The long-term increased demand from consumers for healthier products is a major driver behind the growing market for sunflower oil. Indeed, due to all of its health benefits, it’s now being incorporated into more and more products such as premium mayonnaise.
Before we look at the oil’s components, let’s take a closer look at some of the accolades now enjoyed by sunflower oil. For some time, it’s been listed among the small group of top ‘better-for-you’ oils currently recommended by the American Heart Association to maintain circulatory system health.
It’s low in saturated fat and high in two types of heathy fatty acids which the American Heart Association urges us to make the majority of fats in our diet. They’re known as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, PUFAs and MUFAs for short. And while they’re present in sunflower oil, sunflower seeds contain high amounts of PUFAs as well. PUFAs encompass omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, risk factors in heart disease. MUFAs may also reduce heart disease, and their consumption has been shown to increase HDL (the ‘good’ type of cholesterol) and to reduce inflammation.
The significant level of vitamin E in sunflower oil also protects human health. This vitamin acts as an antioxidant that can lower inflammation and protect against some types of cancers.
And nowadays, consumers and food product manufacturers can choose from a few types of healthy sunflower oil. There is sunflower oil high in oleic acid (a MUFA), in linoleic acid (a PUFA), and others in between. For several years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has supported a food product health claim that oils containing at least 70 percent oleic acid may reduce heart disease.
High-oleic sunflower oil is in particular demand for cooking since it stays stable at higher cooking temperatures. Indeed, it’s already a staple in the food industry, year after year displacing more soybean oil in various products. It is also featured in many of the new plant-based food products. This type of oil slows down the oxidation process, extending product shelf life. It also delivers the great taste that’s always been a characteristic of sunflower oil.
Mark Jackson, Nuseed General Manager NA, reports that current demand for oil from both NuSun® mid-oleic hybrids and high-oleic hybrids is strong, but at the same time, predicts that the current shift towards more high-oleic hybrid acreage will continue. “While there is a committed customer base for NuSun sunflower oil due to its flavor and performance, as long as there is a grower premium for high-oleic oil, growers will lean that direction,” he says. “It’s very exciting that hybrid yield performance has improved across the board, allowing growers to move easily between NuSun and High Oleic.”