Is Sunflower Oil Paleo? (Let’s Find Out!)

Is Sunflower Oil Paleo

Sunflower oil, pressed from the seeds of sunflowers, first became popular during the Spanish civil war. Commonly used as a frying oil because of its high smoke point, sunflower oil is often believed to be a healthy alternative to other cooking oils. Specifically, sunflower oil is believed to help reduce high cholesterol and heart disease risk. Because sunflower oil is considered a healthier cooking oil, it’s often seen as a great addition to any diet, including the increasingly popular paleo diet. But does this make sunflower oil paleo friendly?

Unfortunately, sunflower oil is not Paleo friendly. This may seem confusing since sunflower seeds themselves are Paleo friendly. Sunflower oil is not Paleo friendly because of the extraction process. To get the sunflower oil from the seeds requires the use of multiple chemicals and extreme heat, something that would not be available during Paleolithic times.

Common guidelines for the Paleo diet include nuts and seeds and oil from nuts and olives, however, oil from seeds is missing from the list. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of sunflower oil, as well as Paleo alternatives. Let’s dig in!

What is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleolithic diet, often referred to as simply “Paleo,” the “Caveman Diet,” or the Hunter-Gatherer diet, is a modern diet trend that mimics consumption of foods eaten by those in the Paleolithic era. In this era, which dates to 2.5 million years ago, early humans consumed mainly meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

The argument for the validity of this diet is that our bodies are not equipped to process foods created in our modern era. With the rise of farming, a lot of foods became available to us that we would have otherwise not eaten, such as dairy, grains and legumes.

It is believed that the rise of obesity, heart disease and Diabetes is a result of this sudden dietary shift. Therefore, going back to our ancestor’s eating habits is proposed to help eliminate our risk for these chronic diseases [1].

Is Sunflower Oil Healthy?

Touted as a heart healthy oil, sunflower oil is low in saturated fats and high in unsaturated fats, specifically linoleic acid and oleic acid. Both types of fats react differently to cooking therefore their amounts can have varying effects on our health.

Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, also known as omega-6. These are considered an essential nutrient; however, they are also considered pro-inflammatory. This means consuming a diet high in omega-6s is a concern for inflammatory related health issues [2].

Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid, also known as omega-9. This is one of the most consumed monounsaturated fatty acids in the western diet. Unlike omega-6, it’s not essential, in fact, our body can make them on its own.

Even though it is not essential in our diet, consuming more monounsaturated fats over other types of fats can provide potential health benefits [3].

Different Types of Sunflower Oil

Four different types of sunflower oils are available in the United States, each containing different proportions of omega-6 and omega-9.

High Linoleic

High linoleic sunflower oil contains 68% linoleic acid. Because of its higher linoleic acid content, too much can cause inflammation and concern for other health related issues [4, 2].

Mid-Oleic (NuSun)

One of the most used types of sunflower oil in the United States, NuSun oil contains 65% oleic acid and 15-35% linoleic acid. NuSun is also lower in saturated fat than high linoleic oils [4].

High Oleic

Similar to NuSun but even higher in oleic acid, high oleic acid sunflower oil contains a whopping 82% oleic acid. High oleic varieties of sunflower oils are what contain the most health properties including the possible reduction of cholesterol and heart disease risk. [4, 5]

High Stearic/High Oleic (NutriSun)

With 72% oleic acid and 18% stearic acid, a type of saturated fat, NutriSun is solid at room temp and best used in packaged foods and industrial frying versus home cooking [4, 6].

Sunflower Oil Nutrition Facts

All sunflower oils contain 100% fat. Although amounts of omega-6 and omega-9 will differ depending on the type, 1-tablespoon serving will contain 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat.

Sunflower oil is also rich in Vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient that acts as an antioxidant in the body. Its antioxidant properties help to protect against free radicals and boost our immune function [7].

Paleo Alternatives to Sunflower Oil

Primal Kitchen California Extra Virgin Avocado Oil

Primal Kitchen, Extra Virgin Avocado Oil, 8.5 Fl Oz Rich in monounsaturated fats with a high smoke point, avocado oil is a great alternative to Sunflower oil that is paleo-friendly and great for frying and sautéing. With a mild flavor, it’s also extremely versatile in cooking.

Primal Kitchen California olive oil claims to be the first ever avocado oil made from 100% avocados. It is unrefined, made without Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and contains no additives.


  • 100% California extra virgin avocado oil

Nutrition Information (serving size – 1 tablespoon):

  • Calories 130
  • Fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 2g

Public Goods 100% Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil

Although it is high in saturated fats and solid at room temperature, coconut oil is a good, paleo-friendly alternative to sunflower oil for low-heat cooking or baking.

Public Goods organic cold pressed coconut oil is extra virgin, unrefined and free of any preservatives or additives. Its only ingredient includes unrefined coconut oil.


