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Palm oil vs Sunflower oil - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Palm oil
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Sunflower oil

Introduction

Palm oil is the most versatile and highly used type of oil in the world. It is processed to be used in the food industry, beauty, cosmetic products, and industrial usages like soap and car lubricants. Among its positive aspects, they are cheap, highly available all around, they are stable after usage and exposure to heat compared to other frying oils like sunflower. They are used to make soaps more foamy and soft, in addition to that, they are also used to produce medications.
However, with all its positive aspects the palm oil industry is negatively affecting the environment. It is one of the most common reasons for deforestation around the world. As long as the demand for palm oil is increasing, deforestation caused by its industry will increase.

Sunflower oil comes from extracting the oil from sunflower seeds. They are a common oil used in cooking and they have high versatility. They are more expensive compared to palm oil and they burn faster than palm oil, decreasing their frying and heating capacity in cooking, however, they are considered one of the cheap oils available in the market. They are versatile in the culinary world, in addition to that, they are used in biofuels and cosmetics.

In this article, we are going to compare the differences between palm oil and sunflower oil focusing on their nutritional data, usage in diets, and health impacts.

Nutritional data

Palm oil and sunflower oil does not contain any:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Carbs
  • minerals

The glycemic index of both, palm oil and sunflower oil is 0.

They are made of fats and some lipid-soluble vitamins.

Calories

They have equal amounts of calories, which is 884 calories per 100g.

Fats

Palm oil and sunflower oil are mostly made of fats. 100g of each is totally composed of 3 types of fats, saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated fats

Palm oil is higher in saturated fats nearly 50% of its weight. The main type of fat found in palm oil is palmitic acid which is saturated fat.

Monounsaturated fats

Sunflower oil is higher in monounsaturated fats nearly 42% of its weight. The main type of fat found in sunflower oil is linoleic acid which is monounsaturated fat. 

Polyunsaturated fats

Similar to monounsaturated fats, sunflower oil has higher polyunsaturated fats constituting nearly 36% of its weight.

Vitamins

Only two vitamins are available in both oils. Vitamin E is higher in sunflower oil and vitamin K, which is higher in palm oil.

The texture of both can be concluded when comparing their fat profiles. Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature because it is higher in saturated fats. On the other hand, sunflower oil is liquid at room temperature because they are higher in unsaturated fats.

Diets and weight-loss

Palm oil and sunflower oil are high in calories they are usually used in deep frying. While being on a weight-loss diet or healthy lifestyle it is always recommended to avoid frying foods. Other types of oils are usually used for cooking in weight loss. 

Keto

Palm oil and sunflower oil having 0 amounts of carbs they can be used to prepare keto-friendly meals.

Vegan

Both palm oil and sunflower oil are suitable to be consumed by vegans. However, vegans usually prefer to avoid palm oil due to its negative effects on the environment.

Health impacts

Palm oil

Diabetes

Research has shown that palm oil consumption is associated with impaired blood glucose levels, leading to an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes. (1) 

Oxidative stress

Consumption of palm oil is associated with increased oxidative stress levels in mitochondria. This in turn would result in a condition called lipotoxicity. (2) 

Cardiovascular health

In individuals with normal blood lipid levels; triglyceride, cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels. No association is present with the development of cardiovascular diseases. 

However, unmonitored consumption of palm oil in excessive amounts can lead to an increased level of LDL in the blood which in turn is associated with increased cardiovascular disease. (3)

Inflammation

Palm oil is associated with increased overall inflammation in the body. This in turn eases the risks of chronic diseases. (4)

Cancer

During the production of palm oil 2 compounds are formed, MCPD and glycidyl esters which are associated with the development of cancer. (5) 

Nervous system

Palm oil contains tocotrienols which are characterized by their protective roles against neurodegeneration. (6)

Sunflower oil

Diabetes and inflammation

There is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and inflammation with the consumption of sunflower oil. (7)

Serum lipid profile and cardiovascular health

Compared to palm oil, the serum lipid profile was improved having lower amounts of triglycerides and LDL. This in turn leads to decreased risks of cardiovascular health diseases compared to the risks that palm oil contributes.
Sunflower oil contains oleic acids which are associated with relatively lower risks of developing cardiovascular diseases compared to the saturated fatty acids present in palm oil. (8)(9)

Allergies

Some people who are allergic to the Asteraceae plant family, like daisies might be allergic to sunflower oil. (10)

Cancer

Sunflower oil contains acylglycerols which have protective characteristics against the development of colon cancer.  (11)

Environmental impact

It is important to note that the palm oil industry has negative impacts on the environment. Deforestation rates are increased every year due to the palm oil industry. Large landmasses of tropical forests are getting destroyed every year due to the high request for palm oil globally. Deforestation is negatively impacting the wildlife in these tropical areas. It is important to take into consideration this negative environmental aspect of the palm oil industry.

Summary

Palm oil and sunflower oil don’t contain water, carbs, proteins, and minerals. They are made of fats. Palm oil has higher saturated fats and vitamin K whereas sunflower oil is higher in unsaturated fats and vitamin E. Sunflower oil is safer for overall health but more expensive.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17456850/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848304/ 
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25467217/ 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22847642/ 
  5. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/3-monochloropropane-12-diol-mcpd-esters-and-glycidyl-esters 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065441/ 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441046/ 
  8. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/145/7/1549/4616780 
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27007804/
Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Profession: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: May 6, 2021

Infographic

Palm oil vs Sunflower oil infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Iron +∞%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Contains more Iron +∞%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Vitamin K +48.1%
Contains more Vitamin E +157.7%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 0% 319% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 20% 0%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 0% 822% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 14% 0%
Contains more Vitamin K +48.1%
Contains more Vitamin E +157.7%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
28
Palm oil
70
Sunflower oil
Mineral Summary Score
0
Palm oil
0
Sunflower oil

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
0%
Palm oil
0%
Sunflower oil
Carbohydrates
0%
Palm oil
0%
Sunflower oil
Fats
462%
Palm oil
462%
Sunflower oil

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Palm oil Sunflower oil
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in Sodium Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Palm oil Sunflower oil
Low Calories diet Equal
Low Fats diet Equal
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low glycemic index diet Equal

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Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 36.3g)
Which food is cheaper?
Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is cheaper (difference - $0.5)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
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 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.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Palm oil Sunflower oil Opinion
Calories 884 884
Protein 0 0
Fats 100 100
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 0 0
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D
Iron 0.01 0 Palm oil
Calcium 0 0
Potassium 0 0
Magnesium 0 0
Sugar 0 0
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0 0
Zinc 0 0
Starch
Phosphorus 0 0
Sodium 0 0
Vitamin A 0 0
Vitamin E 15.94 41.08 Sunflower oil
Vitamin D
Vitamin B1 0 0
Vitamin B2 0 0
Vitamin B3 0 0
Vitamin B5 0 0
Vitamin B6 0 0
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 8 5.4 Palm oil
Folate 0 0
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 49.3 13 Sunflower oil
Monounsaturated Fat 37 46.2 Sunflower oil
Polyunsaturated fat 9.3 36.4 Sunflower oil
Tryptophan 0 0
Threonine 0 0
Isoleucine 0 0
Leucine 0 0
Lysine 0 0
Methionine 0 0
Phenylalanine 0 0
Valine 0 0
Histidine 0 0
Fructose

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Palm oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171015/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.