Vegetable oil vs. Sunflower oil — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
The oils are similar in fat types: being the highest in monounsaturated and the lowest in saturated fatty acids.
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.
Their impact on health is mainly determined by the percentage of different types of fats.
Table of contents
Numerous vegetable oils exist, from which most common are sunflower, olive, canola, safflower, soybean, coconut, palm, and peanut oils. Along with that, there are blended or mixed vegetable oils containing different oils in different quantities.
The beneficial and adverse health effects of vegetable oils depending on their predominant fats will be described in this article.
Besides being used in the kitchen, vegetable oils are also used in skin and hair products, perfumes, candles, paints, lubricants, biofuels, detergents, etc.
Vegetable oil is a blend of various oils, 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 and saturated fats in equal proportions. Along with being healthy, it has a neutral taste, withstands high-heat cooking, and doesn’t go rancid in 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 withstands high-heat cooking and long-term storage worse. For avoiding 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.
Nutritional values in this article are presented for vegetable (corn, peanut, and olive) oil and partially hydrogenated linoleic sunflower oil.
Macronutrients and Calories
Blended vegetable oil and sunflower oil are 100% fats; therefore, they are absent in proteins, carbohydrates, and water.
The serving size of oils is 1 tbsp, which equals 14g for vegetable oil and 13.6g for sunflower oil.
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.
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. Looking at the mixed oil components separately, corn oil predominantly contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, whereas olive and peanut oil - 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.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vegetable oil and sunflower oil are high in fat-soluble vitamins K and E and absent in other vitamins.
Blended vegetable oil is almost four times richer in vitamin K, whereas sunflower oil is almost three times richer in vitamin E.
The oils are absent in minerals as well; however, vegetable oil contains insignificant levels of iron, zinc, and choline.
The glycemic indices of vegetable and sunflower oil are 0, as they are absent in carbohydrates.
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 oil and sunflower oil are high in calories; however, they can be consumed during some diets.
The oils can be consumed during low-carb, keto, and Atkins diets.
The oils fit 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.
The health impact of vegetable oils is determined by the fatty acids type, oil extraction, and processing methods.
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, known as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
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 unsaturated fats, as they are the unhealthiest fats and should be limited (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).
According to several studies, vegetable oils (especially canola, soybean, and extra virgin olive oils) are beneficial for diabetic patients. However, there’s some uncertainty or controversy regarding corn, sunflower, and safflower oils being safe for diabetic patients.
This statement 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, totally avoiding them is almost impossible; therefore, the AHA recommends consuming a maximum of 2g trans fats daily (6).
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 shows 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 have shown to increase prostate and colorectal cancer risks as well (6, 11).
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|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
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet||Equal|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low Calories diet||Equal|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|