Sunflower Oil
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Sunflower Oil
Unrefined sunflower oil with sunflower inflorescence
High-oleic sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil pressed from the seeds of sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. The world's total production of sunflower oil in 2014 was nearly 16 million tonnes, with Ukraine and Russia as the largest producers.[1]

Sunflower oil is a monounsaturated (MUFA)/polyunsaturated (PUFA) mixture of mostly oleic acid (omega-9)-linoleic acid (omega-6) group of oils. The oil content of the seed ranges from 22% to 36% (average, 28%): the kernel contains 45-55% oil. The expressed oil is of light amber color with a mild and pleasant flavor; refined oil is pale yellow. Refining losses are low and the oil has good keeping qualities with light tendency for flavor reversion. The oil contains appreciable quantities of vitamin E, sterols, squalene, and other aliphatic hydrocarbons.

Genome analysis[2] and development of hybrid sunflowers to increase oil production are occurring to meet increased demand for sunflower oil.[3]


Sunflower oil is mainly triglycerides (fats), typically derived from the fatty acids linoleic acid (which is doubly unsaturated) and oleic acid

Sunflower oil is mainly a triglyceride; a typical constituent is shown.[4] The British Pharmacopoeia lists the following profile:[5]

Several types of sunflower oils are produced, such as high linoleic, high oleic and mid oleic. Mid-oleic sunflower oil typically has at least 69% oleic acid. High oleic sunflower oil has at least 82% oleic acid. Variation in unsaturated fatty acids profile is strongly influenced by both genetics and climate. In the last decade,[when?] high stearic sunflower lines have been developed in Spain to avoid the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in the food industry.

Sunflower oil is high in the essential vitamin E and low in saturated fat. The two most common types of sunflower oil are linoleic and high oleic. Linoleic sunflower oil is a common cooking oil that has high levels of polyunsaturated fat. It is also known for having a clean taste and low levels of trans fat. High oleic sunflower oils are classified as having monounsaturated levels of 80% and above. Newer versions of sunflower oil have been developed as a hybrid containing linoleic acid. They have monounsaturated levels lower than other oleic sunflower oils. The hybrid oil also has lower saturated fat levels than linoleic sunflower oil.

The phosphatides (0.1-0.2%) present in the oil are lecithin (38.5%) and cephalin (61.5%); they occur in combination with protein and carbohydrates.

Sunflower oil also contains lecithin, tocopherols, carotenoids and waxes. Sunflower oil's properties are typical of a vegetable triglyceride oil.


In 2014, world production of sunflower oil was 15.8 million tonnes.[1] Leading 2014 producers and volumes were Ukraine (4.4 million tonnes), Russia (4.1 million tonnes), Argentina (0.9 million tonnes), and Turkey (0.7 million tonnes).[1]


Several varieties of sunflower oilseeds have been developed by standard plant breeding methods, mainly to vary the amount of oleic acid and linoleic acid which, respectively, are the predominant monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in sunflower oil.[6]

While the original oilseed was high in linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated ?-6 fatty acid, a premium high oleic acid strain was developed in the late twentieth century.[6] Early in the 21st century, a mid-oleic strain marketed as Nu-Sun was introduced as an improved frying oil that would have a low level of saturated fat, but would not require hydrogenation.[6] These three major strains have been purposely bred to differ in their levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, saturated fat and tocopherols.[6] All seed hybrids and the resulting different sunflower oils are mostly devoid of essential nutrients, with the notable exception of vitamin E which is high in content in all varieties (nutrient tables).

Physical properties

Sunflower oil is liquid at room temperature. The refined oil is clear and slightly amber-colored with a slightly fatty odor.

Smoke point (refined) 232 °C 450 °F[7]
Smoke point (unrefined) 107 °C 225 °F[7]
Density (25 °C) 918.8 kg/m3[8]
Refractive index (25 °C) ?1.4735[8]
Saponification value 188-194
Iodine value 120-145
Unsaponifiable matter 1.5-2.0%
Viscosity (25 °C), unrefined 0.04914 


Preparation and storage

Because sunflower oil is primarily composed of less-stable polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, it can be particularly susceptible to degradation by heat, air, and light, which trigger and accelerate oxidation. Keeping sunflower oil at low temperatures during manufacture and storage can help minimize rancidity and nutrient loss--as can storage in bottles that are made of either darkly-colored glass, or, plastic that has been treated with an ultraviolet light protectant.[]

Methods of extraction

Sunflower oil can be extracted using chemical solvents (e.g., hexane), or expeller pressing (i.e., squeezed directly from sunflower seeds by crushing them).[10] "Cold-pressing" (or expeller pressing) sunflower seeds under low-temperature conditions is a method that does not use chemical solvents to derive sunflower seed oil.[]

Refined versus unrefined

Refining sunflower oil through solvent extraction, de-gumming, neutralization, and bleaching can make it more stable and suitable for high-temperature cooking; but, will also remove some of the oil's nutrients; flavor; color (resulting in a pale-yellow); free fatty acids; phospholipids; polyphenols; and, phytosterols. Unrefined sunflower oil is less heat-stable (and therefore well-suited to dishes that are either raw or cooked at low temperatures); but, will retain more of its original nutrient content, flavor, and color (light-amber).


