation.
- Heart Health: The balance of fatty acids found in sunflower oil, including a good amount of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) is very good. Although omega-6 fatty acids are typically considered “bad” cholesterol, they are still essential in the body.Finding a healthy balance of good cholesterol (omega-3s) and bad cholesterol is very important. Furthermore, sunflower oil doesn’t contain any saturated fats, which means that it can actually reduce your overall cholesterol content in the body. This means that you are far less likely to develop atherosclerosis, which clogs arteries, raises blood pressure, and increases your chances of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.
- Skin Health: Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in the body. It has been directly connected to preventing heart disease and boosting your immune system. Furthermore, vitamin E is specifically related to improving skin health and regenerating cells. This means that your skin is better protected against damage from the sun, as well as the natural degradation of age that occurs 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.
- Energy Booster: The fatty acid content in sunflower oil is also connected to energy levels in the body. Saturated fats can make you feel sluggish, while unsaturated fats, of which sunflower oil has many, can keep you feeling energized.
- Cancer Prevention: As mentioned above, sunflower oil is rich in antioxidants and substances that act as antioxidants. Vitamin E, which has varieties known as tocopherols, are powerful antioxidants that can eliminate free radicals before they can mutate healthy cells into cancerous cells. Specifically, sunflower oil has been linked to preventing colon cancer, but there are a number of research studies ongoing to verify its effects on a wider variety of cancers.
- Anti-inflammatory Capacity: 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 sunflower oil contains. Along with asthma, sunflower oil has also been linked to a reduction in severity of arthritis, which is an inflammatory disease.
- Immune System Health: Sunflower oil protects the skin by strengthening the membrane barriers, thereby making it harder for bacteria and viruses to enter the body. In infants, sunflower oil is highly recommended because it can protect the babies from infections, particularly when they are born premature and are highly susceptible to infections. This same benefit is extended to adults who use the oil as well, although the effects are not quite as dramatic or obvious.
- Although the fatty acids in sunflower oil are important and essential in our diet, sunflower oil does have a higher omega-6 content than most other vegetable oils. There has been some concern about this, particularly for people who already have problems with obesity or cholesterol. If sunflower oil is eaten in excess, without intentionally boosting your omega-3 intake, then it can result in an imbalance of fatty acids in the body, which is dangerous. As long as you monitor how your body is responding and how you feel, then sunflower oil can be a hugely beneficial addition to your diet.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking sunflower oil if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
- Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Sunflower oil may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking sunflower oil.
- Diabetes: A diet that is high in sunflower oil seems to increase fasting insulin and blood sugar levels. It also seems to increase after-meal blood fats. This might increase the chance of developing “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) in people with type 2 diabetes.
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- Source: www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/oils/sunflower-oil.html
- Source: WebMD, “Sunflower Oil”, www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/