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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