Olive Oil vs. Sunflower Oil: Benefits and Drawbacks

The internet is flooded with articles on the benefits and drawbacks of olive and sunflower oils. Some claim olive oil is the healthiest, while others believe nothing beats sunflower oil. Let's delve into the details.

Which oil contains more polyunsaturated fatty acids?

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are crucial for human health, aiding in circulation, tissue nourishment, and preventing atherosclerosis. These cannot be produced by the body but are essential. The two vital polyunsaturated acids are omega-3 (linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid), ideally present in oils in a ratio between 1:2 and 1:4. Both olive and sunflower oils contain only trace amounts of omega-3. As for omega-6 acids, sunflower oil boasts a content of up to 74%, while olive oil varies from 4% to 20% depending on the olive variety, cultivation conditions, and ripeness. Thus, sunflower oil is a superior source of omega-6.

Which oil is richer in monounsaturated fatty acids?

Although not essential, monounsaturated fatty acids are significant for health. For instance, omega-9 (oleic acid) reduces cholesterol levels and the risk of thrombosis, thus lowering the chances of heart attacks and strokes. Sunflower oil contains about 16% of these acids, whereas olive oil has a remarkable 77%. Therefore, olive oil is the better choice for omega-9 content.

Which oil has more vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds?

Vitamin E (tocopherol), vital for the cardiovascular system and slowing cell aging, varies significantly between these oils. Sunflower oil provides about 40-60 mg of Vitamin E per 100 grams, while olive oil offers around 12 mg per 100 grams. Both oils contain minimal mineral elements. Sunflower oil contains twice the phytosterols of olive oil, which are beneficial for lowering blood cholesterol levels.

Why Is Olive Oil Considered Healthier Than Sunflower Oil?

Many believe olive oil is healthier than sunflower oil, largely due to advertising and stereotypes suggesting that people in Greece, Italy, and Spain prefer olive oil, thereby enjoying better health.

Indeed, residents of European countries consume a significant amount of olive oil, around 24 kg per person annually. However, their well-being and health are attributed not so much to the oil itself but to a balanced diet. For example, the diet in Greece includes a lot of seafood rich in omega-3 acids, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits.

Both sunflower and olive oils have their advantages and disadvantages. It's healthiest to use a mix of several oils. For instance, blending sunflower with olive oil, or sunflower with canola or corn oil, can achieve the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 acids.

Which Oil Is Better for Cooking?

Unrefined vegetable oils, including both sunflower and olive, should only be used for preparing cold dishes and salads because high temperatures can produce carcinogens (substances that increase the risk of cancer).

For dishes requiring cooking at temperatures of 120 °C (248 °F) or higher, it is recommended to use refined sunflower or olive oil. When it comes to frying, olive oil is preferred due to its high content of omega-9 (oleic acid), making it more resistant to oxidation at high temperatures.

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Arsenio Shop Olive Oil