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Canola vs. Sunflower Seed Oil

By August 9, 2012

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I see very little sunflower seed oil on the shelves of my grocery store. Very little safflower oil either, for that matter. In addition to generic vegetable oil and olive oil, the oil I can buy most often in the US is canola oil. Canola oil originated in Canada and has pushed aside many earlier, popular oils. How does canola oil stack up against the others?

Canola oil ("Rapsoel") contains 63% monounsaturated fats, 28% polyunsaturated fats and a 2 to 1 ratio (see table here) of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3 is the one that is harder to find and healthier).

Safflower oil ("Disteoel" in German) has approximately 75% monounsaturated fats and 13 % polyunsaturated fats but almost no omega-3, which could be why it has fallen out of favor in the grocery store and out of American diets.

Sunflower oil, or sunflower seed oil, seen in many German recipes ("Sonnenblumenoel"), is a neutral-tasting oil, similar to canola and safflower. It contains about 45% monounsaturated fats, 40% polyunsaturated fats and 200 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. I do not know its prevalence on German grocery shelves in 2012, but since Russia and France are the largest growers of sunflowers (see photo of sunflower field) along with Austria, Hungary and parts of Germany, it is a no wonder that sunflower seed oil is better known in Europe for vinaigrettes and sauteing.

So canola oil appears to be one of the healthiest cooking oil, but is it really? Most experts say, "Yes, it is." Canola oil has been the butt of many myths about lingering toxicity and contamination with "Mad Cow Disease." This has been discredited by the scientific community, however the bitter taste remains.


Photo jefferyc42 CC by 2.0

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Comments

August 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm
(1) MrsG says:

My mom (Hungarian descended) liked to use sunflower oil when available in the USA stores in the 1960s. She did not buy olive oil very often and pronounced them “rancid” because they did not sell well and were old on the shelf.I like to use Light Olive Oil for most everything. Thanks for the cheesecake info! When we visit Gremany next yr, i will look for many of the products you”ve introduced us to.

August 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm
(2) Heather says:

Most canola oil is GMO, and the organic canola oil taste nasty.

August 14, 2012 at 7:16 am
(3) Maik says:

The european version of Canola oil, rapeseed oil, has conquered a lot of shelf place in german shops during the last years. Sunflower oil was first attacked by olive oil, when a wave of fondness for italian food hit the land. Most cooks in the popular cooking shows on german TV were using extra virgin olive oil excessively.
Then, a ‘couple years ago there were thoughts to enlarge the amount of rapeseed oil replacing diesel for cars with biodiesel. So farmers growing rapeseed where sponsored by the government for doing so. The large amount of rapeseed available lead to people looking for different uses. And now, 2012, there are many different types of rapeseed oil available in germany. Even some elite versions like cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil.
It has a very fine taste, less dominant than olive oil, and can be heated to a higher temperature. So, if I should guess, when you look at a shelf with oil for salad / cooking nowadays, there’s sunflower, olive and rapeseed oil in about the same amounts to be found.
There’s nearly no GMO rapeseed oil here in germany, because people just wouln’t buy it. Most people here won’t buy ANY GMO food.

August 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm
(4) John C. Campbell III says:

I would a read of this article entitled “the great Conola” and you can draw your own conclusions.

http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/the-great-con-ola

There is a large volume “Know your fats” by Dr. Mary K. Enid that is available on Amazon and it’s still the benchmark to go by.
jccampb

August 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm
(5) Maik says:

Well, moderation seems to be the thing ^^

I use rapeseed oil for frying / cooking and sometimes for salads.
And I use olive oil for mor mediterrenian food or salads..
… walnut oil for other salads (because of it’s special taste..)
… peanut / cocoa / sesame oil for asian dishes food..
… butter for my bread ^^ and for cooking.

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