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

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Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on May 23, 2024
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Vegetable oil
vs
Sunflower oil

Summary

Vegetable oils are 100% fats, with no proteins or carbs. They are also very high in calories: one tbsp of blended vegetable (corn, peanut, and olive) and sunflower oil provide 120-124 calories.

Vegetable oils contain only vitamins E and K. Sunflower oil is almost three times richer in vitamin E, whereas vegetable oil is almost four times richer in vitamin K.

The oils are similar in fat types: the highest in monounsaturated and the lowest in saturated fatty acids.

Their impact on health is mainly determined by the percentage of different types of fats.

Introduction

Numerous vegetable oils exist, of which the most common ones are sunflower, olive, canola, safflower, soybean, coconut, palm, and peanut oils. There are also blended or mixed vegetable oils containing different oils in different quantities.

The nutrition, along with the beneficial and adverse health effects of vegetable oils, depending on their predominant fats, will be described in this article.

Use

Besides being used in the kitchen, vegetable oils are also used in skin and hair products, perfumes, candles, paints, lubricants, biofuels, detergents, etc.

Varieties

Vegetable oil is a blend of various oils, which may include canola, corn, sunflower, sunflower, soybean, coconut, peanut, olive, safflower, and other oils. Vegetable oils may have different health impacts depending on the blended oils and their quantity.

Sunflower oil varieties are high-oleic, mid-oleic (NuSun), and linoleic.

High-oleic sunflower oil consists of 80% monounsaturated oleic acid. The remaining 20% are linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acid) and saturated fats in equal proportions. Along with being healthy, it has a neutral taste, withstands high-heat cooking, and doesn’t go rancid during long-term storage.

Mid-oleic sunflower oil is another healthy choice, containing approximately 65% oleic, 25% linoleic acids, and 10% saturated fats.

Linoleic sunflower oil contains approximately 70% polyunsaturated linoleic acid, 20% oleic, and 10% saturated fats. This variety is the least healthy choice; it does not withstand high-heat cooking and long-term storage well. To avoid oxidation during high-heat cooking, most linoleic sunflower oils are partially hydrogenated; however, hydrogenation transforms polyunsaturated fats into trans fats, showing adverse impacts on health.

Nutrition

The nutritional infographics below are presented for 100g servings of vegetable (corn, peanut, and olive) oil and partially hydrogenated linoleic sunflower oil.

However, the average serving size of these oils is 1 tbsp, which equals 14g for vegetable oil and 13.6g for sunflower oil.

Macronutrients and Calories

Blended vegetable oil and sunflower oil are 100% fats; therefore, they are absent in proteins, carbohydrates, and water.

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

The oils are very high in calories. One hundred grams of these oils provides 884 calories.

One serving of vegetable oil provides 124 calories, whereas one serving of sunflower oil provides 120 calories.

Fats

Both oils have similar fat contents, being the richest in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated or “good” fatty acids and the lowest in saturated or “bad” fatty acids.

Blended vegetable (corn, peanut, and olive) oil contains 48% monounsaturated, 33% polyunsaturated, and 14.4% saturated fatty acids. When we look at the mixed oil components separately, we see that corn oil predominantly contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, whereas olive and peanut oils provide monounsaturated fatty acids.

Partially hydrogenated linoleic sunflower oil contains 46.2% monounsaturated, 36.4% polyunsaturated, and 13% saturated fatty acids. In contrast, high-oleic sunflower oil contains 83.7% of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +10.2%
Equal in Saturated Fat - 13
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 46.2
15% 50% 35%
Saturated Fat: 14.367 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 48.033 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 33.033 g
14% 48% 38%
Saturated Fat: 13 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 46.2 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 36.4 g
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +10.2%
Equal in Saturated Fat - 13
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 46.2

Vitamins

Vegetable oil and sunflower oil are high in fat-soluble vitamins K and E and absent in other vitamins.

Blended vegetable oil is almost 4 times richer in vitamin K, whereas sunflower oil is almost 3 times richer in vitamin E.

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 +288.9%
Contains more Vitamin E +177.9%
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% 296% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 53%
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 +288.9%
Contains more Vitamin E +177.9%

Minerals

The oils are absent in minerals as well; however, vegetable oil contains insignificant levels of iron, zinc, and choline.

