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Is Sunflower Oil Healthy?

<article> <section> <p>When it comes to your <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">keto</a> journey, your biggest goal is to get friendly with fat. One of the main fat sources in many of our diets is oil—but not all oils are created equal. As part of our mission to demystify the ketogenic diet, we’ve dug deep to see which oils will help you reach your goals. Here we’ll take a look at an oil generally considered to be among the healthier options: <i>sunflower oil</i>.</p> <p>In recent years, many companies have made the switch to using sunflower oil in their products. Sunflower oil fans claim it boosts immunity, increases energy, reduces cancer risk, helps skin, and even fights cardiovascular disease. It’s also popular because of its high smoke point which makes it a safer option for cooking—especially deep-frying—than many other oils.</p> <p>But, as with so many products considered to be “health foods” today, the facts about sunflower oil are much more complicated than they appear. In fact, many nutritionists caution <i>against</i> consuming sunflower oil for reasons we’ll explore in just a minute.</p> <p>All these conflicting reports are confusing! That’s why we’re going to break down the facts for you so you can decide whether sunflower oil should be a part of your diet.</p> <p>Let’s take a look at the bad news first...</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="lemon-water-lemon-balm-0163"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why is Sunflower Oil Bad for Your Health? </header> <p>Despite its label as a healthier oil, there are many drawbacks to consuming sunflower oil including:</p> <div class="sub-head">1. <i>High omega-6 fatty acid content.</i> </div> <p>There are two types of essential fatty acids that we need to live: omega-6s and omega-3s. These fatty acids are essential to our brain, cardiovascular, and immune function, and they play an important role in regulating <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">inflammation </a><sup>1</sup>. Omega-3s work to reduce inflammation in the body, while omega-6s increase it.</p> <p>Because our bodies don’t produce these naturally, we have to get them from food sources. Most dietitians recommend that we get between a 4:1 to a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s <sup>2</sup>. Yet, the shocking truth is that the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">average American</a> is now consuming a diet with up to a 20:1 ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s. </p> <p>When we eat too few omega-3 fatty acids and too many omega-6s, this can cause us to go into inflammation mode. High inflammation can then lead to cancer, arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and a number of other diseases. </p> <p>Sunflower oil actually contains the <i>highest</i> amount of omega-6 fatty acids of all the major oils—at 71 percent of its makeup <sup>4</sup>. That means it has more omega-6s than corn oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil, all of which are generally considered to be less healthy. </p> <div class="sub-head">2. <i>Oxidation</i></div> <p>Sunflower oil is popular because of its high smoke point which makes it good for frying and cooking. But when we heat oils, they go through a process called <i>oxidation</i>. Basically, the fatty acids react with oxygen in the air and start to break down <sup>5</sup>. When that reaction happens, it releases harmful compounds that are unhealthy for us to breathe <sup>6</sup>. </p> <p>We then consume these damaged fats and the byproducts become part of our cell membranes. Cells made from these deteriorated fats are then susceptible to oxidation <i>inside</i> your body as well <sup>5</sup>. This can cause an increase in <i>free radicals</i>, potentially harmful molecules that break down and damage cells throughout the body. Free radicals are linked to aging, diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, and—not surprisingly—harmful inflammation <sup>7</sup>. </p> <div class="sub-head">3. <i>Weight Gain</i></div> <p>The omega-6 content in sunflower oil comes from high levels of linoleic acid. When this breaks down in the body it becomes arachidonic acid, a substance that signals the body to put on weight by activating the endocannabinoid system <sup>6</sup>. In fact, a 2017 study found that mice given a diet high in linoleic acid showed higher levels of obesity, increased insulin resistance, and decreased activity levels compared with a group fed mostly saturated fats <sup>7</sup>. Yes, those same saturated fats that we’ve been warned about!</p> <p>But, are there any health benefits of sunflower oil that might outweigh these costs?</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="sunflower-blue-sky-0182"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Is Sunflower Seed Oil Good For You?