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Sunflower Oils – Who is the first among the equals?

Sunflower oil

Golden, light and healthy-sunflower oil is naturally extracted from sunflower seeds and bears a subtle taste. The oils are refined through different processes such as express and solvent refined to make them edible. The Indian Standard (IS 4277:2014) though prescribes different grades of the oil, however, both expressed and refined grade of solvent extracted are recommended for edible purposes. Here one should note that, high oleic sunflower oil should be avoided as this is largely monounsaturated and has a high smoke point. To make the buying decision simpler for consumers, our team tested 12 sunflower oils brands and ranked them as per the test results.

Each brand was evaluated on parameters including fatty acid composition, palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, saturated fatty acids, MUFA, PUFA, trans fats, moisture and insoluble impurities, refractive index, acid value, saponification value, unsaponifiable matter, unsaponifiable matter among others.

 Tested Brands

The tests were conducted at an NABL-accredited laboratory and as per requirements specified in the Indian Standard IS: 4277-2014 and Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Regulations 2011 as well as nutritional declarations. Following 12 refined sunflower oil brands packed in 1 litre poly pack were tested. Among the following brands, few brands are regional and have sizable market share in the region.

Note: All brands claim to be fortified with Vitamin A and D. Brand Dalda is imported refined sunflower Oil.

Key Findings

  • Based on the overall test findings, brand Gemini ranked number one followed by Emami and Dhara.
  • Emami is value for money brand.
  • All the brands had met the standard requirements and thus found safe for consumption.
  • Most of the brands had high difference in their MRP and retail price.
  • MRP of one litre sunflower oil ranges between Rs.104 to 195.
  • Saturated fat was found between 8.72-9.81gm/100ml in all the tested brands.
  • Dalda is imported oil, as mentioned on its packaging.
  • Most of the sunflower oils claim fortified with vitamin A, D and E.

 

Comparative Performance Score


 
Test Results 

Fatty Acid Composition| Palmitic Acid | Stearic Acid| Oleic Acid | Linoleic Acid| Saturated Fatty Acids| MUFA| PUFA| Trans Fat| Moisture and Insoluble Impurities| Refractive Index| Acid Value| Saponification Value| Unsaponifiable Matter| Unsaponifiable Matter| Iodine Value| Flash Point| Specific Gravity| Per Oxide Value| Argemone Oil| Mineral Oil| Hexane| Packing| Marking| Description| Net Quantity

The oil extracted from the seeds of sunflowers is known as sunflower oil. It has a high quantity of vitamin E, in the form of alpha-tocopherol, which makes it excellent for being used in cooking. It has a high smoking point, which means that sunflower oil holds on to its nutritional content at higher temperatures.

As a form of cooking and frying oil, the high linoleic acid content in sunflower oil is considered to be a desirable constituent. Of course, the linoleic acid also leads to storage problems due to oxidation resulting in off-flavours and rancidity.

Look for the high oleic variety of sunflower oil for deep-frying. High oleic oil is high in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and has no harmful trans-fat.

TEST PARAMETERS

  • Fatty Acid Composition

 All edible oils have virtually the same fat content but the proportion of different types of fatty acids vary from one type of oil to another. There are unsaturated and saturated fats. An average person should limit the saturated fat intake to not more than 8-10 percent. Eating a lot of saturated fat increases the level of bad cholesterol (low density lipoproteins - LDL) in the blood.

Unsaturated fats are of two kinds MUFA and PUFA. MUFAs lower the bad cholesterol level (LDL) in the blood and increase the good cholesterol (HDL). On the other hand, PUFAs reduce both the good and the bad cholesterol. All the brands were tested for fatty acid composition (expressed as percentage of total fatty acids) as per requirement of FSSAI and found within the specified limits. However, the results of acids detected are given below:

  • Palmitic Acid

Palmitic acid is a common saturated fatty acid found in animals and plants. It is found in abundant in palm oilbutter and animal fats. Plamitic acid consumption has been linked to higher LDL, or "bad" cholesterol levels and higher risks of heart disease. In sunflower oil it should be in the range of 4.0-8.0. Palmtic acid results were within the specified range limit. It was highest in Fortune at 6.48 mg/100 ml and lowest in Gemini at 6.06 mg/100 ml.