In food preparation

Refined sunflower oil is used for low-to-extremely-high-temperature cooking. As a frying oil, it behaves as a typical vegetable triglyceride. Unrefined sunflower oil is a traditional salad dressing in Eastern European cuisines.[11] Sunflower oil is also an ingredient in sunflower butter.

Methods for cooking snack foods, such as potato chips or French fries, may use sunflower oil.[12][13]

Seed meal

Extraction of sunflower oil leaves behind the crushed seeds, typically referred to as seed meal, which is rich in protein and dietary fiber and used as an animal feed, fertilizer or fuel.[14]


Taking sunflower oil dietary supplements is not an effective treatment for eczema.[15]

As fuel

Sunflower oil can be used to run diesel engines when mixed with diesel in the tank. Due to the high levels of unsaturated fats, there is higher viscosity in cold temperatures.[16]


  1. ^ a b c "Sunflower oil production in 2014; Crops processed/Regions/Production quantity (pick list)". United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  2. ^ Badouin, H; Gouzy, J; Grassa, C. J; Murat, F; Staton, S. E; Cottret, L; Lelandais-Brière, C; Owens, G. L; Carrère, S; Mayjonade, B; Legrand, L; Gill, N; Kane, N. C; Bowers, J. E; Hubner, S; Bellec, A; Bérard, A; Bergès, H; Blanchet, N; Boniface, M. C; Brunel, D; Catrice, O; Chaidir, N; Claudel, C; Donnadieu, C; Faraut, T; Fievet, G; Helmstetter, N; King, M; et al. (2017). "The sunflower genome provides insights into oil metabolism, flowering and Asterid evolution". Nature. 546 (7656): 148-152. Bibcode:2017Natur.546..148B. doi:10.1038/nature22380. PMID 28538728. 
  3. ^ Christov M (2012). "Contribution of interspecific hybridization to sunflower breeding" (PDF). Helia. 35 (57): 37-46. doi:10.2298/hel1257037c. 
  4. ^ Alfred Thomas (2002). "Fats and Fatty Oils". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a10_173. ISBN 3527306730. 
  5. ^ British Pharmacopoeia Commission. "Ph Eur monograph 1371". British Pharmacopoeia 2005. Norwich, England: The Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-322682-9. 
  6. ^ a b c d Skori? D, Joci? S, Sakac Z, Leci? N (2008). "Genetic possibilities for altering sunflower oil quality to obtain novel oils". Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 86 (4): 215-21. doi:10.1139/Y08-008. PMID 18418432. 
  7. ^ a b Chu, Michael (2004-06-10). "Smoke Points of Various Fats - Kitchen Notes". Cooking For Engineers. Retrieved . 
  8. ^ a b Irina NITA, Anisoara NEAGU, Sibel GEACAI, Anca DUMITRU and Anca STERPU: "Study of the behavior of some vegetable oils during the thermal treatment," Technology and Chemical Engineering Department, Ovidius University, bd. Mamaia 124, Constanta, 900527, Romania
  9. ^ Esteban B, Riba J-R, Baquero G, Rius A, Puig R (2012). "Temperature dependence of density and viscosity of vegetable oils" (PDF). Biomass and Bioenergy. 42: 164-71. doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2012.03.007. 
  10. ^ Cox, Jeff (April 1979). "The Sunflower Seed Huller and Oil Press". Organic Gardening. Rodale Press. Retrieved 2013. 
  11. ^ Peter Vatrooshkin (2012). Easier Than a Steamed Turnip: Simple and Delicious Meatless Russian Recipes. Plutagora LLC. pp. 21-22, 26-28, 30. ISBN 9781938407017. 
  12. ^ "How we make Lays Classic potato chips". Frito-Lay North America, Inc. 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  13. ^ "The best chips you have ever tasted". BBC Food Recipes. 2017. Retrieved 2017. 
  14. ^ Lomascolo, A; Uzan-Boukhris, E; Sigoillot, J. C.; Fine, F (2012). "Rapeseed and sunflower meal: A review on biotechnology status and challenges". Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. 95 (5): 1105-14. doi:10.1007/s00253-012-4250-6. PMID 22752367. 
  15. ^ Bath-Hextall FJ, Jenkinson C, Humphreys R, Williams HC (2012). "Dietary supplements for established atopic eczema". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (Systematic review). 2 (2): CD005205. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005205.pub3. PMID 22336810. 
  16. ^ Johnson, JJ. Meyer, RF. Krall, JM. Shroyer, JP. Schlegel, AJ. Falk, JS and Lee, CD. 2005. Agronomic Practices. In High Plains Sunflower Production Handbook. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS [accessed 2014 October 22].

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