Natural oils, obtained from different plants are considered by many people to be as valuable as liquid gold because they are rich in vitamins and minerals which have a positive impact on our health. They can be consumed as dietary supplements or used in different foods to improve the functions of the digestive systems, or they can be applied directly to the skin to make it smoother or to help heal various conditions. Safflower oil makes no exceptions, and its popularity is growing these days because it is a versatile product widely used around the world.
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What is Safflower?
Safflower is a plant, part of the thistle-like category, with a lot of branches. Up to a point, it resembles a lot to the sunflower plant, due to the yellowish-orange color of the thistle. There are not many uses known fo this flower, except for obtaining oil. Since the old times, Egyptians and Greeks realized the unusual properties of this annual plant and used to grow it in large crops. About 60 countries around the world cultivate large areas with this crop, still, the production is relatively small and almost entirely used for the production of oil. Its popularity started growing in the recent years because it was discovered to be a healthier alternative to many other vegetable oils like coconut or olive oil and it is not expensive at all. In the past, its seeds were used to obtain dyes. The seeds of safflower have a naturally bitter taste, and they are extracted and pressed to get a very nutritional oil which has many benefits for the health. Once extracted, the safflower oil is delivered to manufacturers of beauty products or cooking oils.
There are two types of cooking oils obtained from this plant:
- Polyunsaturated Safflower Oil – is mostly mixed in salad dressings. It contains high levels of linoleic acid which make it ideal to be used as cold oil. Don’t try to use polyunsaturated safflower oil for cooking because it will instantly turn
- Monounsaturated Safflower oil – is the right option to be used for cooking or even deep frying. This is the most versatile oil of the two types, and it is the most common option for people interested in safflower oil.
If you are looking for a new and healthy ingredient to add to your eating style, you could give a try to safflower oil because it has a reputation for being rich in nutrients and it brings many benefits for the skin, heart, and overall health.
Nutritional value of safflower oil
Safflower oil is one of the healthiest options for natural oils. It is estimated that the average serving of this plant extract has 120 calories, which come entirely from fat. Almost all the fat from the safflower oil is polyunsaturated fat, considered to be part of the „good fats” category. This type of fat doesn’t thicken when chilled which makes it great for preparing salads. In addition to this, there is a high amount of Vitamin E. One tablespoon contains 4.6 mg of Vitamin E, enough to ensure almost 30% of the daily recommended dose.
Properties of safflower oil
Even if the olive oil is the superstar of the natural oils right now, the safflower oil is emerging in the spotlight as well. Obtained from the seeds of safflower, the oil has high quantities of healthy fats, essential for preventing different types of cardiovascular disease. It represents a healthier alternative to the majority of the oils available on the market right now, due to its properties:
- Contains high levels of healthy fats – if you are aware of any medical problems related to high cholesterol levels, including this oil into the diet will improve the situation. Unlike saturated fats from products like dairy and meat, which are one of the leading causes for unhealthy cholesterol levels, safflower oil contains monounsaturated fat which fights to keep under control LDL cholesterol levels, also known as „bad” cholesterol. The healthy fats from this oil play a critical role in keeping the bloodstream running and preventing plaque from building up in the arteries and narrowing the passageway. Managing the cholesterol levels is essential for the cardiovascular health because this is a condition which can generate life-threatening consequences if it breaks open and cause a blood cloth which could completely block the artery causing a heart attack or stroke.
- Contains high levels of Vitamin E – by just adding to the daily diet one tablespoon of safflower oil you ensure yourself one-fourth of the daily value recommended for Vitamin E, as it contains 4.6 milligrams of this nutrient. It is important for this vitamin to be included in the meals because it is a potent antioxidant which fights to protect the cells against the damage caused by free radicals caused by prolonged exposure to the sun, cigarette smoke and many other pollutants we come in contact with on a daily basis. Vitamin E is also needed to keep the immune system healthy, and just like monounsaturated fat, it helps to keep the artery plaque free.
- Controls blood sugar levels – In 2011 “Clinical Nutrition” published a study which suggests that safflower oil could be a healthy choice for people who have diabetes. The study observed the health evolution of diabetic women, who took daily 8 grams of safflower oil, the equivalent of one and a half teaspoons. They were tested periodically for blood glucose, insulin sensitivity and signs of inflammation. The results concluded that this product is helpful in keeping the diabetes symptoms under control because it reduces the glucose value in the blood and increases the response to insulin.
- Multiple uses in the kitchen – the safflower oil is not just healthy, it can also be used for just about any recipe that calls for oil. It has a mild taste, and it’s two versions allow you to make the best choice for your food. The Polyunsaturated Safflower oil works well for salads and dressings, while monounsaturated safflower oil has a high smoke point which makes it perfect for frying and sauteing. Look for the „high heat” mention on the label before buying, so you make sure you buy the right type for your recipe.
Even if healthy, the oil must be used in moderation because it is pure fat and it might bring unwanted consequences on the weight.
Benefits of Safflower Oil
In the past years, including natural oils into the daily diet became a must which generated many debates on which oil brings more benefits. The safflower oil is the „cousin” of sunflower oil, only with a higher concentration of Vitamin E than olive or canola oil. Unfortunately, these oils lack Vitamin K, but the oil obtained from safflower seeds has the highest levels of omega 3 and omega 6 of them all.