  • Stearic Acid

Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid that is most commonly found in cocoa butter and animal fats such as lardmutton and beef tallow. It is also produced internally by the body from excess carbohydrate intake. In sunflower oil it should be in the range of 1.0-7.0. Stearic acid results were within the specified range limit. It was highest in Gold Winner and lowest in Gemini.

  • Oleic Acid

Oleic acid is an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid that is found in abundant in olive oilavocado oilcanola oil and macadamia oil. The blood pressure reducing effect of high olive oil intake is reportedly due to oleic acid. In sunflower oil it should be in the range of 14.0-39.4. Oleic acid results were within the specified range limit. It was the highest in Dhara at 30.76 mg/100 ml and was the lowest in Patanjali at 28.79 mg/100 ml.

  • Linoleic Acid

Linoleic acid is an essential omega-6 fatty acid as the body cannot produce it on its own. In the body, Linoleic acid is converted into other fatty acids. Linoleic acid is abundant in nuts, seeds and their oils, such as soybean oilflaxseed oil and sesame oil. In sunflower oil, the acid should be in the range of 48.3-74.0. Linoleic acid results were within the specified range limit. It was highest in Fortune at 61.92 mg and lowest in Sweakar at 60.17 mg.

  • Saturated Fatty Acids

Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the cholesterol level in your blood. Saturated fats raise the HDL cholesterol and change LDL from small, dense (bad) to large LDL, which is mostly gentle in nature. Saturated fat was highest in Sweakar at 9.81 mg/100 ml and lowest was in Gemini at 8.72 mg/100ml.

  • MUFA(Monounsaturated Fatty Acids)

MUFAs are a healthy type of fat. MUFA and PUFA as per the dietary recommendation helps in biochemical processes associated with nerves, brains, heart, digestion, and cell maintenance. Sunflower oil contains as much as 85% MUFA.MUFAs lower the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and raise the good cholesterol (HDL).  MUFA was highest in Dhara at 30.76 mg/100 ml and the lowest was in Sundrop with 20.08 mg/100 ml.

  • PUFA(Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids)

PUFA helps reducing bad cholesterol levels thereby lowering heart disease and related diseases. The sources of PUFA include walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, peanut butter and peanuts, flaxseed, poppy seed and oil of avocado, olive and sunflower. PUFA was the highest in Emami at 62.14mg/100 ml and the lowest we found in Sweakar at 60.17 mg/100 ml.

  • Trans Fat

Trans fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids produced when unsaturated oils are converted to semi solid by a process called hydrogenation. These are unsaturated fats, but resemble saturated fats in many ways. Just like saturated fats, they also raise the level of bad cholesterol in our blood. Trans fat was not detected in any brand of sunflower oil.

  • Moisture and insoluble impurities

Moisture and insoluble impurities of refined oil shall not be more than 0.1% as per BIS standard. The sunflower oil should be free from any kind of impurities which are insoluble in oil. All the evaluated brands of sunflower oil had met the requirement.

  • Refractive Index

Refractive index of oil is used to detect rancidity in edible oil. It should be 1.4640-1.4691 and for imported oil, the mark should be 1.461-1.468. All the brands were within the specified limit.

  • Acid Value

According to BIS standard requirements, the acid value should be 0.5 maximum. However, according to FSS Regulation, the acid value level should be at 6.0 maximum. For imported products, the level should be at 4.0 maximum. Acid value indicates the proportion of free fatty acid present in oil. High acid value indicates stale oil stored under improper condition. The acid value is the number of milligrams of potassium hydroxide necessary to neutralize the free acids in 1 gram of sample. The acid value of all the brands was found within the limit.

  • Saponification Value

Saponification value is the amount of alkali necessary to saponify a definite quantity of the sample. It is expressed as the number of milligrams of potassium hydroxide (KOH) required to saponific 1 gram of the sample. Saponification value helps to detect the presence of other oils/fats. Saponification value of sunflower oil should be between188–194. All the brands were found within the limit.

  • Unsaponifiable Matter

Unsaponifiable matter includes those substances frequently found dissolved in fatty acids and drying oils which cannot be saponified by caustic treatment, but which are soluble in the normal fat solvents. Included are the higher aliphatic alcohols, sterols, pigments, and hydrocarbons. Unsaponifiable matter shall not be more than 1.5 percent in sunflower oil. All the tested sunflower oil brands were found within the limit.

