Ask Amelia Nutrition

What Exactly is High Oleic Oil?

what is high oleic sunflower oil

Maybe you’ve seen “high oleic oil” in an ingredients list on a package of your food lately.  But what exactly is it and is it healthy or unhealthy?  Here are some quick facts about high oleic (canola, sunflower, corn) oil:

What is “high oleic” oil?

High oleic oil is any oil that is high in monounsaturated fats.  Olive and canola oil are naturally high in monounsaturated fat, but they are also high in polyunsaturated fats which mean they are not very shelf-stable.  In recent years, scientists have developed sunflower (and other) oils that are bred to be high in monounsaturated fats and low in polyunsaturated fats so they can be used in products that need to be shelf-stable.

Why do food companies use high oleic oil?

In the past, food companies used hydrogenated oils (trans fats) to keep food shelf-stable and preserve flavor.  When companies had to stop using trans fats, they switched to high oleic oils or palm kernel oil to make their food last longer for customers.  These oils are often used in packaged baked goods (packaged cakes, cookies, etc), as spray coating for cereal, crackers and dried fruit; and in non-dairy creamers as well as many types of frying.

Is it healthy?

As far as we know, yes. High oleic oil is high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat, and has no trans fat. The large amount of monounsaturated fat in high oleic oil has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) without lowering HDL cholesterol (the good kind). When LDL cholesterol goes down, so do the risks of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

Should I buy foods made with high oleic oil?

Only packaged, processed foods will contain these oils. It’s best not to rely too heavily on these types of products anyway, and to focus on eating mostly whole foods.  But if you’re going to buy packaged, processed food sometimes, then yes, look for the term “high oleic sunflower (or other) oil” in the ingredients list.  This is a much better option, as far as we know, than trans (hydrogenated oil) and saturated fats.

What oil should I be using at home in my own cooking?

Extra virgin olive oil (for dressings and foods that won’t be cooked), canola oil (for cooking when you’ll be using high heat) and coconut oil (for baking, cooking and/or when you want a hint of coconut flavor) are the oils I’d recommend, and what I use in my own kitchen. Make sure to choose organic oils whenever possible in order to avoid GMOs and toxic persistent pesticides!

Image source for above.


  • kari
    November 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

    After inspecting a couple of boxes of saltines at the grocery store, I found that one package contained “soybean oil with TBHQ for freshness.” Is that another way of saying “hydrogenated” or is TBHQ a preservative? I just want to eat saltines with my homemade chicken soup. What’s a girl to do???!!!

  • Amelia
    November 22, 2011 at 11:37 am

    TBHQ is a preservative added to lengthen the shelf-life of packaged foods that don’t have trans fats or other shelf-stable fats. It’s used widely in the U.S. and Europe and is considered “safe” in the quantities it’s used in. However, it associated with negative health effects in lab animals when given at higher doses, and may be carcinogenic if eaten in large amounts. Here are some details: ….. if it were me, I’d avoid this stuff altogether when possible. There are some natural brands that don’t include this preservative – these are probably your best bet. Even better, dunk hunks of bread into your soup.

  • Devan
    June 14, 2012 at 5:09 am

    I was worried when I saw the word “high” in high oleic sunflower oil. I know “high” fructose syrup is very bad for me, so I though this high oleic oil would be too. Since it’s also used to preserve shelf life, wouldn’t that make it more of a preservative than a healthy oil? I guess I would just like some more information on the process of how this type of oil is made. Thanks!

  • Jerry T.
    January 1, 2013 at 7:28 am

    These oils are “scientificly” developed? As in GMO?
    I notice natural cereals have these oils, but organic cereal does not.
    How can we tell if oils are GMO products?

  • Amelia
    January 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    They are not GMO oils, since their structure is modified after the oil crops are harvested, not before. As far as I know, it’s safe to eat high oleic oils.

  • July
    April 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    The way you wrote that scientists have “bred” the sunflower oil to be higher in mono and lower in poly seems to be conflicting with your comment above saying the oils are modified after being harvested.

  • Amelia
    April 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Thanks for your feedback, I’ll make sure to clarify this part of the post.

  • rich
    May 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

    If it doesn’t say extra virgin olive oil, I don’t buy it.

  • rich
    May 21, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Butter is good if you don’t heat it, creating carcinogens. Olive oil is great for salads and/or cooked at temps. 350 degrees or less.

    May 30, 2013 at 7:00 am

    is HIGH OLEIC SUNLOWER OIL is good for heart patients?

  • Karn Mayer
    June 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    To quote you:…”have developed sunflower (and other) oils that are bred to be high in monounsaturated fats”……
    What you are saying that they are GENETICALLY MODIFIED!…………………NO THANK YOU!
    I also know that canola oil is from Rapeseed and it is now a GMO product.
    Palm oil production creates RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION–..NO THABK YOU !!

    Karen k. m.

