What is Sunflower Oil?
Who would have thought that in addition to providing such beauty, sunflowers could also produce a versatile oil that could be used in a variety of different ways? Sunflower oil is a non-volatile oil that is easily manufactured from sunflowers. It contains a high level of vitamin E and healthy fatty acids, which make it a great substitute for other less healthy cooking oils and beauty products. Its light taste and appearance make it a very versatile addition to the foods and products you already consume! It can be produced by either extracting the oil from the seeds, or directly from the plant itself. Defending on which extraction method is used sunflower oil can be used for high-temperature cooking or even raw consumption. To date there are no GMO producers of sunflowers, this means that currently all sunflowers and sunflower products are non-GMO and organic.
This History of Sunflowers
The beautiful sunflowers we have all come to know and love are native North American plants. Many people think that corn was the first crop harvested by the Native Americans, but there are rumors that it was in fact the beloved sunflower. The Native Americans were able to domesticate and harvest sunflowers, creating a variety of colors and species. They found various ways of utilizing the various parts of the plant. The most common use by the Native Americans was ground sunflower seeds. They would grind the seeds of the sunflower and then use the ground powder for use in cooking, much like flour is used today. In addition, they used the beautiful color varieties of the flower to create dyes which were used for creating the beautiful clothes and fabrics they are famous for. While the sunflower species and its original cultivation is attributed to America, Russia is responsible for first cultivating the plant for its mineral rich oil leading to many of its common day uses.
What are the different types of Sunflower Oil?
There are three main types of sunflower oil; high oleic, mid oleic and linoleic. As mentioned above, sunflower oil is rich in healthy fatty acids. The fatty acids contained in sunflower oil is comprised of polysaturated fats known as linoleic acid and monosaturated fats known as oleic. Because high oleic oils contain more monosaturated fats, they are considered the healthiest. Conversely, because linoleic oil contains more polysaturated fats they are considered to be less healthy when compared to high oleic. Of course, mid-oleic oil falls somewhere in between.
Mid-Oleic sunflower oil is the most common form found and used in the United States. This is because it contains enough oleic to maintain the amazing health benefits, while also having enough linoleic properties to maintain a longer shelf life.
What are the Health Benefits of Sunflower Oil?
Since sunflower oil contains such high levels of vitamin E and fatty acids, it has the ability to offer a full range of health benefits including both internal and external benefits. Its rich vitamin content works in a variety of ways to promote the body’s immune system, reduce inflammation, and even help with asthma and arthritis. However, anytime you are thinking about using a product for medical purposes you should always contact your doctor to see how it may interact with any medications you might be taking or your specific condition.
Sunflower oil is a great addition to skin and hair products because it has such a high vitamin E content. It is added to many products including lotions, hair care products, and even beauty products as an emollient. Emollients give products their water retention properties, allowing skin and hair to feel hydrated long after the products application. In addition, Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that works keep skin and hair healthy by regenerating cells. It also neutralizes free radicals keeping their harmful effects from damaging your skin. Products that contain sunflower oil can be effective for reducing the appearance of sun damage, scars, wound healing, and restoring your skins natural glow.
The vitamin E and antioxidants found in this mineral rich oil can help prevent cancers like colon cancer by blocking free radicals before they have a chance to damage healthy cells found within the body. There are numerous studies specifically linking this oil to the prevention of colon cancer.
Sunflower oil contains several different types of fatty acids including omega-6 fatty acid. When balanced with the fact that it does not contain saturated fats it becomes a very good heart healthy option that can be utilized by substituting it while cooking, or can even be added to various dressings, and other food toppings. In addition to lowering cholesterol, it can also work to lower blood pressure, and prevent clogged arteries.
Sunflower as an Alternative Fuel Source
In addition to being a great substitute for other oils in food and beauty products, sunflower oil can also be used as a substitute in biodiesel. As time has passed we have realized that our regular fuel sources are in limited supply and may be harming the planet. To solve this problem scientists found a way create alternative fuel sources utilizing domestic and renewable resources. Biodiesel can be made by using any type of oil as its base. But because sunflowers reproduce so quickly it can be a great alternative to other types of oil.