Is Sunflower Oil Healthy for Keto?
What is Sunflower Oil?
Sunflower oil is made from the seeds of a sunflower plant. There is much debate over whether or not sunflower oil is healthy in general, and particularly over whether or not it’s healthy for keto dieters. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all sunflower oil is considered equal, and the health benefits depend on the type of sunflower oil. There are four main types of sunflower oil, which vary in their composition of fatty acids: high linoleic, mid-oleic, high oleic, and high stearic/high oleic.
- High linoleic contains 68% linoleic acid
- Mid-oleic contains 65% oleic acid
- High oleic contains 83% oleic acid
- High stearic/olive contains 72% oleic acid and 18% stearic acid
Essentially, some sunflower oils are higher in either linoleic or oleic acid. Those that are mostly oleic acid are primarily composed of monounsaturated fats, and the oils that are mostly linoleic acid are mainly polyunsaturated fats (1).
Both linoleic acid and oleic acid found in sunflower oil provide the body with energy and are important fats in the ketogenic diet. However, they’re not created equal, and the high-oleic sunflower oil is best. Plus, the oils react differently and have different health properties depending on the level of heat they’re exposed to.
How is High-Oleic Sunflower Oil Different?
High-oleic sunflower oils have high levels of oleic acid, which is considered an omega-9 fatty acid. This is the healthiest form of sunflower oil and used in our keto fat bomb as omega-9 fats are high in monounsaturated fats and low in polyunsaturated fats. Interestingly, omega 9 is not considered an essential fatty acid because the body can make it. However, this doesn’t mean that there are many benefits to consuming it. In fact, many of the touted benefits of a Mediterranean diet is in part due to the high oleic acid content found in olive oil.
Oleic acid is the most common omega-9 fatty acid and the most common monounsaturated fat in the diet. Research consistently links these types of fats to impressive health outcomes, such as improving cholesterol levels (2, 3).
On the other hand, sunflower oils that are not high oleic, have more pro-inflammatory effects, due to the higher levels of omega-6 fats. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid, which is polyunsaturated fat. Although there are some heart health benefits to consuming these fats, excess omega-6 intake leads to higher levels of inflammation. Despite the acknowledged health benefits when consumed in moderation, current dietary patterns contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids which has been linked to inflammation and poor health outcomes (4). Since inflammation is the root cause of so many health issues, it would be harmful to consume sunflower oils made with higher levels of linoleic acid, or omega-6 fats.
Is Sunflower Oil Powder a Good Choice For a Keto Diet?
Yes, sunflower oil can be a great oil to use when following a ketogenic diet. However, it is at the utmost importance to choose the high-oleic type. The quality and composition of the sunflower oil you choose makes a huge difference on the way it’s processed and affects your health.
When following a ketogenic diet, monounsaturated fats are vital. Fats from high-oleic sunflower oil provide many benefits such as the following:
Benefits of high oleic sunflower oil for keto diet include:
- Improved blood sugar control – Studies suggest that monounsaturated fats can help lower blood sugar levels, which is an important aspect of a ketogenic diet (5).
- Reduced inflammation – Lower levels of inflammation is just one benefit to using monounsaturated fats, such as those in oleic acid (6).
- Improved metabolism – Diets high in these fats have also been shown to improve weight loss and burn fat more efficiently, which are both often goals among keto dieters (7).
Despite the several accusations of sunflower oil for health and for the keto diet, what these claims tend to lack is the explanation and understanding that not all sunflower oils are created equal. Many of the negative health effects of sunflower oil are taking into account the profiles of oils other than the high oleic type.
What’s more, many of the negative effects of sunflower oils come about when the oil is heated, as high temperatures can change the structure of the bonds in the oil and therefore change the way it reacts in the body. However, the Naked Nutrition keto products that use high-oleic sunflower oil are not intended to be heated to high temperatures. Therefore, these effects do not apply (7).
When following a ketogenic diet, the type of fat used is an important consideration, not only because certain fats have healthier systemic effects than others, but because certain fats are better suited for helping the body stay in a ketogenic state.
Oleic acid for example, is one of the fats that keto dieters should be including in their diets. Studies show that high intakes of oleic acid increase metabolism, lower hunger levels, and improve blood sugar control. Keto dieters are aiming to more efficiently burn fat, which would clearly be enhanced by an increase in metabolism. Additionally, lower blood sugar levels is a benefit to those following a keto diet because this means that the body is less so relying on glucose for energy, which is the goal of a keto diet, especially in the beginning phases. It’s important to realize that these benefits don’t hold true for other types of fats, like polyunsaturated fats in other types of sunflower oil (8).
Sunflower oil also contains quite high levels of vitamin E, which is an important vitamin and antioxidant. Vitamin E plays a key role in preventing cell damage, and in turn is protective against disease (9).
One of the most widely researched areas of sunflower oils and polyunsaturated fats are the beneficial effects they have on heart health. In fact, the FDA has created a claim stating that daily consumption of oils high in oleic acid, when replaced for fats higher in saturated fat, may help reduce the risk of heart disease (10).
Using high-oleic sunflower oil in place of saturated fat leads to improved cholesterol levels, such as a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol. In fact, studies show when omega-9 fats – such as those in high-oleic sunflower oil – replace carbohydrates in the diet, HDL (good) cholesterol increases and triglycerides are reduced (11).
Sunflower oil is a healthy oil to consume, especially for individuals following a ketogenic diet. However, because not all sunflower oils are made with the fat composition, it is important to choose the high-oleic type to reap the most benefit. High oleic-sunflower oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats which have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and increase energy expenditure, which are all important for those entering into, or staying in ketosis. Plus, high-oleic sunflower oil proves to be heart-healthy and protective against cell damage.