Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil compressed from sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seeds. Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. The world's largest sunflower oil producers now are Ukraine, Russia and Argentina. In recent years, there has been an increase in demand for sunflower crops such as sunflower oil. Measures such as the development of hybrid sunflowers to increase oil production have been introduced to meet this demand.

Methods of extraction

Sunflower oil can be extracted using chemical solvents (e.g., hexane), or expeller pressing (i.e., squeezed directly from sunflower seeds by crushing them). "Cold-pressing"/expeller-pressing sunflower seed oil under low-temperature conditions is a preferred method, for those seeking an extraction process that doesn't involve chemical solvents, as well as for people following a raw foods diet.

Refined versus unrefined

Refining sunflower oil through solvent extraction, de-gumming, neutralization, and bleaching can make it more stable and suitable for high-temperature cooking; but, will also remove some of the oil's nutrients; flavor; color (resulting in a pale-yellow); free fatty acids; phospholipids; polyphenols; and, phytosterols. Unrefined sunflower oil is less heat-stable (and therefore well-suited to dishes that are either raw or cooked at low temperatures); but, will retain more of its original nutrient content, flavor, and color (light-amber).

Uses

As a frying oil, sunflower oil behaves as a typical vegetable triglyceride. Unrefined sunflower oil is a traditional salad dressing in Eastern European cuisines. Sunflower oil is also an ingredient in sunflower butter.

In cosmetics, it has smoothing properties and is considered noncomedogenic. Only the high oleic variety possesses shelf life sufficient for commercial cosmetic formulation. Sunflower oil's INCI name is Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil.

Sunflower oil can be used to run diesel engines when mixed with diesel in the tank. Sunflower oil is also a great source of biodiesel. Mid-oleic and High oleic sunflower oils are able to produce better quality biodiesel. Due to the high levels of unsaturated fats, there is lesser coagulation and clumping in cold temperatures.