Oil is a staple in daily life, from cooking food to protecting our skin from the dryness of the environment, we use several types of oils for different purposes almost every day. But the biggest use of oil in our regular routine is cooking. From frying to sautéing to garnishing, oil is a compulsory ingredient in almost every other dish we eat.
In fact, an average person consumes at least around 11 pints, which is 6.5 litres of cooking oil per year! Which to say is a significant amount for any ingredient in our food and compels us to ponder whether we are making healthy life choices or not.
We don’t mean to encourage you to opt for oil-less meals by bringing out healthy life choices. We simply mean to emphasize the fact that you should make conscious, healthy life choices – like choosing the right kind of oil for your meals. Surely hearing about consuming so much oil can make anyone gag – so imagine how damaging it can be for your heart and overall health if it is an unhealthy, high-cholesterol oil like canola and normal vegetable oils.
This is why it is important to switch to a heart-healthy oil and one such not-so-popular but healthy oil is sunflower oil. Most people don’t know much about sunflower oil. In fact, a vast percentage of our population doesn’t know such an oil even exists – like do we get oil from the floor or its plant? Therefore, we decided to talk about this underrated oil today.
Here is all you need to know about sunflower oil. From what it is to its different types, production methods, and various benefits, this is your guide to understanding sunflower and whether you should switch to sunflower oil or not.
What is Sunflower Oil?
As we said above, most people are unsure what sunflower oil really is. A lot of people don’t even know if the oil has anything to do with the plant or not – so let us tell you. Sunflower oil is a vegan, non-volatile, edible oil extracted from the plant’s seeds. So yes, the oil has something to do with the sunflower plant but unlike popular misconception, we don’t get the oil from the flower. The sunflower seeds used for the extraction of oil have high amounts of good fat, and so many regions of the world are consumed raw as a snack – but most of these seeds are pressed for oil production.
History of Sunflower Oil
There is a funny twist in the story of sunflower oil history that most people find surprising. We all know sunflowers originated in different areas of America – central and south America, but in most of North America, people occasionally consumed the seeds raw. But unlike the flower, the oil does not originate from America – or so people say.
Some parts of history claim Native Americans used to squeeze sunflower seeds for their oil, but there is no solid evidence to support this claim. However, on the other hand, it is rightfully believed that sunflower oil originated in Europe because that’s where it was first commercially produced.
The plant, discovered in America, arrived in Europe in the 16th century – however, it was until the 19th century that it became widely known that the seeds could also be a source of fat or oil. And that’s when in the 1800s, sunflower oil was first commercially produced in Eastern Europe, where it became a substitute for lard and butter. Since then, the oil has come a long way and millions of tons of sunflower oil are produced every year worldwide.
Production of Sunflower Oil
We know sunflower oil is produced by producing pressure on the seeds of the plant – but this is an oversimplified version of the procedure and the process involves much more complexity. Basically, sunflower seeds have a tough protective layer, like a shell on top which covers the soft and tender kernel present on the inside. This kernel is what contains the most nutritional value of the seed, which is why the first few steps of the process are focused on trying to achieve these kernels.
The beginning of the manufacturing process of sunflower oil involves cleaning, screening, and de-huling of sunflower seeds to obtain the most top-quality kernels so they can be used for oil production. Next, a complex centrifugal machine is used which spins at a rapid speed and helps in shaking out and separating the shells from the kernels. Even after this step, some shells may remain in the mixture but they also often have small amounts of oil.
After this, the sunflower seeds are ground and heated at high temperatures so they can be ready for pressing. The seeds are pressed in large quantities and, if done properly, can obtain up to 50% oil from the seeds – for example, pressing around 100 kilos of sunflower oil can easily produce up to 45 liters of oil. The additional remaining oil is extracted through solvents such as hydrocarbons and distillation – which is a process that can refine a product.
Sunflower today has become one of the most commonly produced oils worldwide and the amount produced everywhere has been increasing exponentially, except for this year, 2022. Russia and Ukraine have been the top producers of sunflower oil for years now; however, the war between the two countries this year, has led to a global shortage of sunflower seed oil.
Nutritional Value and Types of Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is available in several varieties, all distinct based on their nutritional value. Typically, all varieties of sunflower oil contain approximately 14 grams of fat per tablespoon -among which most is unsaturated, making it a good source of healthy fat. But the different types of sunflower oil seeds have different fatty acid profiles, and the oil has gone under selective breeding to yield such seeds.