  • william
    July 8, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Is high oleic canola oil made from using olestra in the processing of the canola oil? I have read a lot about the side effects of olestra. Is there any relationship between the two?

  • Amelia
    July 8, 2013 at 10:58 am

    No, luckily Olestra is something entirely different & not a standard ingredient in any oils or regular foods. Good question!

  • Amelia
    July 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Sorry about that, Willow! I added it in!

  • Joe
    September 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Not to be obnoxious, but what exactly was the thought process that made you think that the word “high” was the thing that was bad for you and not the fructose? Does “high” vitamin C content scare you too? Or “high” antioxidant content? I mean, sure, moderation is good, so maybe you read “high” as “excessive”?
    The same sort of logic follows for the second part of your post. Nothing is inherently wrong with something that preserves things, just like nothing is inherently wrong with something that has a high content of something. It depends entirely upon what the nature of the ‘thing’ in question is. Lemon juice is a great preservative for guacamole, and lemons are very healthy.
    Anyhow, it’s very good of you to push for more information and I admire your drive to self-educate about the sorts of foods you put in your body. I just always worry that we become too dependent on easy access to sources of knowledge that we forget to apply a little of our own simple logic to refine our questions so that we ask the right ones and make the right choices with that information.

  • Joe
    September 16, 2013 at 10:48 am

    If you’re speaking strictly about shopping for olive oils, then that’s a wise decision. Though even then, don’t be over trusting of the labeling.
    As for oils in general, there are plenty of other oils that are at least as healthy as olive oil. A simple google search will give you all the info you need in that regard.

  • Joni D.
    December 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Hi I just found your site through a Sprouts link. I’m very impressed (I don’t often compliment sites being someone who has high standards.) I really like the organization of categories, the succinct information and ease of navigation.

  • Amelia Winslow
    December 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks, Joni! I really appreciate your feedback!

  • Dan
    June 2, 2014 at 8:56 am

    as noted from another web page: High Oleic Oils, “are hybrids rather than genetically modified plants, they are not created by the use of traditional methods, instead radiation and toxic chemicals are used to speed up the process.”

  • Robin
    June 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    I found this more critical summary as well:
    “In summary: High oleic oils are oils made from new varieties of plants. While they are hybrids rather than genetically modified plants, they are not created by the use of traditional methods, instead radiation and toxic chemicals are used to speed up the process. No one has eaten these varieties for any length of time and this is a red flag for me.”

  • shehab Ghoniem
    December 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I got a feeling that high-oleic SFO is used basically by food processing plants and not available for home use . That is , you can’t go into a supermarket and buy a bottle of high-oliec SFO.Is it a price issue?

  • Dwight
    May 11, 2015 at 10:16 am

    to make “high oleic” of any oil, 1st the regular seed is radiated then exposed to toxic chemicals. So, you tell me, does this sound healthy to you? Personally, it sounds just as bad as GMO’s because it altered and no longer in the proportions nature intended.

  • William A B
    August 6, 2015 at 6:43 am

    Here in Spain you can, and my doctor recommended it to me, but oddly enough only for having it cold (on salads, etc.), saying that olive oil is more healthy for frying. After reading all this on this page, I think I’ll use olive oil for salads too thank you very much!

  • Ashley
    March 10, 2016 at 11:58 am

    In your description of high oleic oils, you mentioned, quote, “scientists have developed sunflower (and other) oils that are bred to be high in monounsaturated fats and low in polyunsaturated fats…” Doesn’t “bred” mean that sunflowers, etc. are GMO’d” to be high in monounsaturated fats/low in polyunsaturated fats??? You also mention that high eleic oils are better than other oils. However, IF high oleic oils are GMO’d, then HOW can they be better for us?

  • Ashley
    March 10, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Just read through Dan and Robin’s comments. How can radiation and chemical alteration of our foods, including oils, be healthy for any of us? I think we’ll just find alternatives…

  • Ashley
    March 10, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    They’ve recently disclosed that most Olive Oils have been tampered with, and you can’t trust what’s on most grocery store shelves either! I don’t recall the details, so won’t even try to say what they’re doing to the oil or the olives/trees… I will try to get that info… If it’s GMO’d, or chemically altered or unhealthy things added to Olive oil, then “NO THANKS!”

  • Ashley
    March 10, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    “Bred,” to me means either GMO’d or Horticultural grafting or pollinating, and to me, can also mean pollinating with a GMO specie, but can mean chemical modification as well.

  • Ashley
    March 10, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    High Oleic oils aren’t healthy for us, in my opinion, if it means that they come from GMO’d plants and/or are pollinated with GMO’d plants and/or are chemically altered from their original, organic, God-created form. Today, everything is GMO’d, pollinated with GMO’d plants, are chemically modified, etc and stripped of food value. All of these cause autoimmune diseases, inflammation which causes diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and strokes, arthritis and debilitation, etc. I’d rather have a lower life span (years) spent eating unadulterated foods, with a higher quality of life…than eat the processed foods that are barren of nutrients and are purposefully processed with ingredients via processes designed to MAKE us sick… Face it: companies like Monsanto, the FDA (with revolving door with Monsanto), the medical establishment, pharmaceutical companies, etc. are ALL in cahoots with each other to make or keep us sick, requiring medical care/treatments, cancer treatments, medications/drugs, etc. It’s all in the bottom line: It’s BIG FOOD INDUSTRY, BIG MEDICINE and BIG PHARMA!!!

