Sunflower oil is a plant-based oil for cooking, frying, and as a drizzled dressing for some foreign-inspired dishes. However, is it a good oil and vegan-friendly? Can vegans eat sunflower oil? Let’s find out.
How Is Sunflower Oil Made?
Oil isn’t extracted from the fruit with sunflowers but from its seeds. Roughly half of its mass contains oil that can be extracted.
There are two methods to extract the oil:
- The first method uses considerable temperatures and some solvents to extract it. In so doing, many of the nutrients are lost and some of the flavor profile too.
- The second method uses cold pressing of the seeds to get to the oil inside. The lack of high levels of heat or solvents means it’s healthier, and safer for the workers, and the oil retains the original taste and nutrient value.
When marketed as such, cold-pressed sunflower oil is far better than the regular, mass-produced type. It’s also hard to find.
Can Vegans Eat All Plant-Based Oils?
You would think that all plant-based oils are vegan-friendly, but that’s not the case.
Deforestation to make way for expansive plantations and processing plants is a leading cause of animal habitat loss.
This affects not only the natural animal life in the area, but also the rainforests, the oxygen cleaning benefits to humans, and its impact on global warming too.
Palm oil, for instance, has many of these concerns.
Sunflower oil does not use harmful plantations and damage natural habitats.
So, no animals are displaced because of it.
Typically, sunflower farms grow the flower year-round. Also, the harvesting of sunflower oil doesn’t impact animals either.
Healthy Vegan Alternatives To Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil has health benefits such as being rich in some vitamins, lowering low-density lipoprotein levels of cholesterol, and being beneficial to skin health.
With that said, it is high in polyunsaturated fats, can cause allergic reactions in some people who are sensitive to it, and most significantly, high amounts in the diet can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Blood sugar levels and insulin levels can rise alarmingly when consuming too much sunflower oil in one go.
There are other healthier vegan alternatives to sunflower oil worth considering:
Lots of unsaturated fats, healthy oleic acid, and plenty of monounsaturated fats too.
Avocado oil lowers your LDL cholesterol, boosts good HDL cholesterol, and some vitamins get a helping hand with their absorption rates too.
Light olive oil
Not as healthy as extra virgin olive oil, light olive oil is still a healthy option.
It is refined, lasts longer than extra virgin olive oil, but is not as nutrient-dense.
Coconut oil, especially virgin coconut oil, has a plentiful supply of antioxidants. It can also be a buffer against stress from exercising too. It can cause gut issues in high amounts though.
The lowest in saturated fat of plant-based oils, there are no trans fats to worry about, and it’s also rich in Omega-3s too.
Canola oil also delivers some Omega-6s and Oleic acid aka Omega-9. It is chemically extracted using solvents though, so there’s that.
Rice bran oil, the extraction of the outer layer of rice, delivers plenty of lovely nutrients and good fats. It is naturally anti-inflammatory, keeps sensible blood sugar levels, and possesses some antioxidants.
It must, however, be used in small amounts, otherwise, its higher fibrous content can cause bowel discomfort.
With these plant-based oil alternatives, the best advice is to use them in moderation. Even varying their use to not overconsume any single type of oil will likely be better than risking any side effects from excess consumption of your favorite one.