Although there is still the need for more studies on the benefits of safflower oil, there is enough data available to support the assumption that the claims of its wonders for health are true. The positive influence of this oil can be noticed for a broad range of health areas:
- Improves heart condition – medical researchers revealed that safflower oil has a direct impact on the cholesterol levels. It can reduce the LDL and total cholesterol values while increasing the HDL cholesterol level. The omega 6 fatty acids are well known for their ability to drastically reduce the cholesterol levels in a matter of days. Results of preliminary tests suggest that safflower oil has the potential to prevent conditions like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease high cholesterol or high blood pressure. The high concentration levels of Vitamin E found in this oil fights against the free radicals, improves the blood flow and the immune system.
- Helps with weight loss – so far the connection between the safflower oil and losing some extra weight still needs more backup, but the evidence keeps piling One argument is the omega 6 acids found in the oil obtained from this plant which are good fighters against obesity. They also play a role in muscle contractions. This special liquid contains other micronutrients which stimulate the metabolism in order determine the body to burn out fat faster instead of storing it. Some studies even suggest that the safflower oil has a limited influence on the lean muscle mass grow and help with the weight loss. It is very useful for people who suffer from obesity. Safflower oil can be included in the diet without making drastic changes to the eating habits.
- Improves hair condition – another ingredient found in the safflower oil is an oleic acid which brings benefits for the hair and scalp. It stimulates the hair growth while reducing the inflammation in the scalp. Oleic acid is commonly found in cosmetic products because it makes the hair look shinier and more vibrant. By massaging safflower oil onto the scalp it becomes moisturized and nourished which makes the hair to grow healthier, brighter and faster.
- Reduces the PMS symptoms – including safflower oil into the diet could help women during menstruation because it contains linoleic acid which is known for its properties to regulate prostaglandins in the body, one of the causes of hormonal fluctuations during this period. Individual studies revealed that the oil of safflower diminishes the severity of PMS symptoms and its side effects.
- Has anti aging properties – one of the most active ingredients of Safflower oil is the linoleic acid, which brings benefits for the skin as well by unclogging pores and reducing blackheads. It generates the growth of new skin cells making it look youthful and glowing. If applied directly to the skin, the safflower oil smoothes, moisturizes and fights the damage caused by the free radical. Many beauty products contain safflower oil because of its protecting and healing qualities.
- Prevents diabetes – Omega 6 plays an essential role in keeping the blood sugar levels within the optimum levels. If consumed regularly, safflower oil helps to prevent people from developing diabetes, and it is a great aid for those who suffer from this condition.
- Improves the immune system – the omega 6 fatty acids existing in safflower oil help to protect the body by creating prostaglandins, substances similar to hormones which strengthen the immune system and boosts the body’s functions.
Side Effects of Safflower Oil
With all these benefits of safflower oil, who can imagine that there are some risks of using this product? Unfortunately, the safflower oil, even if it is a completely natural and organic product, could cause some side effects.
To start with, safflower oil prevents blood from forming clots by making it thinner. There are some concerns expressed by researchers regarding bleeding disorders. So if you plan to go under the knife for any reason or you are aware of suffering from blood clotting issues, it is better to avoid using this oil. For pregnant and nursing women it is not recommended to use safflower oil as a dietary supplement, but it isn’t prohibited to use it for cooking.
In some cases, the consumption of safflower oil might trigger allergic reactions. A possible reason for this is the fact that safflower belongs to the same family as daisies. If you noticed some sensitivity to the latter, it is wise to avoid at all costs consuming safflower oil in any form, cooked or as a supplement. It was noticed that this plant has cross-allergenicity with sagebrush, mugwort, and ragweed as well. If you are one of the individuals with known allergies to these plants you should never come near safflower oil.
For some people, safflower oil could cause more or less severe gastrointestinal problems. Individuals who took supplements on this oil reported nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Consuming large doses of safflower oil might make the blood pressure drop considerably, so people diagnosed with hypotension must talk to a doctor before deciding to supplement on this product.
Some studies revealed that supplementing with safflower oil can cause renal injuries to aggravate as well. A study conducted in Japan on rats gathered data on this possible problem. The researchers chose some hypertensive rats prone to spontaneously stroke and fed the different types of oil and safflower oil among them. The results showed high levels of proteins in the urine, which is a clue for a severely damaged kidney. The individuals aware of suffering from heart or kidney conditions and those who suffered a stroke must be careful in taking safflower oil unless advised otherwise by a doctor.
Safflower oil is not as popular as other types of oils obtained from flower seeds, but its popularity is growing. It recently caught the attention of the medical community and researchers who study its properties intensely. Even if there is still the need for more scientific proof, the data collected so far encourages the specialists to consider this product as one of the most healthy alternatives to the oils available on the market.
Its high concentration of healthy fats and Vitamin E makes safflower oil a better choice to more common oils, like canola oil or olive oil. There are multiple benefits of including this substance into the daily diet: reduces the harmful cholesterol levels, prevents blood from clotting and cause strokes, makes the hair and skin look smoother and healthier, helps to lose some extra weight, prevents diabetes and improves the immune system.
Regardless the number of benefits, some people should manifest extra care when consuming this oil, if they are aware of medical conditions like bleeding disorders, allergic reactions, heart or kidney problems.