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Sunflower oil is pressed from the seeds of the well-known sunflower plant Helianthus annuus. Sunflower oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats such as essential omega-6 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (or EFAs) are necessary nutrients, vital for wide-range of functions and processes but not made in significant quantities by the body, hence the term essential. As essential nutrients, EFAs must be supplied by the diet or supplements. Research suggests that insufficient intake of essential fatty acids plays a role in many health issues, especially cardiovascular health. Sunflower oil is an excellent source of omega-6 essential fatty acids, but not the other type of essential fatty acid, omega-3. Complete EFA supplements, sometimes known as 3-6-9 formulas, incorporate a blend of nutritional oils to provide omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in one product.
Sunflower oil may be a healthier alternative to other types of cooking oils for some people. Sunflower provides the essential omega-6 fatty acids and very low amounts of saturated fat and no cholesterol. A lack of EFAs in the diet can lead to health problems that can be difficult to overcome until this vital nutritional base is covered.
Sunflower oil may be used as a substitute for other types of cooking oils, in salad dressings, for sauteeing or even to add healthy fats to a protein shake.