These sun-worshipping perennial beauties are known as Helianthus in the botany community. To laypeople, they’re more commonly known as sunflowers. To go back to the flower’s botanical name, Helios means "sun," and anthos means "flower.” The bright yellow shade, round flower shape, and the petals all contributed to the Helianthus being nicknamed the sunflower. Besides the sun-like appearance of the flower, another notable property that could have contributed to the name is the fact that sunflowers always face the sun. They turn around as the sun travels across the sky and are always in line with the direction of the sun.
This unusual phenomenon is known as heliotropism, a mechanism adopted by multiple plant species like alfalfa and cotton, to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight. They align themselves to face the sun and follow it across the sky all day in an attempt to receive the sun's rays directly.
Sunflower plants, unsurprisingly, grow best in summers. They need a lot of sunlight and are well suited to growing in hotter regions, where they can drink their fill of sunlight and trace the sun across the sky.
The sunflower has about 70 different species, all native to America. While only three are native to South America, the rest are all local to North and Central America. While sunflowers look amazing in private gardens and lawns, some people don’t prefer planting them because sunflowers can grow aggressively and become invasive. They are still used as decorative plants because of their vibrant color and aesthetic appeal.
Oilseed and Non-oilseeds
The popularity of sunflowers doubled when Canada unveiled a mechanical seed-crushing plant, and Missouri farmers began producing sunflower oil in 1946. The oil only grew in popularity, and today, it is a popular household staple item and the preferred cooking oil for people looking to consume less cholesterol-heavy foods.
While sunflower oil is easily available in all parts of the world now, not all types of sunflowers produce oils. Sunflower oil is extracted by crushing the seeds of the sunflower, but not all seeds contain oil. Sunflowers seeds are classified into two categories: oilseeds and non-oil seeds. The species that produce oilseeds are the ones that are cultivated commercially for the production of sunflower oil.
Sunflowers that produce non-oilseeds are called confectionery sunflowers. Confectionary sunflowers make black and white striped seeds, and while these seeds cannot provide oil, they can still be used as a great snacking item, as they are loaded with proteins, vitamin E and B-6, folate, and selenium, among other nutrients that are very healthy for your body.
Oil-producing sunflowers produce big black or gray-green seeds that are tear-shaped and encased in a hard black shell. The seeds are dehulled and pressed for oil, and the protein-rich remains are used as livestock feed. The US production of sunflower oil averaged at 975,300 tons in 2018.
Uses and Benefits of Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is a golden, light oil that is rich in vitamin E and is a great alternative to other cooking oils that are not as healthy and loaded with cholesterol. It started gaining popularity in the late 1970s as oil that is cholesterol-free, high in mineral and vitamin content, and low in saturated fats.
Sunflower oil has various health benefits, and a considerable number of people have since shifted from conventional canola cooking oils to sunflower oils. Some of the common benefits of sunflower oil are listed below.
Rich in Vitamin E
Sunflower oil has a higher vitamin E content than any other cooking oil. Vitamin E is an essential vitamin that helps coronary function, promotes eye health, and prevents your skin from succumbing to the signs of aging. Consuming sunflower oil is a good way to keep your body’s levels of vitamin E up.
Promotes heart health
Cholesterol is bad for the heart, and sunflower oil is almost completely cholesterol-free, making it a popular choice for those people who suffer from various heart conditions. It contains almost 80% saturated fats – fats that are good for the health of your heart. This oil helps maintain and regulate the cholesterol in your body.
Gives beautiful skin
The vitamin E in sunflower oil also means that this oil is great for your skin. Whether you’re consuming it or applying it topically, the oil can work wonders on your skin and fight the signs of aging. The oil is said to fight acne, prevent premature wrinkles, and keep your skin moisturized. This is due to its emollient and anti-oxidant properties and its high content of vitamin B and A, and omega-6.
This should be the most basic feature when choosing cooking oil. Sunflower oil is high in polyunsaturated oils, which are light, easy, and better absorbed in the digestive tract. It also exhibits some mild laxative properties, which helps in relieving constipation.
Strengthens immune system
Sunflower oil’s vitamin E content also helps the body’s immune system as it acts as an anti-oxidant. It strengthens the cell membrane barriers and leaves them protected from viruses and bacteria that can cause infections, illnesses, and diseases. It also helps build and repair healthy tissues and enzymes that are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body.
Extraction of Sunflower Oil
There are two ways to extract sunflower oil from its seeds. These methods are the warm press and the cold press methods.
Cold-pressed oils are considered to be the purest form of any seed-extracted oil. In a cold-press, the sunflower seeds are broken out of their hard shells, and the resulting tear-shaped kernel is then slightly crushed and run between piston-shaped cylinders that roll the seeds between them and extract the oil. While the process creates extra-virgin sunflower oil, it leaves much of the oil behind in the seeds.