When it comes to home cooking, there are three main types of sunflower oil, each with varying compositions of fatty acids – most importantly oleic acid and linoleic acid (which monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, respectively). Here are the three main types of sunflower oil:
● High-Oleic Sunflower Oil:
This type of sunflower oil has around 82% oleic acid, which as the name suggests, is the highest among all other types. Along with it, it has 9% linoleic acid. This means in 1 tablespoon, there is a total of 14-gram fat (1.4 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 gram of polyunsaturated fat, and 11.7 grams of monounsaturated fat).
● High-Linoleic Sunflower Oil
This type of sunflower oil has more linoleic acid as compared to oleic acid – as the percentage for linoleic acid is 60% and oleic acid is 30%. This means that there are around 1.5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, 9.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 2.7 grams of monounsaturated fat.
● Mid-Oleic Sunflower Oil
Unlike high oleic sunflower oil, this type has a moderate amount of oleic acid but still more oleic acid as compared to linoleic acid. This type of sunflower oil contains about 65% oleic acid while just 25% linoleic acid, which means in 1 tablespoon of oil, there are 1.2 grams of saturated fat, 3.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 7.8 grams of monounsaturated fat.
There is another lesser-known type of sunflower oil, which is unhealthier than all the other types and so is not preferred for cooking. This type is called the High stearic sunflower oil, which contains around 72% oleic acid and 18% steric, which is saturated fat. This oil is deemed unhealthy because it has high volumes of trans fats.
Uses of Sunflower Oil
● Cooking and Food Preparation
So far this article has only focused on one main application of sunflower oil: cooking food. Refined sunflower oil is suitable for all types of cooking, from low-temperature sauteing to high-temperature deep frying; you can use the oil for numerous cooking-related purposes.
Refined sunflower oil, due to its neutral flavor and aroma, acts like typical vegetable oil when it comes to frying and cooking. While on the other hand, unrefined sunflower oil is perfect for salad dressing and garnishing.
Sunflower oil is highly versatile and is also used as a fuel. It can be used in diesel engines, mixed with diesel in the tank. Basically, the oil is a functional vegetable oil fuel that can be blended with normal diesel, or you can process it into biodiesel, which can be used for motors running.
● Cosmetic Industry
Like many other types of oils, sunflower oil is also popular in the cosmetic industry. PEG-10 is a glyceride found in sunflower oil that has a pale yellow color and a fatty odor. This glyceride is commonly used in cosmetic formulations.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Oil
You must have realized by now that sunflower oil is a common cooking oil, here are some health benefits for replacing your typical vegetable oil with sunflower oil.
● It is a Heart Healthy Oil
As discussed above, sunflower oil is an amazing source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – and these fats are great for your heart health. This is especially true for linoleic acid, which is unsaturated fat that has great benefits for your heart. It has been identified that this fat helps lower the risk of coronary heart disease in people, keeping their cardiovascular health in check.
Other than that, sunflower oil is a good source of HDL (high-density lipid), which is the good cholesterol that our body needs. Both oleic acid and linoleic acid have numerous benefits for our health, and consuming sunflower oil helps meet the needs of our body for both unsaturated fatty acids.
● Greta Source of Vitamin E
Sunflower oil is infamous for its nutritional value; the oil is a great source of vitamin E and K but especially vitamin E, which itself is highly beneficial for our health. Vitamin E helps antioxidants in our body that help fight free radicals present in our cells. Moreover, vitamin E deficiency can be very bad for our brain and nerves, which is why consuming sunflower oil is linked to a healthy brain and nerve cells.
● Good for Skin
Other than the benefits of using sunflower oil in your food, there is one more use of sunflower oil which is using it topically. You can apply sunflower oil on your skin as it can provide hydration to your skin and help repair the skin barrier. It can also help tend to acne, as a deficiency of linoleic acid is one of the biggest causes of acne.
Side Effects of Sunflower
Even though sunflower oil has various benefits and is highly recommended for use, there are some side effects of the oil that everyone must consider before switching to it. Sunflower oil can cause an increase in the body or even lead to the risk of obesity because even though sunflower oil is healthy, it does have a high proportion of fatty acids and can be considered a high-calorie oil. Hence, people with the tendency to gain weight can find it difficult to lose weight when consuming sunflower oil on a daily basis.
Other than that, some researchers claim there is a risk of cancer attached to the use of sunflower oil in high-heat cooking. As oil is heated at high temperatures (for example, for frying), it emits cooking oil fumes. These fumes contain toxic substances such as aldehydes, and these aldehydes pose a risk of cancer.
Sunflower oil is linked to generating high amounts of aldehydes as compared to other oils, which is why experts recommend not using oils for high-heat cooking.