  • Iodine Value

The iodine value for edible oils is a measure of the unsaturation of fats and oils and is expressed in terms of the number of centigrams of iodine absorbed per gram of sample (percent of iodine absorbed).Iodine value for sunflower oil should be between 100 – 145. For imported oil it should be 118-141. All the tested brands were found within the specified limit.

  • Flash Point

The flash point of a volatile material is the lowest temperature at which it can vaporize to form an ignitable mixture in air. At the flash point, the vapor may cease to burn when the source of ignition is removed. It should not be less than 250 o C as per Indian standard. Flash point of all the brands was found well above the specified limit.

  • Specific Gravity

Specific gravity of edible oils should be less than 1.00 as they are insoluble in water. Agmark has specified the requirement within 0.913-0.918. In our test, we found, the specific gravity of all the tested sunflower oils was in the range of 0.9145-0.9182.

  • Per Oxide Value

The peroxide value is defined as the amount of peroxide oxygen per 1 kilogram of fat or oil. Peroxide value is the most commonly used assay for measuring the state of oxidation in fats and oils and its value measures the oxidative rancidity or degree of oxidation of the fat/oil, but not its stability. As per the national standard, per oxide value can be maximum at10 meq/kg.

Here, all the brands were found within the specified limit.

  • Argemone Oil

Argemone oil is very toxic and may cause eye disease leading to blindness. Regular consumption of it may also cause disease called epidemic dropsy, resembling wet beriberi. Hence, the oil should be absent in sunflower oil. In the evaluation process, we did not find Argemone oil present in any of the tested sunflower oils.

  • Mineral Oil

A mineral oil or paraffin oil is any of the various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of higher alkanes which should be absent in edible oils. As we tested the oils on this parameter, we found all the brands were free from this substance. Additionally, no adulteration with cheap oils was detected in any brand.

  • Hexane

Hexane is used to extract cooking oils from seeds, for cleansing and degreasing a variety of items. It should not be more than 5 ppm. In our test, Hexane was not detected in any brands up to the detection limit of 1.0 ppm.

  • Packing

As per the standard, the packing of the sunflower oil should be done with food grade packing material. Also, the packing should not affect the oil properties and maintain the shelf life of the product. The tested sunflower oil brands had met the packing requirement as each of the tested was packed in 1 litter poly pack.

  • Marking

The mentioned information should be clearly and indelibly marked in English or Hindi on the containers: a) name and trade-mark, type and grade of oil, b) batch number, month and year of manufacturer, c) free from argemone oil, d) nutritional information, e) best before, f) net quantity, g) standard mark if any h) green dot mark i) customer care details j) FSSAI license number k)MRP. All the brands have given necessary information on their labels.

  • Description

All the brands were clear and free from rancidity, suspended or other foreign matter, separated water, added colouring or flavouring substances.

  • Net quantity

According to legal metrology (packaged commodity) rules for 1000-10000 ml tolerance allowed is 1.5 %. All the brands were found above the declared quantity.

Conclusion

Based on the evaluation of the test results, it has been observed that all the brands tested, fulfilled the minimum requirements and can be considered as safe for human consumption. Keeping in view the evaluation of test results and overall grading, it can be concluded that most the brands qualify to be in very good category and can be considered as a safe cooking medium.

Better to Know

Shelf Life

The declared shelf life of all tested brands is in the range of 6 to 9 months. Where the shelf life is six months, there is all the more need for the consumer to be aware, particularly if they are buying the large pack of five litres or higher capacity. They must ensure that the oil remains stable within the consumption period.

 How To Best Match Your Oils To Foods

  1. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that oil behaves differently when heated – it changes texture, colour, taste and nutritional properties. When the oil reaches its smoking point, a lot of the nutrients are destroyed and it can sometimes form harmful compounds.
  2. The only way to ensure that you consume healthy oil is by switching between two-three of them – for instance, by using groundnut oil one month and then using sunflower oil/mustard oil in another. Any single oil alone is not preferred.
  3. Blending oils is another option, whereby you take equal proportions of different oils in one container and then use it. This way you do not get prolonged exposure to the side effects of one type of oil and also get the benefits of different oils.
  4. You could also have two or more different kinds of oils in your kitchen which you could use for different purposes. For example, you could use olive oil for salads, groundnut/rice bran oil for frying, and mustard/soybean/sunflower oil for other cooking purposes. This will let you avail of the health benefits offered by each oil brand.

MUFA, PUFA, Saturated Fats and Trans fat

Divya Patwal

VOICE

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