Olive oil vs sunflower oil: which is healthier?
Olive oil vs sunflower oil. What are the health benefits and what are the differences? For example, is one healthier than the other? Numerous studies have been done on both oils, so don’t attack us too hard on a lack of nuance. We’re just putting together some facts about both oils for an introduction!
Olive oil vs. sunflower oil: fats
Olive oil contains saturated fats and percentages of omega-3 and omega-6. But the big star of its fatty acid profile is its monounsaturated fats, mostly in the form of oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats are linked to a reduced risk of high blood pressure and a decrease in cholesterol, both of which are associated with heart disease. Research shows, as we wrote before, that olive oil benefits heart health in multiple ways and reduces the risk of cardiovascular risks.
Is sunflower oil healthy?
Sunflower oil contains much more polyunsaturated fatty acids, which mainly contain monounsaturated fatty acids. For some of these polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, it is even essential that we get them through our diet. Our body does not make linoleic acid itself, so food is the only way to get it. Sunflower oil contains eight times as much linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is also found in corn oil and soybean oil, margarine, low-fat margarine and cooking and frying fats. So it is not necessarily unique to sunflower oil.
Vitamins in olive oil and sunflower oil
Olive oil contains almost ten times as much vitamin K than sunflower oil, we read in the Nutrition tables. This vitamin is important for blood clotting, but also for your bone metabolism. It also contains vitamin A, unlike sunflower oil, which does not contain any vitamin A at all. This vitamin is good for your immunity and is therefore also called the anti-infection vitamin.
Sunflower oil, on the other hand, has no less than fifteen times as much vitamin E. That means that with one tablespoon of sunflower oil you have almost your daily requirement of vitamin E.
Olive oil vs. sunflower oil: antioxidants
Olive oil has a reputation for being rich in antioxidants for good reason. Extra virgin olive oil contains bioavailable phenolic compounds that have been shown to have multiple, varied health benefits. Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant in the body, so sunflower oil is certainly just as effective in this area.
Baking in sunflower oil
We know that baking in olive oil is fine, but is baking in sunflower oil healthy? Yes, because sunflower oil – just like olive oil, consists for a large part of unsaturated fats and has a neutral taste (we only think this is a disadvantage, because we like extra flavor to the dish we bake). The fact that the smoke point of sunflower oil is 227 degrees Celsius is an advantage compared to olive oil. Still, olive oil is recommended. This is mainly due to the fact that sunflower oil has a relatively high amount of polyunsaturated fats when you compare it with olive oil.
Conclusion, is olive oil healthy(er)?
We have no hard evidence that olive oil is healthier than the other. Studies differ too much on this. Both extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil have health-promoting effects. A critical remark that is sometimes heard about sunflower oil is that processed sunflower oil (i.e. no longer completely vegetable) is often available in the ‘regular’ supermarket, and that it may contain trans fats. This is a fat that the body absolutely does not need. In America, trans fats even have to be listed on the packaging labels. In the European Union, a regulation has come into effect from 2 April 2021 to reduce the permitted amount of trans fatty acids in foods. Since then, foods may only contain 2% trans fat.
So we do not pick a winner. But we would like to refer you to this article in which we show in detail the health benefits of several oils. With a wink we already give a spoiler: olive oil scores an 8.3 on the health value table and sunflower oil a 7.2. The bottom line is that a variety of oils in your kitchen is always best! If you feel like something sweet, go for the sunflower oil. More in the mood for something savoury? Of course we recommend Gkazas, check our webshop!