  • Unrefined coconut oil

Nutrition Information (serving size – 1 tablespoon):

  • Calories 130
  • Fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 13g

California Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 16.9 oz each (Pack of 2) Renowned for its heart healthy fats and rich flavor, olive oil is not only a paleo-friendly alternative to sunflower oil, but it also contains a wider variety of nutrients. Unfortunately, it has a lower smoke point than sunflower seed oil. Therefore, it’s best for dressings and sautéing.

California Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil is cold pressed, non-GMO and ethically sourced. With a close nutrition profile to avocado oil, it is made with 100% olive oil and no added ingredients.


  • 100% cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

Nutrition Information (serving size – 1 tablespoon):

  • Calories 130
  • Fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 2g

Nutiva Nature Vitality Red Palm Oil

Nutiva Organic Fair Trade Certified Red Palm Oil, 15 Oz A vegetable oil from the fruit of palms, palm oil is higher in saturated fat than sunflower seed oil. With a high smoke point, palm oil is great for any type of cooking and is another great, paleo-friendly alternative to sunflower seed oil.

Nutiva red palm oil is certified organic, non-GMO and ethically sourced. Made from organic, fair trade, unrefined red palm fruit oil with no added ingredients.


  • Unrefined red palm fruit oil

Nutrition Information (serving size – 1 tablespoon):

  • Calories 130
  • Fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 7g

Fatworks Pork Lard

Fatworks Premium Pasture Raised Lard. The Original Non-Hydrogenated Pasture-Raised Lard crafted for Traditional, Keto, and Paleo Chefs. Artisanally Rendered, WHOLE30 APPROVED, Glass Jar, 14oz. Made from pig fat, lard may not sound like a healthy fat option however, it is made up of mostly monounsaturated fats and has a very neutral flavor. Because of this, it is another paleo-friendly alternative to sunflower seed oil.

Fatworks pork lard is made from pasture raised pure lard made from pork back fat. It is non-GMO and free of additives.


  • Pure pork lard

Nutrition Information (serving size – 1 tablespoon):

  • Calories 130
  • Fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 4.5g

Epic Bar Grass-Fed Beef Tallow

A rendered triglyceride form of beef with a very high smoke point, beef tallow is great for high heat cooking. It is considered a healthier and more stable alternative to processed seed and vegetable oils often enjoyed by paleo enthusiasts. 

Epic Bar grass-fed beef tallow is made from 100% beef tallow with no other added ingredients or preservatives.


  • 100% beef tallow

Nutrition Information (serving size – 1 tablespoon):

  • Calories 130
  • Fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 7g

Octonuts California Cold Pressed Virgin Walnut Oil

Octonuts Cold Pressed Virgin Walnut Oil, 8 Ounce (Pack of 2), Made with California Walnuts, Plant Based, Keto, Paleo Friendly, Vegan, Gluten Free High in antioxidants and a great source of omega 3’s, walnut oil is another paleo friendly alternative to sunflower oil that is nutrient-rich. Be careful not to heat to high temperatures, however, or it will result in a bitter taste and loss of valuable healthy fats. This oil is best used for foods sautéed over medium heat.

Octonuts California cold pressed virgin walnut oil is unrefined, non-GMO and peanut, soy, dairy, corn, and grain free, including their facility.


  • Cold pressed virgin walnut oil

Nutrition Information (serving size – 1 tablespoon):

  • Calories 120
  • Fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 1g

Related Questions

Is Sunflower Oil Whole30 Approved?

According to the Whole30 program guidelines, seed (vegetable) oils such as soybean, peanut, canola, corn, and grapeseed oils are discouraged. Other oils are encouraged to be limited, such as sunflower, safflower, canola, and sesame seed oils.

The creators of the Whole30 recognize that it would be unrealistic for those participating in the program to ever eat away from their home if they were to make these off-limits. Although they encourage doing your best to limit, they also do not want to add unnecessary stress when going out for a meal with friends or family.

Is Sunflower Oil Bad for Cholesterol?

Various research studies have shown high oleic acid sunflower oil varieties (80% or more) to help reduce cholesterol and heart disease risk due to its high monounsaturated fat content [8, 9]. High linoleic acid sunflower oils have been questioned on whether they provide the same effects. Because Linoleic acid is considered pro-inflammatory, there has been a lot of debate on its effects being beneficial vs detrimental [2].

Is Sunflower Oil Good for Frying?

Sunflower oil contains a relatively high smoke point, at about 450 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a great option for shallow frying, stir frying, deep frying, and baking.

Is Sunflower Oil Good for Your Skin?

Sunflower oil is calming and noncomedogenic when applied topically. The high oleic and linoleic fatty acids help to act as an anti-inflammatory protective barrier that holds in moisture. Sunflower oil also contains high amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help protect our skin from free radicals. In fact, sunflower oil is a common ingredient found in skin creams and lotions.

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Choosing Nutrition Team

Here at Choosing Nutrition, our goal is to help people with making smarter food choices. Whether you're wondering about vegan, keto, paleo, or other diets, we'll help you determine which options fit your nutritional lifestyle. Our staff is composed of registered dieticians, nutritionists, and health-conscious individuals.

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