Often confused with sunflower oil, safflower oil is a light, delicately flavored vegetable oil that is extracted from the seeds of the safflower plant. It is has a light texture and is non-greasy and easily absorbed. Nutritionally similar to the better known olive oil, the properties of safflower oil makes it a healthy choice for losing weight, improving heart health, and maintaining healthy skin and hair.
Healthy Cooking with Safflower Oil
Different varieties of safflower produce different types of oils. Some varieties are high in oleic acid and are good for cooking as the nutritional value is not lost due to high heat. This type of safflower oil has a high levels of monounsaturated fat and vitamin E content, making it nutritionally similar to olive oil.
Other varieties of safflower oil are high in linoleic acid and are better suited for using cold in salad dressings, as a light spread on breads and as a nutritional supplement. Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acids are fragile molecules that can become denatured or changed when exposed to heat, light or oxygen, conditions which would turn the oil rancid (spoiled). Store this type of safflower oil in a dark and cool place to better preserve it.
Anti-Aging and Heart Healthy Benefits of Safflower Oil
Safflower oil is low in saturated fats and very high in unsaturated fats making it a healthy choice for the heart and cardiovascular system. It is a good source of omega-6 fatty acids, which also help to the body to burn fat instead of storing it. These essential fatty acids are building blocks for prostaglandins in the body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that help to balance blood pressure, control muscle contractions and guide the inflammatory response by the immune system.
The high content of vitamin E in safflower oil makes it an antioxidant-rich food that cleanses the body of free radicals. Free radicals cause damage and aging in cells and increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Reduce Wrinkles and Deep Condition Hair
When applied topically on the skin, the soothing and antioxidant properties of safflower oil help to treat damage and inflammation. It is used as a massage oil and is an ingredient in soaps, sunscreens, lotions, moisturizers and cosmetics. Safflower oil reduces the appearance of wrinkles by softening, smoothing and hydrating the skin. In dry, itchy skin conditions, such as eczema, it helps reduce inflammation and speeds healing.
Also try safflower oil as a natural deep conditioning treatment for hair by massaging it into the hair and scalp before shampooing. The oil dilates blood vessels in the scalp, which stimulates circulation of nutrients to the roots and hydrates the hair.
Raw Safflower Oil is Better for Health
The methods used to extract safflower oil from the seeds of the plant affect its nutritional value. In the chemical process of extraction, the oil is refined with chemicals and by heating; this technique actually eliminates some of the essential nutrients naturally found in the oil. Safflower oil extracted by mechanical process is considered raw because it is not heat or chemically treated. This is the best method as the nutrient value of the safflower oil is retained. Check the product label for the method of extraction before purchasing safflower oil.
About this Author
Noreen Kassem is a physician in training and a medical writer with 10 years of experience in writing and editing. Noreen’s articles have been featured in Women’s Health, Nutrition News, Check Up and Alive Magazine. She also writes about her other interests: travel, books, fitness, nutrition, cooking and green living.