Safflower oil is a popular cooking oil that comes from the seeds of the safflower plant. Some research suggests it may have some health benefits when people use it in the diet and on the skin.
Safflower oil may be a more healthful option than olive oil when cooking at high temperatures, thanks to its high smoke point and neutral flavor.
In this article, we list the top health benefits of safflower oil. We also discuss the effects of safflower oil for weight loss.
Six health benefits of safflower oil
Safflower oil offers a variety of potential benefits. Below, we discuss the evidence behind six key benefits of safflower oil:
1. A healthful source of fatty acids
Safflower oil is made from the safflower plant.
Safflower oil is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The body needs these fats to function. Experts generally consider unsaturated fatty acids to be more healthful than saturated fats.
Fats in the diet, such as those found in safflower oil, are essential for hormone regulation and memory. They are vital in allowing the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Eating some fat with meals may also help a person to feel fuller.
Safflower oil is lower in saturated fats, which are often considered "bad" fats, than olive oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil.
A diet high in "good" fats and low in "bad" fats has many health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving heart health.
There are two types of safflower oil: high-oleic and high-linoleic. Both contain unsaturated fatty acids.
Like olive oil, the high-oleic variety of safflower oil contains monounsaturated fats and is a good option for cooking at high temperatures.
High-linoleic safflower oil contains higher quantities of polyunsaturated fats. It is not suitable for heating but is ideal for use in salad dressings.
2. Improves blood sugar levels
A systematic review of studies from 2016 suggests that eating a diet high in unsaturated fats can improve a person's blood glucose control.
The study found that replacing some sources of carbohydrate or saturated fats with unsaturated fatty acids, especially polyunsaturated fats, had a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels, as well as insulin resistance and insulin secretion.
The researchers suggest that people might use quality dietary fats alongside diabetes treatments to reduce complications associated with the condition.
3. Lowers cholesterol, boosts heart health
These findings support the American Heart Association's suggestion that unsaturated fats may lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad," cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
Safflower oil may contribute to heart health in other ways too.
The unsaturated fats in safflower oil can thin the blood and make platelets less sticky. This might help prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Safflower oil might also affect blood vessels by relaxing them and reducing blood pressure.
4. Fights inflammation
Safflower oil may also have anti-inflammatory properties.
According to a study in Clinical Nutrition, Safflower oil and the unsaturated fatty acids in safflower oil improved markers of inflammation. This may help with several conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
5. Soothes dry skin
Applying safflower oil topically to dry or inflamed skin may help soothe it and give the skin a soft and smooth appearance. Although most of the research on safflower oil for the skin is anecdotal, it is a common ingredient in cosmetics and skin care products.
Safflower oil contains vitamin E, which may be responsible for some of its skin benefits. Vitamin E has been an important ingredient in dermatological products for decades.
Some research suggests that vitamin E protects the skin from the effects of sunlight and from free radicals, which are harmful molecules that damage cells in the body and contribute to disease.
Before using safflower oil on the skin, perform a patch test. Rub a drop of the oil into the arm and wait for 24 hours. If no reaction develops, it is probably safe to use.
6. Safe for cooking at high temperatures
Not all oils are safe to use for frying. This is because overheating delicate oils can create free radicals.
High-oleic safflower oil is safe to cook with at high temperatures. In fact, this monounsaturated oil has a higher smoke point than many other oils, including:
- corn oil
- canola oil
- olive oil
- sesame oil
Safflower also has a milder flavor than other oils, including olive and coconut, which makes it an excellent choice for deep frying, pan frying, or baking.
People should not heat polyunsaturated safflower oil, however. Save it for drizzling over steamed vegetables and making vinaigrettes. Keep the oil in the refrigerator to prevent it from turning rancid.
Safflower oil for weight loss
Safflower oil is not a low-calorie food.
Some people consider safflower oil to be a weight loss aid, but there is little research in this area.
Some studies, including a 2011 study, report that safflower oil has no significant effects on weight or body fat.
But adding a small amount of this oil to food may improve its flavor, increase the feeling of being full, and balance blood sugar — all of which can have a beneficial effect on weight management.
When trying to lose weight, it may be helpful to limit the intake of oils to recommended amounts and to focus on eating whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.
The 'Choose my Plate' initiative recommend the following intake of oils by teaspoon (tsp) each day:
|Sex||Age||Recommended daily oil|
However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 states that most oils consumed in the United States are in the form of processed foods, such as:
- salad dressings
- prepared (fast food) meals and snacks
- corn and potato chips
When calculating daily oil intake, remember to include these fats, as well as healthful sources of fats, such as those found naturally in nuts, seeds, and fish.
Side effects of safflower oil
Most people will not have any adverse reaction to safflower oil, as long as they consume it in the recommended daily amounts.
As safflower can thin the blood, it may slow down the clotting of the blood, which may increase the risk of bleeding in:
- people who have bleeding disorders
- those undergoing surgery
Safflower oil contains healthful fats called unsaturated fatty acids.
When consumed in moderation, it may offer health benefits, such as blood sugar control, better heart health, and lower levels of inflammation.
People can use it topically to treat dry skin, and it is safe to use when cooking at high temperatures.
Safflower oil is available to buy from health food stores, some supermarkets, and online.
As with all oils, safflower is high in calories and low in many nutrients. Therefore, people should use it sparingly and as part of a balanced diet.