Most of us have the conventional notion that cooking oils are bad for health that not only increases cholesterol and heart problems but also fattening in nature. This literally puts us into a dilemma where we conduct a thorough research throughout the internet to find which oil is healthy for everyday cooking and doesn’t put our family’s health at risk. Among the bounty of cooking oils available in the market, not all are bad for health. There are a few that are extremely beneficial. Prized for their heart-healthy qualities, one such incredible cooking oil derived from the seeds of Safflower plant is Safflower Oil.
Right from helping in lowering blood cholesterol levels, relieving from the symptoms of PMS, managing diabetes, improving blood circulation, treating constipation, reducing pain and inflammation, remedying respiratory trouble, enhancing skin and hair health, bolstering immunity, to promoting growth and development of the body, the versatile safflower oil has extensive health benefits that span across different bodily mechanisms.
Safflower oil is chiefly derived from the seeds of the Safflower plant that goes by the botanical name Carthamus tinctorius L. It is an annual broadleaf crop belonging to the Compositae or Asteraceae family and is mainly found in many parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In the Indian subcontinent, it is mainly referred to as 'kusum' (derived from the Sanskrit word 'kusumbha') and as 'hongua' in China. The plant is very similar to sunflower and bears beautiful yellow blooms in the summer months.
Nutritional Content Of Safflower Oil
According to USDA, 28 gms of safflower oil contains, 147 calories, 4.59 g of protein, 1.59 g of water, 10.9 g of total fat and 9.72 g of carbohydrate. Additionally, it also contains 55% of copper, 31.14% of total fat, 26.14% of phosphorus, 17.38% of iron, 24.83% of manganese, 13% of zinc,23.81% of magnesium, 19.56% of isoleucine, 17.78% of histidine, 37.73% of tryptophan, 11.53% of threonine, 23.48% of valine, 27.50% of Vitamin B1, 22.86% of vitamin B5, 25.54% of vitamin B6, and 11.25% of folate.
Varieties Of Safflower Oil
There are two varieties of safflower oil- one high in linoleic acid and the other one high in oleic acid. The high-linoleic safflower oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats, while high-oleic safflower oil contains more monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated safflower oil is good for unheated foods, such as vinaigrettes while monounsaturated safflower oil is good for cooking at high temperatures. It is the high-oleic variety safflower oil that is believed to increase your HDL cholesterol, also known as "good" cholesterol.
Superb Health Benefits Of Safflower Oil
Boosts Cardiac Health
The bounty of Omega-6 fatty acid in safflower oil is extremely beneficial for the human body. Being rich in linoleic acid helps safflower oil keep a healthy balance of cholesterol in the body (i.e., reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol) and also averts the formation of atherosclerosis (i.e., hardening of the arteries), and hence reduces the risk of heart attacks, heart blocks, blood clots, mitral regurgitation, ischemic cardiomyopathy etc. It also plays a key role in lowering the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. It is a primary choice of oil for many people suffering from hypercholesterolemia (i.e., high cholesterol levels).
The excellent hyperglycemic property of safflower oil plays a key role in managing blood sugar in people. The abundance of polyunsaturated fatty acids in this vegetable oil helps in increasing insulin sensitivity. The production of insulin from the β-pancreatic cells becomes active on taking this vegetable oil due to the presence of omega-6 fatty acids. It helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low glycated haemoglobin levels and hence is a good choice for diabetic patients.
The monthly menstrual cycle can be extremely uncomfortable and painful for some women. The high content of linoleic acid in safflower oil can regulate the prostaglandins in the body. Regulation of prostaglandins help monitor all the hormones and thus prevent symptoms like pain and cramps in the abdomen which occur before or during menstrual cycles.
Remedies Respiratory Anomalies
The abundance of bioactive components and anti-biotic, anti-inflammatory properties in this wondrous vegetable oil plays a pivotal role in treating various upper respiratory tract illnesses like the common cold, cough, sinus and flu symptoms. The expectorant quality helps in reducing chest and nasal congestion, gets rid of excess catarrh particles and stops nasal discharge. It is also beneficial in treating sore throat, pharyngitis, bronchitis and asthmatic conditions.
Augments Skin And Hair
Apart from promoting health, safflower oil offers a one-stop remedy for skin and hair woes. Being a powerhouse of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, safflower oil diminishes skin inflammation, scalp infections and promotes overall skin and hair health. It is also extremely effective in treating eczema, burns and itching. The high amount of linoleic acid present in the oil decreases sebum production and controls the growth of acne, pimples, zits, blackheads etc while bestowing a smooth and glowing skin.
Presence of oleic acid also stimulates blood circulation in the scalp, thereby stimulating hair growth and strengthening the hair follicles. It also prevents hair fall, greying of hair and keeps the hair soft and shiny.
Although safflower oil is mostly safe when ingested but doctors recommend to avoid it during pregnancy as it as it can start menstrual periods, make the uterus contract, and cause miscarriages. It is also suggested to avoid this oil if a person is suffering from bleeding problems such as haemorrhagic diseases, stomach or intestinal ulcers, or clotting disorders as it can slow blood clotting. That being said, it is best to avoid the oil for at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery or after a surgery as it slows blood clotting.