</header> <p>Setting aside the unhealthy aspects, sunflower seed oil does contain some healthy nutrients.</p> <div class="sub-head">1. <i>Vitamin E</i></div> <p>Just a tablespoon of sunflower oil contains nearly 40 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin E <sup>8</sup>. Vitamin E prevents blood clots and boosts the immune system.</p> <p>It’s also a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals which can wreak havoc on the whole body, especially the skin. Many people use sunflower oil to help with skin problems including red and rough skin, acne, and aging of the skin <sup>9</sup>. Although this is usually done topically on the skin, eating sunflower oil may also give you some of these benefits.</p> <div class="sub-head">2. <i>Heart Health and Cholesterol</i></div> <p>Many also claim that sunflower oil can lead to a healthier heart. Studies show that sunflower oil can decrease LDL. That’s the bad cholesterol responsible for cardiovascular problems<sup>8</sup>.</p> <p>But most of these studies have only looked at one type of LDL known as LDL-C while ignoring LDL-P. Without getting too technical, LDL-P is a better indicator of heart health. As an example, a person with a low LDL-C score, but a high LDL-P score, can be at a high risk of having heart problems <sup>8</sup>. </p> <div class="sub-head"><i>Is Sunflower Seed Oil Worthwhile?</i></div> <p>Although sunflower oil can reduce bad cholesterol, we still don’t have the full picture of what role it plays in heart health. Plus, the benefits for your skin may not be enough to make sunflower oil a part of your skincare regimen. Besides, we recommend trying a <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">collagen</a> supplement for optimal skin health instead. </p> <p>Still, if you do want to have sunflower oil in your diet, is there a type that is healthiest?</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="oil-with-plant-on-table-0182"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Which Sunflower Oil Is Best For Your Health?</header> <p>As with any product, the very first thing you want to look for in your sunflower oil is how it was processed. In order for oils like sunflower oil to withstand such high heats, they have to be refined. The refining process often strips the oil of beneficial nutrients. Plus, it can involve the use of chemicals.</p> <p>If you want to use sunflower oil, look for unrefined products that are used cold for salad dressings. When it comes to refined sunflower oil, try to find a company that uses <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">non-GMO</a> seeds and makes the oil through a cold expeller process. And make sure to avoid hydrogenated oils at all costs! </p> <p>Some companies have tried to make healthier sunflower oil products with a high content of oleic acid. Because they’re made of mostly oleic acid, they have a lower amount of linoleic acid. As a reminder, linoleic is that bad omega-6 fatty acid that causes inflammation. </p> <p>But again, a high oleic acid sunflower seed oil isn’t necessarily a healthy oil. So let’s get down to…</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>The Bottom Line</header> <p>Despite claims that it is a healthy choice, sunflower oil has many disadvantages. Its high omega-6 content, susceptibility to oxidation, and role in weight gain make sunflower oil a product to consume with caution.</p> <p>Even the benefits of sunflower oil don’t quite make the risks worth it. While antioxidants such as vitamin E are an important part of our diet and we should always work to lower LDL, the downsides seem to outweigh the good.</p> <p>If you’re looking for healthy, keto-friendly cooking fats and oils, there are a few with our seal of approval. Stick to the good stuff: grass-fed butter and coconut, avocado, and extra virgin olive oils.</p> <p>Want more useful tips on how to navigate your keto journey? Check out the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made Tribe</a> for weekly meal plans (what oils to buy included!), workouts and more.</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Omega-3-6-9 Fatty Acids: A Complete Overview</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The Bulletproof Guide to Omega 3 Vs. Omega 6 Fats</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Keto</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Vegetable oil chart</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">What Are They and How Are They Made? </a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Should You Use Sunflower Oil?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">What Are Free Radicals?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin E</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">13 Amazing Benefits Of Sunflower Oil</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">How canola and sunflower oils affect lipid </a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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