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.
Contains more Iron +∞%
Contains more Zinc +∞%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 0% 5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Contains more Iron +∞%
Contains more Zinc +∞%

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index values of vegetable and sunflower oil are 0, as they are absent in carbohydrates.

Acidity

The PRAL or potential renal acid load value of vegetable and sunflower oil is 0, making them neutral. The PRAL value shows how much acid or base the given food produces in the organism.

Weight Loss & Diets

Vegetable and sunflower oils are high in calories; however, they can be consumed during some diets.

The oils can be consumed during low-carb, keto, and Atkins diets.

In moderation, these oils can be integrated into the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet, as they are high in unsaturated and low in saturated fats.

The preferred choice during the Mediterranean diet is extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil; nonetheless, high-oleic sunflower oil may be consumed too.

Health Impact

The health impact of vegetable oils is determined by the fatty acids type, oil extraction, and processing methods.

Cardiovascular Health

Section reviewed by cardiologist Astghik Grigoryan Article author photo Astghik Grigoryan

Most vegetable oils are high in unsaturated or “good” fats and low in saturated or “bad” fats, positively impacting heart health.

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats lowers low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels, the primary cause of atherosclerosis. Replacement of saturated fats decreases blood triglyceride levels, which is known to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (1).

The AHA (American Health Association) recommends replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, as they are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. 

Polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils (such as linoleic sunflower oil) show a somewhat more beneficial impact on the heart than monounsaturated fats (such as high-oleic sunflower oil).

AHA recommendation does not include trans fats, as they are the unhealthiest fats and should be avoided when possible (1).

Trans fats are found in meats, dairy products, margarine, ice cream, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They increase cholesterol levels in moderation, increasing coronary heart disease and overall cardiovascular disease risks (2).

Diabetes

According to several studies, certain vegetable oils (especially canola, soybean, and extra virgin olive oils) are beneficial for diabetic patients. However, there is some uncertainty or controversy regarding corn, sunflower, and safflower oils being safe for diabetic patients.

The beneficial impact of oils refers to oils rich in unsaturated fats but not partially hydrogenated fats, as they contain harmful trans fats (3).

According to another study, vegetable oils effectively reduce complications or side effects of diabetes, such as increased blood sugar and fat levels and kidney damage (4).

Nevertheless, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 83 randomized controlled trials, increasing omega-3 (flaxseed oil), omega-6 (linoleic sunflower, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, walnut oil), or total polyunsaturated fatty acids has little to no effect on the likelihood of diabetes diagnosis and glucose metabolism measures (5).

Partially hydrogenated oils containing trans fats increase type 2 diabetes risks. As trans fats naturally accrue, entirely avoiding them is almost impossible; therefore, the AHA recommends consuming a maximum of 2g of trans fats daily (6).

Cancer

Experimental and epidemiological data demonstrate that high-fat diets increase the risk of breast, colon, pancreas, and intestinal cancers. Dietary polyunsaturated oils promote tumorigenesis and stimulate tumor growth more effectively than saturated fats (7,8).

According to a study, soybean and blended vegetable oils with soybean (with an increased level of monounsaturated fats) may protect against breast and prostate cancers due to their antioxidant properties (9).

Human data show controversial results regarding the intake of one or another type of fats, which may be due to host genetics, drug intake, possible measurement error, and other factors. Further studies are needed (10).

Higher intake of trans fats has been shown to increase prostate and colorectal cancer risks as well (6, 11).

Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: May 23, 2024
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan

Infographic

Vegetable oil vs Sunflower oil infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Vegetable oil Sunflower oil
Lower in price ok
Lower in Saturated Fat 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 Vegetable oil Sunflower oil Opinion
Fats 100g 100g
Calories 884kcal 884kcal
Iron 0.13mg 0mg Vegetable oil
Zinc 0.02mg 0mg Vegetable oil
Vitamin E 14.78mg 41.08mg Sunflower oil
Choline 0.2mg Vegetable oil
Vitamin K 21µg 5.4µg Vegetable oil
Saturated Fat 14.367g 13g Sunflower oil
Monounsaturated Fat 48.033g 46.2g Vegetable oil
Polyunsaturated fat 33.033g 36.4g Sunflower oil

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Vegetable 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
27%
Vegetable oil
64%
Sunflower oil
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
1%
Vegetable oil
0%
Sunflower oil

Comparison summary

Which food is cheaper?
Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is cheaper (difference - $0.2)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 1.367g)
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. Vegetable oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167737/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.