There is no doubt that sunflower oil is one of the most versatile oils– from its use in the kitchen to its application in the kitchen, there is no limit to the many uses of sunflower oil. Other than that, it is also a great heart-healthy oil that everyone must add to their routine.
However, while keeping its benefits in mind, it is important to note the oil’s side effects and ensure not to overdo its use. Using a moderate amount of sunflower oil in your routine is the best way to enjoy its health benefits without putting yourself at any potential risk of side effects.
Honey is one of the most common ingredients used in most sweet and savory dishes. It usually comes on top of our grocery list, and most people have a bottle (sometimes even more than one bottle) of honey in their house. It is such a popular household item that we all feel like we already know too much about it. What really is there to know about honey, right? We know it’s golden brown, sweet, and comes from bees – what else is there to know?
Well, we are sure that’s how most people think, but today we are here to surprise you. If that’s about all the knowledge you have regarding honey, then you are at the right place. Honey may look like a simple edible, readily available everywhere and a popular, key ingredient in most dishes. But ,in reality, it is much more than that. Honey is actually quite a complex substance; you’ll be shocked to know the amount of work that is put into that one bottle of honey sitting in your kitchen cabinet.
This syrupy sweet liquid is full of secrets and if you want to uncover some interesting facts about honey, you must keep reading. Today, we are discussing all there is to know about honey, from its production to its types to its health benefits. So let’s not waste any more time and get started!
What Really is Honey?
Honey is a sweet liquid made by bees. But like we said above, that’s not all there is to know about honey. Honey is a viscous, syrupy substance made by several kinds of bees, including honey bees, and not just honey bees. It is thin and golden in color but different types of honey can be seen lightly different in color grades. This sugary liquid is said to be achieved from bees, but actually, it originates from plants, more specifically, flowers and their nectar.
The type of flower is basically what determines the color and taste of the different types of honey. Let’s learn more about how honey is produced and how it reaches us.
All About Honey Production: How is Honey Made?
Since we were kids, we have only heard honey bees make honey but how do they do that? Do they produce it from their body or do they all just join hands and manufacture this thing? Well, it’s neither of these situations; honey comes from flower nectar, and bees are merely storage and transporters in this process. Shocked? Don’t be; it’s not like bees don’t play a key role here. They are quite hardworking and still play a vital role in transporting and storing honey.
· Step 1: From Flowers to the Bees
Honey comes from flowers that contain nectar – a sugary liquid that is then collected by bees. Adult worker bees fly over various flowers and obtain nectar. They extract this nectar from the flowers by sucking the flower using their long tube-like tongue, which helps them suck the nectar, which they then store in their stomach, called the honey crop. Here in the honey crop is where bees begin making the honey.
After ingesting the nectar, bees slosh it around and modify the pH, which helps the nectar mix with the enzymes present in the abdomen. This helps transform the chemical composition of the nectar and allows it to break down into simpler sugars, like fructose, which is more suitable for long-term storage and gives honey its sweet taste – later. This whole process takes about 21 days, which the bees spend searching for suitable flowers and collecting the nectar.
Is Honey Really Bee Barf?
As a kid or even growing up, we have all heard this joke that honey is actually bee vomit, which is not entirely a lie. But if you are grossed out by it, you shouldn’t be. Technically, honey is not bee barf because after collecting nectar, bees store it in their special “second” stomach. This stomach – as mentioned, the honey crop, is just honey. So even though they throw it out of their mouth after extracting the nectar, since the nectar never goes into their actual stomach, honey cannot be called bee barf or bee vomit.
· Step 2: From the Bees to the Hive
After returning back to their hives, bees continue their honey-making process. What happens here is that honeybees pass around the nectar to other, younger worker bees by regurgitating the liquid (basically, vomiting it out) into other bees’ mouths. This process continues, from bees to other bees until all the partially digested nectar is deposited into the honeycomb.
Once in the hive or the honeycomb, the honey is a thin viscous liquid – quite the opposite of the thick honey we see on our breakfast tables every day. But this doesn’t involve any technology; this is also another job carried out by the honeybees. To remove the excess moisture from the honey, all the bees together start fanning their winds, which helps speed up the evaporation process and gets rid of extra water.
When about 80% of the water is evaporated from the comb, in order to guarantee the correct conservation of their honey, bees seal the comb – also called cell sealing, using another liquid from their abdomen. This eventually helps harden the beeswax and helps preserve the honey present in the comb for many years to come.
· Step 3: From Honeycomb to Us
The process of making honey ends here but how does honey reach us? Well, this is where beekeepers come into play. Beekeepers harvest the honey by collecting honeycomb frames and scraping off the wax cap created by the bees that sealed off the honey cell by cell.
