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Sunflower Oil

While the vibrant, strong sunflower is recognised worldwide for its beauty, it is also an important source of food. Sunflower oil is a valued and healthy vegetable oil and sunflower seeds are enjoyed as a healthy, tasty snack and nutritious ingredient to many foods.

Sunflower oil is obtained from the seeds within the brown hub in the centre of the sunflower plant - Helianthus Annuus. Each flower can develop up to 2000 sunflower seeds.  The oil is pale yellow in colour but contains a level of natural waxes that give the oil a 'cloudy' appearance at cooler temperatures.  These waxes can be removed by a process commonly known as winterisation. 

The wild sunflower is native to North America but commercialisation of the plant took place in Russia. Evidence suggests that the plant was cultivated by Indians in present-day Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 BC. Some archaeologists suggest that sunflower may have been domesticated before corn. The sunflower plant was taken to Europe by Spanish explorers some time around 1500 but it was in 1716, an English patent was granted for squeezing oil from sunflower seed.

Nowadays, the crop is predominant in Russia, Ukraine, Europe, Argentina and the USA. The seed contains 40-45% oil. There are now two other types of sunflower available - High Oleic and Mid Oleic.  These were developed with standard breeding techniques and differ in oleic levels with each one offering unique properties.

Standard sunflower oil is available as a liquid salad oil and is used in margarine and shortening applications.  Home users find it an excellent choice for any liquid oil application such as dressings.

The typical composition of sunflower oil is (%):

  • Polyunsaturates 65
  • Monounsaturates 22
  • Saturates 13 

Because of the high levels of polyunsaturated fats in standard sunflower oil, the oil is susceptible to oxidation during commercial usage, especially frying. 

High oleic sunflower oil is premium sunflower oil with minimum levels of 80% monounsaturated fatty acids.  It is used in food and industrial applications where high monounsaturated levels are required.

The oil has excellent stability without the need for hydrogenation. High oleic sunflower oil offers a trans free oil solution for customers. The oil has many uses including bakery applications, spray coating oils for cereal, crackers and dried fruit; it is used in non-dairy creamers, many types of frying and other uses.

Mid-oleic sunflower oil is fairly new to the market and was developed by standard hybrid procedures.

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