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Oil pressed from the seed of Helianthus annuus
Unrefined sunflower oil with sunflower inflorescence
As of 2017, genome analysis and development of hybrid sunflowers to increase oil production are under development to meet greater consumer demand for sunflower oil and its commercial varieties.
Four types of sunflower oils with differing concentrations of fatty acids are produced through plant breeding and industrial processing: high-linoleic, high-oleic, mid-oleic, and high-stearic combined with high-oleic.
High-linoleic, 69% linoleic acid
High-oleic, 82% oleic acid
Mid-oleic, 65% oleic acid
High-stearic with high-oleic, 18% stearic acid and 72% oleic acid
In 2014, world production of sunflower oil was 15.8 million tonnes, led by Ukraine (4.4 million tonnes), Russia (4.1 million tonnes), Argentina (0.9 million tonnes), Bulgaria (0.8 million tonnes) and Turkey (0.7 million tonnes).
Because sunflower oil is primarily composed of less-stable polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, it can be particularly susceptible to degradation by heat, air, and light, which trigger and accelerate oxidation. Keeping sunflower oil at low temperatures during manufacture and storage can help minimize rancidity and nutrient loss--as can storage in bottles that are made of either darkly-colored glass, or, plastic that has been treated with an ultraviolet light protectant.
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" (or expeller pressing) sunflower seeds under low-temperature conditions is a method that does not use chemical solvents to derive sunflower seed oil.
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 doing so will also remove some of the oil's nutrients, flavor, color (resulting in a pale-yellow), free fatty acids, phospholipids, polyphenols, and phytosterols. Also, some of the polyunsaturated fatty acids will be converted into trans fat due to the high temperatures involved in the process. Unrefined sunflower oil is less heat-stable (and therefore well-suited to dishes that are raw, or cooked at low temperatures), but it will retain more of its original nutrient content, flavor, and color (light-amber).
In food preparation
Refined sunflower oil is used for low-to-extremely-high-temperature cooking. As a frying oil, it 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.
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