Sunflower oil: characteristics, properties, benefits and use

Sunflower oil, rich in unsaturated fatty acids, precursors of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, is beneficial for heart health and energy production. Let’s find out better.

Features of sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is obtained by pressing the seeds of the Helianthus annus plant. This beautiful yellow flower that follows the movement of the sun is native to the Americas and even the Inca population used it already 3000 years ago for its properties.

It belongs to the Asteraceae family and in fact its large flower is actually an inflorescence composed of many small flowers each of which produces a fruit with a seed inside. The plant can grow up to 3 meters in height and the inflorescence can have a diameter of 85 cm.

At room temperature, sunflower oil is liquid in consistency, straw yellow and the scent is delicate. If it is refined, it becomes almost transparent with a slight color on the amber.

The composition of sunflower oil is essentially of unsaturated fatty acids, about 32% of oleic acid (monounsaturated) and 52% of linoleic (polyunsaturated) precursors of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids; these omegas are important for heart health,for energy production, oxygen transport, the creation of hemoglobin in the bloodstream and even to keep the body’s hormonal system in balance.

One component found in sunflower oil is vitamin E, also called tocopherol. Its primary property is to be an excellent antioxidant, in quantities even five times higher than olive oil, and is therefore able to protect cell membranes and fight free radicals also responsible for cellular aging.

To slow down photoaging you can use sunflower oil directly on the skin, and as an ointment it will restore youth and softness.

In addition, the vitamin E present in sunflower oil is essential for the proper functioning of the muscles and to strengthen the immune system. There is also the presence of a good dose of ascorbic acid, which works synergistically increasing the antioxidant power and reducing the risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

100 ml of sunflower oil contains 28 mg of vitamin E which corresponds to 280% (RDA) of the recommended daily ration.

The composition in vitamins is wide and in fact we find B6, which protects the fibers of the nervous system, B5 (pantothenic acid), B3 (niancin or PP) and folate; all useful for the correct activity of the nervous system and for the creation of the tissues of the digestive system.

There is also a remarkable wealth of minerals, such as selenium, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese. Each contributes to giving the unique properties of sunflower oil, such as the ability to strengthen tissues and bones, to help the bloodstream, to produce hormones, to balance the immune system and lower the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Sunflower oil, being rich in unsaturated acids, easily goes rancidity so it is recommended to store it in the fridge, away from sources of heat and light, keeping it in a tightly closed bottle, even better if dark glass to avoid passage of light.

Properties and use of sunflower oil

In the food industry and in the kitchen it is used for frying or raw to season salads or vegetable dishes, for the preparation of sauces (mayonnaise) and of course also to prepare mixed vegetables in oil. In the field of well-being of the body, it is known as a good ally of health for the wide composition of vitamins, minerals and beneficial substances of which it is composed.

A simple rinse with sunflower oil when the mucous membranes of the mouth are inflamed or the gums reddened, and its refreshing and soothing properties will help restore the health of the membranes involved.

Inserted in the diet a bit as a food supplement, you can use one or two tablespoons raw in the dishes to reach the recommended daily dose of vitamin E and a wide wealth of vitamins and mineral salts useful for the total well-being of our body.

In cosmetics it is very useful to rejuvenate the skin, eliminate the aging brought by exposure to the sun (photoaging) and prevents scarring, smoothes wrinkles and restores health to the skin throughout the body by smoothing, nourishing and restoring elasticity.

Applied directly to the skin as a cleanser, it is able to keep bacteria away from the pores of the skin, preventing acne thanks to its composition of vitamins and carotenoids.

Sunflower oil is a good base for massage oil against muscle or rheumatic pain.

In cosmetic products it is possible to use it as an ingredient only if the oil contains a good percentage of oleic acid and on the label we can find the name in the INCI nomenclature of Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil.

To have all the properties intact of sunflower oil you have to choose the product by reading the labeling and preferring the purchase if the extraction is cold pressing and the cultivation of the plant comes from organic farming.


Sunflower plants have been selected and created with a higher composition of oleic oil up to over 60% to have a more preservable product and prevent rancidity for some time. This possibility allows its use in the food industry to fry with a less expensive oil than olive oil.

In the livestock industry, where they use products derived from sunflower for animal feed, there has been a minor degradation of sausage meat that increases its marketing.

A biofuel recipe with sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is a product that can be used for the production of biodisel and there are recipes for DIY preparation. The only difficulty is to find anhydrous alcohol (ethanol),which does not have percentages of water. In the store alcohol is only found at 90 °.

The process is not so complex: after mixing with ethanol in sunflower oil, there is the glycerin deposit (which is removed) and the overlying part is the biodisel. After this step you need subsequent cleaning through washing to have the biofuel, and a decantation to eliminate all water residues. Along with sunflower oil, rapeseed and soybean oil are also used as biofuels.


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