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Canola oil vs. Sunflower oil — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian by Jack Yacoubian | Last updated on May 11, 2023
Medically reviewed by Arpi Gasparyan Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Canola oil
vs
Sunflower oil

Summary

Sunflower oil is richer in polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E and has a higher smoke point. In comparison, canola oil is richer in monounsaturated fats, and vitamin K. Canola oil is lower in saturated fats. Canola oil is linked with increased risks of metabolic diseases compared to sunflower oil.

Introduction

Sunflower oil and canola oil are vegetable oils. Sunflower oil, as the name states, is derived from the sunflower plant seeds. In comparison, canola oil is derived from the rapeseeds of the canola plant. 

They are refined oils used in everyday cooking with many applications. 

Several differences exist between these two oils based on their general differences, nutritional compositions, and health impacts.

When comparing two types of oils, it is important to understand which type of information a consumer needs. It is important to know that both these oils are highly processed and refined. One of the most important aspects is the smoke point we will discuss. 

General differences

Price

Canola oil is cheaper than sunflower oil, mainly because it is cheaper to produce.

Taste 

Canola and sunflower oils are heavily processed and refined; due to that, they have a neutral taste. 

Smoke point

One of the most important features of oils is their smoke point. It is important to know the smoke point of oils while cooking to prevent free radicals and carcinogenic compounds formation. It is important to stay within the smoke point of oils while cooking. 

Canola oil has a smoke point of 204°C, whereas sunflower oil has a higher smoke point which is 232°C.

Nutritional content comparison

In this section, we will compare 100g of each oil.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Equal in Fats - 100
100%
Protein: 0 g
Fats: 100 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 0 g
Other: 0 g
100%
Protein: 0 g
Fats: 100 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 0 g
Other: 0 g
Equal in Fats - 100
 

Calories

They have similar amounts of calories - 884 calories per 100g. These two oils are classified as foods high in calories

Protein and carbs

They are devoid of proteins and carbs since they are refined and processed oils.

Fats

Their fat profile is important to take into consideration. 

They are low in saturated fats compared to other types of oils.

They are 100% fat per weight; however, the distribution of the different types of fats matters. 

Over 85% of sunflower and canola oils’ fats are unsaturated, with sunflower oil being richer in polyunsaturated fats and canola oil being richer in monounsaturated fats. Sunflower oil is higher in saturated fatty acids.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -43.3%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +37%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +29.3%
7% 64% 28%
Saturated Fat: 7.365 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 63.276 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 28.142 g
14% 48% 38%
Saturated Fat: 13 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 46.2 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 36.4 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -43.3%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +37%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +29.3%

Mineral

Their mineral profile is negligible.

Vitamins

The oils contain only fat-soluble vitamins E, and K. Sunflower oil is over 2 times higher in vitamin E, whereas canola oil is over 13 times higher in vitamin K.

1 tbsp of sunflower oil covers 37% of the recommended daily vitamin E intake.

Below we can visualize their vitamin diagrams. 

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
Contains more Vitamin K +1220.4%
Contains more Vitamin E +135.3%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 0% 350% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 179%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 0% 822% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 14%
Contains more Vitamin K +1220.4%
Contains more Vitamin E +135.3%

Health impacts

Vitamin E 

Sunflower oil is a good source of vitamin E and provides several positive health impacts (1).

Vitamin E has antioxidative, immune-supporting, and anticarcinogenic properties.   

Vitamin E benefits coronary artery disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and eye disorders such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

According to the NIH, excess vitamin E from food does not adversely affect health, whereas vitamin E supplements may cause bleeding, interact with statins and anticoagulants, and reduce chemotherapy effectiveness (2).

Further on, you can read about sunflower oil vs. peanut oil, which are rich in vitamin E. However, there have other differences that exist between them. 

Cancer

On the one hand, canola oil may positively impact colon and breast cancer; on the other hand, it contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, potentially increasing cancer risks (3, 4, 5, 6).

Raw sunflower oil may be protective against colorectal cancer, whereas heated sunflower oil may increase the risk of cancer due to the formed compounds (7, 8).

Metabolic Health

Canola oil increases the risks of obesity and metabolic diseases, including diabetes, although it does not contain any amount of carbs and has zero glycemic index (9).

In addition, canola oil, although low in saturated fats during high-temperature cooking, trans fats and other harmful chemicals are produced due to oxidation of the fats, and they are linked with increased cardiovascular disease (10).

Overall, both these oils are better than animal-based oils due to their higher amounts of unsaturated and lower saturated fats. 

Taking into comparison both sunflower and canola oil, sunflower oil is richer in polyunsaturated fats, whereas canola oil is richer in monounsaturated fats. Making sunflower oil an even better option regarding metabolic diseases (11, 12).

Neurological Health

An animal study has shown that long-term canola oil consumption may negatively affect memory and synaptic integrity (normal functioning synaptic unit) (13).

Conversely, according to several animal studies, sunflower oil may beneficially affect the brain, whereas oxidized sunflower oil may be a risk factor for neurodegenerative disease (14, 15).

Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: May 11, 2023
Medically reviewed by Arpi Gasparyan

Infographic

Canola oil vs Sunflower oil infographic
Infographic link

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Canola oil Sunflower oil
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in Sodium Equal
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Lower in Glycemic Index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Canola oil Sunflower oil Opinion
Fats 100g 100g
Calories 884kcal 884kcal
Vitamin E 17.46mg 41.08mg Sunflower oil
Choline 0.2mg Canola oil
Vitamin K 71.3µg 5.4µg Canola oil
Trans Fat 0.395g Sunflower oil
Saturated Fat 7.365g 13g Canola oil
Monounsaturated Fat 63.276g 46.2g Canola oil
Polyunsaturated fat 28.142g 36.4g Sunflower oil
Omega-6 - Linoleic acid 18.64g Canola oil
Omega-3 - ALA 9.137g Canola oil

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Canola oil Sunflower oil
Low Fats diet Equal
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low Calories diet Equal
Low Glycemic Index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
41%
Canola oil
64%
Sunflower oil
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
0%
Canola oil
0%
Sunflower oil

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Canola oil
Canola oil is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 5.635g)
Which food is cheaper?
Canola oil
Canola oil is cheaper (difference - $1.5)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sodium (0 mg)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Canola oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172336/nutrients
  2. Sunflower oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172328/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.