To get a larger quantity of the oil out of the seeds, the warm press works better. The sunflower seeds are slightly heated and then go through almost the same extraction method as a cold press. The heat simply serves to reduce the viscosity of the oil, so it flows more freely from the seed. The taste slightly differs from warm-pressed sunflower oil, giving it a tinge of nutty, roasted flavor.
Types of Sunflower Oils
Most seed oils have different types available. For sunflower oils, there are three types: linoleic, mid oleic, and high oleic. The difference between the three is not in their taste or physical properties, but rather in their composition and balance between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in the oil; namely linoleic and oleic acids. The high oleic type is generally considered the healthiest, while the linoleic type is thought to be the least healthy.
It’s difficult to understand which type of sunflower oil is good for us and why it’s good for us unless you understand what oleic and linoleic acids are and what they do. Oleic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid and is one of the most abundant fatty acids in the human body. Another name for oleic acid, one that you’re probably more familiar with, is omega-9 fatty acid.
Linoleic acid, or omega-6 acid, is also a fatty acid, but it is not produced by our bodies naturally. Both these fatty acids are extremely good for our health, but the balance between the two makes a significant difference with regards how to it works and its distinct benefits to people. Let us explore each type of sunflower oil in more detail.
It should be noted that all sunflower oil that is available today is organic and non-GMO. There are no genetically modified sunflower seeds available, so it is something you can buy without worrying about whether it is modified or not.
High Oleic Sunflower Oil
High oleic sunflower oil is considered to be the healthiest type of sunflower oil available because oleic acid constitutes 80% of its makeup. Linoleic acid and saturated fats make up the rest of the 20% in equal proportions.
While it is a healthy decision to swap your sunflower oils for a high oleic version, there are other properties of high oleic sunflower oil that make it a favorite among food manufacturers and processors, too. Besides the fact that it is healthier, high oleic acid also has a more neutral taste that allows the true flavors of the food to shine through.
Aside from that, the oleic content also makes the food last longer in storage without going bad, helping manufacturers improve the shelf life of their food. In this way, they save money that would have gone on wasted products. Sunflower oil is a stable oil that can withstand high heat, making it the ideal oil for frying and baking. High oleic sunflower oil, due to its greater demand and superior quality, is also more expensive than the other two.
Mid-Oleic Sunflower Oil
An oil that strikes a balance between the oleic and linoleic acid content – mid oleic sunflower oil – is a healthy option that gives you both the essential fatty acids in your diet. Considered to be the standard sunflower oil, it is the most common type available in the world, giving health benefits at a reasonable price point, similar to that of other seed oils.
The composition of mid oleic sunflower oil is as follows: 65% oleic acid, 25% linoleic acid, and approximately 10% saturated fats. While it provides proper nutrition at affordable prices to the masses, it is also the type of oil that is used by snack manufacturers like those of potato chips and crisps, as it is affordable and yet will not go rancid in storage without hydrogenation.
Linoleic Sunflower Oil
Linoleic sunflower oil, as the term suggests, is high in linoleic fatty acid and low in oleic acid. While linoleic acid is an essential part of the human diet, too much of it can be harmful. Consequently, linoleic sunflower oil is considered the least healthy option of the three, and its production is now limited because it is being chosen less and less by consumers. Linoleic sunflower oil is still the major ingredient in making margarine, salad dressings, and shortening, as all these are consumed in quantities that are too less to have any distressing effects.
Linoleic sunflower oil is 70% linoleic acid, 20% oleic acid, and only 10% other saturated fats. The high linoleic content is considered bad for consumption as it might actually have the opposite effect good sunflower oil, i.e., it will worsen a person’s heart health and cholesterol levels. It is also not as stable as the other two types of sunflower oils, and thus, it is not preferred by food manufacturers. Linoleic sunflower oil needs to be hydrogenated first to make it more stable and resistant.
While linoleic and oleic acid are both necessary, striking a balance is necessary. Too much of anything is a bad thing. So while you should definitely not eliminate linoleic acid from your diet, you should probably be careful when shopping for sunflower oil for consumption. Be sure to check what type you are purchasing, and the makeup is of the sunflower oil you are buying. Keeping track of what you consume can help you build and maintain a better lifestyle and a healthy immune system.
If you have decided to convert to a healthier cooking oil for your diet, or if you require sunflower oil for use in your restaurant business, cosmetic making, or food manufacturing, contact Maverik Oils for freshly pressed, organic, and non-GMO sunflower oil that can be manufactured and delivered in bulk.
We have all three types of sunflower oils in stock and can deliver the kind that you require according to your needs. We follow the strict quality control checks for our edible oils and can deliver fine-quality edible sunflower oil right to your doorstep. You can visit our website for more information on sunflower oils, or call us at 310.633.1728 for quotations.