Frequent questions at the House of Istrian Olive Oil revolve around the comparison of olive oil with
other oils used in nutrition. One commonly used oil is sunflower oil, so our visitors are interested in
the difference in nutritional value, health characteristics, and, in general, when to use which type of
oil. Important questions also pertain to consumer confusion regarding various types of olive oil, but
we will explain that in the next blog.
The two most common oils used in culinary arts are sunflower oil and olive oil. Both oils have their
own characteristics and traditions, but the main differences lie in their nutritional value and health
When discussing the advantages of olive oil, it is important to emphasize that it is not the same
whether we are referring to regular olive oil, which is actually refined oil, or if we are talking about
extra virgin olive oil, which is pure olive juice obtained through the proper processing of healthy
fruit, without any subsequent chemical processes.
How to Use Olive Oil? Quality extra virgin olive oil has several positive characteristics for cooking and
combining with various foods, with its health characteristics being especially important. Over the last
few decades, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the significant connection between
polyphenols found in such oil and their impact on our bodies. The most important polyphenols to
highlight are oleocanthal and oleacein.
When buying extra virgin olive oil, make sure it’s from a specialized store with a quality selection of olive oils or purchase directly from the producer.
Sunflower oil is most often produced through the refinement of oil obtained from sunflower seeds.
The process begins with the extraction of oil from sunflower seeds using solvents or mechanical
pressing. Solvent extraction is an industrial process, and such oils are most commonly purchased.
Such sunflower oil is not healthy and cannot be used as a remedy. Mechanical pressing is used to
produce cold-pressed unrefined sunflower oil.
The oil obtained through extraction often contains impurities, a high degree of free fatty acids, and
unwanted flavors. It is therefore neutralized and treated with alkaline substances such as sodium
hydroxide to remove these unwanted substances. After neutralization, the oil undergoes a bleaching
process to remove any remaining impurities. The bleaching process involves the use of absorbent
clays or activated carbon. The final step in the production of industrial sunflower oil is the removal of
any remaining unpleasant odors and the stabilization of the oil, which is achieved by heating it to a
Unfortunately, unrefined or cold-pressed sunflower oil undergoes a simpler extraction process
without the use of chemicals and retains more of the natural flavor and color of sunflower seeds.
However, such oil is not widely available.
When purchasing sunflower oil, be sure to check the label to determine whether it is refined or
unrefined, as this will impact its flavor and cooking characteristics. Today, we mostly use refined
sunflower oil, as it is the most common type in the market or in supermarkets. Such oil serves as a
simple fat for frying potato chips or is generally used when a larger quantity of oil is needed.
In contrast, extra virgin olive oil is important and should be used for cooking, as a seasoning in many
dishes, as well as a finishing dressing for various salads, as a base for different stews, for quality
steaks, risottos, and is increasingly used in dessert preparation. With such oil, we don’t just use it as
“one of the fats,” but we also introduce important elements that preserve our health. This is a good
type of fat that we can use even during the weight loss process.
Sunflower oil has a relatively high smoke point, typically around 230°C (446°F). This high smoke point
makes it suitable for frying, deep-frying, and other high-heat cooking methods. Its neutral taste
doesn’t overpower the flavors of the dishes it’s used in.
Extra virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point, and it’s best used for sautéing and low to medium-heat
cooking methods to preserve its delicate flavors and health benefits.
Over the years, free radicals are formed in the human body, causing a series of
reactions that subsequently lead to accelerated cell aging in the body and on the skin. To stop aging,
it is necessary to increase the intake of antioxidants that react with free radicals and remove them
from the body. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in these compounds. It removes signs of aging from the
body, and thanks to its high content of tocopherols (a precursor to vitamin E), it maintains youthful-
looking skin and hair.
This is why in 2012, the European Union adopted a law called the Health Claim. According to this law
(EU 432/2012 EFSA), a HEALTH CLAIM can only be made for oil that contains at least 250 mg of
polyphenols per 1 kg of olive oil.
Unlike sunflower oil, extra virgin olive oil has a number of scientifically proven positive effects on
human health. Legally prescribed doses of oleocanthal are good for protecting against Alzheimer’s
Extra virgin olive oil, rich in oleocanthal, has an effect on the cardiovascular system. Furthermore,
oleocanthal has potential as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of inflammatory degenerative joint
diseases, such as osteoporosis, by reducing the synthesis of nitric oxide, which is associated with
Oleocanthal demonstrates exceptional anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects in liver and colon
cancer cells without affecting normal cells.
Oleacein protects red blood cells from oxidative hemolysis, even in small doses. It has a special role
in slowing down the progression of atherosclerosis, the leading cause of strokes and heart attacks. It
protects cells from aging and reduces the risk of stroke.
In conclusion, refined sunflower oil has a high smoke point and a neutral taste, making it suitable for high-temperature cooking methods. The health value of sunflower oil has not been established. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in natural antioxidants, polyphenols, and has been proven to have a number of positive health effects. With its variety of flavors due to different olive varieties, it can enrich food in many interesting ways.