Q: What is Hi-oleic sunflower oil?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 11 July 2013.
Tagged: fat, oil

Q: What is Hi-oleic sunflower oil?

A. You pronounce it high oh-lay-ick. Hi-oleic sunflower oil is a type of sunflower oil bred to have a high concentration of the fatty acid oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid which is in rich supply in olive oil and macadamia nuts.

Ordinary sunflower oil is extracted from sunflower seeds and is naturally high in polyunsaturated fatty acids which belong to the omega-6 class eg linoleic acid. It has around 66 per cent polyunsaturates although there's some variation depending on the variety and growing conditions.

In detail, the breakup of the fat in regular sunflower oil is:

  • Saturated 11%
  • Monounsaturated 23%
  • Polyunsaturated 66 %
  • Total 100%

In contrast, to create an oil that's high in oleic acid, farmers have selected strains of sunflower that naturally have more monounsaturates (namely oleic acid) and less polyunsaturates. These are not GM but the result of traditional plant breeding.

Here's a diagram of a molecule of oleic acid - note the single double bond of the monounsaturated fatty acid:

Oleic Acid molecule



Oils with less polyunsaturates are more stable during cooking and food manufacture. They are less likely to go rancid or to develop off-flavours and taints.

You'll spot hi-oleic sunflower oil on packs of chips. It's used to deep-fry potato crisps and corn chips to give them a healthier fat profile. It's preferable to cooking in palm oil as it's low in saturated, has no trans fat and creates a good-tasting end result.

Here's how sunflower oil compare to palm oil in percentage:

  Palm Oil Hi-Oleic Sunflower Oil
Fat Total 100 100
Saturated Fat 50 10
Monounsaturated Fat 49 85
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 5
Trans Fat Nil Nil


According to the US Sunflower Association, farmers now grow both types of sunflower oil. Here's a comparison of the saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in regular sunflower oil with hi-oleic sunflower oil.

Oil Type Saturated Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated
Regular Polyunsaturated 11% 23% 66%

High Oleic

9% 82%


Source: National Sunflower Association 2013

There's research showing that substitution of saturated fat with foods rich in hi-oleic sunflower oil has favourable outcomes on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and factor VII activity. So this oil is another useful source of monounsaturated for diets aimed at prevention of heart disease.