Is it healthy? Uses, Precautions, and Best Types

A lot can go wrong with sunflower oil — “depending on how it’s processed and its fatty acid profile, it can be extremely unhealthy and contribute to significant metabolic dysfunction,” Shanahan says. As mentioned above, you really want to avoid refined varieties of sunflower oil which are also high in linoleic acid, a fairly unstable omega-6 PUFA.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with omega-6 PUFAs, but damage to these fats when exposed to high temperatures during refining and then again during cooking is a big problem. “When these unstable PUFAs encounter high heat, they oxidize and chemically break down to produce dangerous new molecules such as aldehydes, 4-hydroxynonenal, cyclic amines, toxic alcohols and toxic ketones,” Shanahan explains. When consumed, this collection of compounds can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body and contribute to a range of inflammatory conditions, from joint pain and acne to intestinal problems and various chronic diseases.

But if heating high PUFA oils like sunflower oil can create such an unpleasant cocktail of compounds, you might be wondering why it’s marketed as having a high smoke point. Contrary to popular belief, the smoke point of an oil does not always guarantee heat stability. In fact, various studies (like this one) show that after repeated frying sessions, a higher level of harmful byproducts are produced in high oleic oils such as sunflower oil (point of smoke 450 degrees Fahrenheit) than in high oleic oils such as olive oil. oil (smoke point 350 to 470 Fahrenheit). If you really want to cook with sunflower oil, varieties high in oleic acid are a more stable choice.

Finally, if you eat a lot of PUFA-rich oils such as sunflower oil (and other common vegetable and seed oils), they may end up being stored in your body fat. The problem, Shanahan explains, is that when your body later burns these fats for fuel, they break down — again — into the same dangerous compounds mentioned above, leading to inflammation and general metabolic dysfunction. Keep in mind that you can unintentionally ingest these oils when consuming packaged foods, so read those labels and aim to consume more whole foods in general.