Last week I raved about coconut oil, and got an e-mail from a PWN reader asking, “what about safflower oil?”. Which is a great question, because safflower oil has been marketed as a weight-loss aid for many years now, and since it’s typically affordable and available at any grocery store, I’m sure many have tried it.
What is safflower oil?
Safflower oil is basically tasteless and odorless, and it comes from a safflower (pictured below for those who haven’t seen one – I hadn’t!). Safflowers are grown mainly for the extraction of oil from the seeds. It is used in things like cosmetics, salad dressings and margarine, and many people cook with it.
What is the nutritional makeup of safflower oil?
Unrefined safflower oil has about 120 calories per tablespoon and 14 grams of fat. However, it differs from coconut oil when it comes to the type of fat in contains. Almost all of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat, whereas the fat in safflower oil is mainly either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat is found in the high linoleic acid safflower oil, and monounsaturated fat is found in the high oleic acid safflower oil. The high oleic acid safflower oil is refined and processed, and was created for cooking because it is much less susceptible to heat damage.
Sidenote/Cool fact: Safflower seeds are often used in place of sunflower seeds in birdseed, because squirrels don’t like the taste of safflower seed.
Refined or Unrefined?
The safflower oil that you find in salad dressings, margarine and other processed foods is very refined. Often oils are refined because this gives them a higher smoke point, meaning they are more stable when used for cooking at high temperatures. The refined safflower oil is the high oleic acid safflower oil. However, it is the unrefined safflower oil (high linoleic acid) that I would recommend if someone were going to use it for weight loss purposes. Refined oils are usually chemically processed, and for optimal health I typically recommend using things in their most natural state.
Safflower oil for weight loss?
It is the linoleic acid in safflower oil that is associated with weight loss. Linoleic acid helps with the growth and maintenance of tissues, and aids in fat metabolism. It is an omega-6 fatty acid, which is vital to health. Safflower oil is not only linked to a reduction of fat in the stomach area, but it can also increase lean tissue and reduce cholesterol (only the unrefined type). If someone is using unrefined safflower oil for weight loss, I recommend putting it into smoothies or homemade salad dressings, and consuming 1-2 tablespoons per day.
Coconut oil or safflower oil?
However, I still think coconut oil is a better choice, whether you’re using it for cooking or weight loss or anything else. I talked about all the benefits of coconut oil here. Coconut oil can, like safflower oil, aid in weight loss, but it can also help create a healthy digestive tract, eliminate bad bacteria, and boost immunity. If you have to choose an oil, why not choose the one with more health benefits? One reason people may be more drawn to safflower oil is because it is less expensive than coconut oil. However, make sure you are purchasing the unrefined safflower oil, and if you can get an organic safflower oil, it is even better. Because unrefined safflower oil does not have a high smoke point, I still recommend coconut oil for cooking.