ThePaleoList Asks: Is Sunflower Oil Paleo?
Many people replace the non-Paleo peanut butter with sunflower seed butter, and it is also popular as a cheaper, nut-free alternative to almond butter for kids with nut allergies. In the Paleo world, sunflower seeds are often used as a cheap way to get your nuts and seeds fix, but what about the oil? You’ll find sunflower seed oil as a replacement for soybean oil in many recipes and processed foods, but is it healthy? Is sunflower oil Paleo?
What is Sunflower Oil?
Sunflower oil is a basic seed oil extracted from the seed of the sunflower plant. It is regularly used in place of soybean oil for those with allergies. However, you’ve probably noticed that seed oils are generally avoided on the Paleo diet. Seed oils have very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and lower levels of good-for-you omega-3s. Seeds, once ground, are vulnerable to oxidation and rancidity, and nobody wants to eat rancid oil.
The companies that manufacture vegetable oils like sunflower oil and canola oil have spent the last several decades advertising with the intention of trying to put saturated fats – especially the kinds derived from animal products like butter or lard– in a very bad light, thus increasing their market share for consumers. Unfortunately, the public has been very mislead into thinking that saturated fats are the enemy when they need to become more healthy, but that unsaturated fats and vegetable oils are healthy. This is one of the reasons that we’ve had such an obesity crisis in this country.
Standard sunflower seed oil is high-linoleic, because it is high in linoleic acid, which is a type of omega-6 fat. However, that is not the only type of sunflower seed oil. There are cold-pressed high-oleic sunflower oils that are at least 82% oleic acid. This is an unsaturated fatty acid that occurs naturally in many animal and vegetable fats, and it is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. It is the same fat found in olive oil, and is very low in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
So, at the end of the day, is sunflower oil paleo? The answer is no. People need fat in your diet because good fats can play a big role in hormonal, brain and metabolic health. Healthy Oils can be a good source of healthy fat, but the key is to choose the right types of oils to get the right types of fats. If you’re using unrefined, “extra virgin”, “expeller-pressed” and “cold-pressed” oils, you’re doing it the right way. Included in these are expeller-pressed virgin coconut or olive oil, which are produced in a much more natural way leading to a better result for your body. These types of unrefined healthy oils are basically squeezed directly out of the crops that they’re derived from, while vegetable oils are chemically extracted and can contain harmful additives.
While it is still a good idea to avoid the standard sunflower seed oil, high-oleic sunflower oil, especially cold-pressed, is Paleo. Look for the highest quality, and you can certainly use it in things like salad dressings and mayonnaise. For cooking, things like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and lard are better choices.