Everything you need to know about sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is a vegetable oil, derived from the seeds of sunflowers. More than half of these seeds consist of fats. In many countries, sunflower seeds are eaten raw as a snack or in salads, but they can also be pressed into sunflower oil.

The history of sunflower oil

Originally, the sunflower originates from areas in Central and South America. In the 16th century the plant came to Europe and it was not until the 19th century that the seeds were discovered as a source of oil. The oil that is processed in Europe comes mainly from countries such as Argentina, France and Romania. Pressing 100 kilos of sunflower seeds produces about 45 liters of oil.


Worldwide, sunflower oil is one of the most widely used oils. The light-yellow oil is mainly used for frying and roasting. In combination with other vegetable oils, such as rapeseed oil, soybean oil or linseed oil, it is also used as salad oil, frying oil or to make margarine.

The oil is typically extracted by applying great pressure to the sunflower seeds and collecting the oil. The protein-rich cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed. The oil can be extracted using chemical solvents like hexane, or by expeller pressing (i.e., squeezed directly from sunflower seeds by crushing them). Expeller pressing sunflower seeds under low-temperature conditions is a method that does not use chemical solvents to derive sunflower seed oil.

As 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 the 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.

Applications of sunflower oil

The oil may be used as is, and is often used to make margarines. Sometimes it is used in foods, such as potato chips or cookies. Snack manufacturers are opting for sunflower oil due to its capability to impart good properties to the products at a comparatively lower cost than olive oil.

Sunflower oil consists for about ninety percent of relatively healthy unsaturated fats. This makes it healthy compared to hard frying or roasting products that contain a lot of unhealthy saturated fats. Eating a lot of saturated fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Replacing hard frying and roasting products with, for example, sunflower oil, is a healthy choice.

It contains relatively much linoleic acid, also known as Omega 6. This unsaturated fatty acid reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The body cannot synthesize linoleic acid itself, so you will have to remove it from food. You can use frying products or spreads that are rich in linoleic acid, such as sunflower oil. Furthermore, sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant and protects the cells, bloodstream and body tissues. Vitamin E is also important for the metabolism in the cell.

Price factors

The market for sunflower oil is mainly driven by the fluctuating prices of other vegetable oils, such as palm oil and soybean oil. It is in relative high demand in developing countries, because it is healthier and cheaper than most of its counterparts. The growing consumption is offsetting declines for palm, cottonseed, and rapeseed oil, globally.

Europe is the largest producer of the crop. The region imports a considerable volume of sunflower oil to meet the exceeding product demand, according to GlobeNewswire. A large share of around 85% of the total European imports is derived from Intra-European trade, with Romania and Bulgaria being major suppliers. The application of sunflower oil is also highly witnessed in the personal care segment, as key players are developing sustainable products consisting of sunflower seed oil.