Sunflower oil can be a useful cooking oil, as it has a high smoke point. This means you can use it even at the high temperatures necessary for browning or searing foods without it producing harmful compounds. Consuming large amounts of sunflower oil may have some less desirable effects, however, so use it in moderation.
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Saturated Fat Content
Sunflower oil contains 14 percent saturated fat. While it isn't one of the oils highest in saturated fat, other oils, including almond, walnut, flaxseed, hazelnut and canola oils, are lower in saturated fat. Saturated fat is one of the less healthy types of fat because it can raise your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fats, which consist of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, are healthier choices than saturated fats. Most Americans, however, get way more omega-6 fats in their diet than omega-3 fats. Having a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, including arthritis, asthma, cancer and heart disease, according to an article published in Experimental Biology and Medicine in June 2008. Sunflower oil contains 7 percent polyunsaturated fats, all of which consist of omega-6 fats. If you use sunflower oil, make sure to eat plenty of omega-3-rich foods as well, such as seafood, flax and walnuts.
As with any food, get too much sunflower oil in your diet and you could set yourself up for weight gain. Like other fats, sunflower oil contains 9 calories per gram, meaning each tablespoon has 124 calories. Although sunflower oil contains mostly healthy monounsaturated fats, you'll still want to use it in moderation, keeping your total fat intake to no more than 35 percent of calories and your saturated fat intake to no more than 10 percent of calories each day.
Best Type of Sunflower Oil
Avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated sunflower oils, as these contain the least healthy type of fat -- trans fats. Trans fats increase your risk of cancer, heart disease and other health problems. You should look for high-oleic versions of sunflower oil instead, as these contain more of the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.