Once these caps are removed, the fame is paced in an extractor, which is basically a centrifuge. This centrifuge spins the frame and forces the honey out of the comb. Once the beekeepers do the extraction, it is strained to remove unwanted particles and any remaining wax. Sometimes, beekeepers also use heat to quicken this process.
Straining s the last step of bee extraction; once that’s done, all there is left to do is transfer it to a bottle and label it so it can be sold in the market! Now, this is a natural process, but many beekeepers who want to harvest honey place honeybees near flowers and give them time and environment accordingly to obtain honey.
Types of Honey
All the honey present in this word is achieved by the same process mentioned above, so what makes one type of honey different from the other? Remember how we said the type of flower used for nectar plays a key role in honey production?
Well, that’s because the type of flower determines the color and taste of the honey – and each flower helps in producing a different type of honey.
However, sometimes you might find that the honey achieved from the same flower type doesn’t have the same uniform taste. This happens because there are two more factors affecting the consistency in the taste and color of the honey – and these factors are temperature and rainfall level.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s talk about some popular types of honey worldwide.
· Acacia Honey
Acacia honey is one of the most common honey varieties. Made using the nectar extracted from black locust trees, aka false acacia trees, this type of honey is clear and light in color. It has a delicately sweet flavor with a hint of vanilla because it is low in sucrose but high in fructose content. This is one reason it is popular with diabetic people and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is suitable for cooking, baking, and table use.
· Clover Honey
Another widely available honey variety is clover honey, which has the largest annual production. The honey is distributed across the world and is mainly produced in North America (Canada and US), Sweden, and New Zealand.
Clover honey also has a light golden color, a mild taste, and a subtle hint of cinnamon. This honey is considered a classic because it is multi-purpose and is widely used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes and sauces.
· Buckwheat Honey
Contrary to the two varieties of honey discussed above, buckwheat honey is dark and bold in appearance. It is considered the strongest honey in the world and is a great source of many essential nutrients and iron.
As compared to other light-colored varieties, buckwheat honey is also rich in antioxidants. This honey is native to Japan, the USA, France, and the Netherlands and is known for its rich amber color and earthy aroma. Its taste is heartier and stronger, which is why it is preferred in honey cakes, sauces, and bread.
· Eucalyptus Honey
Extracted from flowering eucalyptus trees, this honey is produced in Australia and exported across the world. It is distinct from all other honey varieties as it has a sweet flavor and appears unique with cool undertones as well. The honey has a medicinal scent and is known for its healing properties. It is used to cure cold-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and other upper respiratory infections. This honey is perfect for table use as well as cooking and baking.
Benefits of Consuming Honey
Honey has been a major part of our diet forever, there is a reason we all find a bottle of honey in our kitchens, and it is kept aside most of our breakfast dishes – ever thought why? Surely, the unique sweet taste of the edible liquid accounts for its popularity, but one reason why it is endorsed so much by our elders is its amazing and countless health benefits.
Let’s talk about some of them:
· It is Extremely Nutritious
Extracted directly from plants and made with no chemically added preservatives, honey is one of the purest edible items available on the market these days. It is high in nutrients and minerals that can help you fill a gap in your nutrition.
Even though it is pure sugar, it is worth noting that it contains traces of protein, fats, and riboflavin as well. Moreover, it is also rich in the healing-promoting plant compound called polyphenol.
· Great Source of Antioxidants
As mentioned above, honey is a great source of antioxidants – some varieties more than others. Antioxidants are important to help get rid of free radicals from our bodies. These free radicals build up in cells and cause damage in the body, which can contribute to premature aging, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. However, people consuming honey in their regular diet can avoid these issues.
· It has Amazing Healing Properties
Honey has amazing healing properties; it promotes wound healing and can help with burns. Although this practice is not very common today, it was once a popular method in ancient Egypt to help people with various skin issues earlier. However, even today, honey is recommended to many diabetic patients to help with foot ulcers that may lead to amputation.
· It Helps With Cold Symptoms
As discussed above, honey is a great source of comfort for cold-related symptoms. It can help suppress cough and other respiratory problems. If you have a sore throat, you can have a spoonful of warm honey, and it will ease your pain within minutes. This is one reason why honey ginger tea is the most recommended for patients with cold.
Honey, a common name, is still something most people don’t know much about. It is truly something full of secrets, especially about how it is made. We are sure today, we were able to help you get rid of many misconceptions about the production process of honey, and help you learn new and interesting things about the sweet, edible, syrupy liquid that you must have never heard before!