  • Amelia Winslow
    March 10, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Ashley,
    “Breeding” isn’t the same as genetically modifying. Farmers have been breeding different kinds of crops – and mixing crops – for generations. You can google the two terms to see exact differences.

  • Amelia Winslow
    March 10, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I hear your concern, Ashley. I haven’t verified that Dan and Robin’s comments are true, but I’ll do some research on this. One thing I do know is that radiation and chemical additives are prohibited by definition in organic foods, so if you buy organic oils by law these processes have not been used in production.

  • Amelia Winslow
    March 10, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Luckily, there are lots of alternatives to the foods you’re describing!

  • Amelia Winslow
    March 10, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Can you provide an article describing this trend in olive oils, Ashley? I haven’t seen anything about it.

  • dan
    July 31, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Nature also do not give you car or phone and you are using it. Nature give you basic elements and man is to meant to develop few thinks. It can be done with uncoscioness or with coinsiesness.

    why do you think high olejic is made by chemicals and toxins? By the way chemistry processes you can find everywhere in nature

  • Charlene
    August 4, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Canola oil is NOT a healthy oil. It is a GMO made from GMO rapeseed. Check Dr. Axe for all the facts. Should never use canola oil.

  • diana Gonzales
    August 4, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Love your information!!!!so my question is what kind of oil should I use for making eggs for example.also what kind and brand do you recommend I keep in my kitchen.thank you in advance

  • Amelia Winslow
    August 11, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Diana, thanks for your kind words. I personally use butter for eggs 🙂 But if you’re looking for a high quality oil, try olive, coconut or avocado oil.

  • Amelia Winslow
    August 11, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Organic canola oil (like all organic products) is by definition non-GMO.

  • John
    January 21, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    You are completely incorrect. We have been breeding plants since the beginning of civilization. Everything you eat has been modified from its original form extensively. Modern technology has significantly improved the breeding techniques speed, not it’s fundamentals. Breeding is good, for everything.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with GMO but there are no good GMO product, so it is good to stick with Organics.

    Canola was not bred with Genetic Engineering (bred before GMO even existed). And nutritionally it is right next to Olive oil. If you’re going to eat any Polyunsaturated vegetable oils Organic Cold Pressed Canola and Olive are better then most. Just never heat them up (that’s how trans-fats are made).

    Monounsaturated oils are categorically better though. While this includes High Oleic oil I wouldn’t recommend HO oil based on the Omega 6.

    And as always, always cook with Saturated and Monounsaturated.

  • dave
    March 9, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks for the info…. it was on my bag of veggie chips (mostly potato).
    So many people have crazy ideas and are misinformed.
    I hope you’re still sane 😉

  • Sara
    March 14, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    There are non-GMO brands of canola oil. You just have to look for it. I found some at Fairway Markets.

  • Julian
    May 15, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Hi Amelia, if I’m not wrong, TBHQ is a powder antioxidant that is synthetic as well. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on High Oleic oils. I benefited from it as I’m learning the facts about oils as for part of my new job.

  • S.E
    August 22, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Seems that although you did not like the format of Devan’s question they were quite right to question high Oleic Sunflower oil. I have always been taught there is no such thing as a silly question.

  • Bronson
    September 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Regular canola oil lowers cholesterol. But did you know that it also raises inflammation levels in your body. Vegetarians have a higher death rate from heart attacks than meat eaters. The cause was canola oil, safflower oil, etc. Omega 6 to omega 3 ratio was too high in the vegetarians. The same could be true with high oleic canola oil. Search “utube 40 year old vegan dies of a heart attack. Why?”

  • melody
    September 28, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    I think people are just over-the-edge about GMOs. The wording is correct in this post, according to other sources I’ve read, the sunflower oils are indeed bred to be high-oleic, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s a good thing. People are healthier because of it. Practically ALL the fruits and vegetables we eat are hybrids, developed for one characteristic or another, which we all appreciate and enjoy, and thanks to hybrids and GMOs, people who would otherwise starve can eat, since plants can be made to grow in climates otherwise inhospitable for that species.

  • smorze
    October 25, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Just to be clear, selective breeding and GMOs are not the same thing.

  • smorze
    October 25, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Yes, agreed – PUFA’s. Canola is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, as are most processed seed, vegetable, and even nut oils to a lesser degree. I would research the pufa content in high oleic sunflower oil to determine how “healthy” it is compared to other fats. The post mentions that it’s high in monounsaturated fates, so maybe the pufas are “low”, relatively speaking, but it may still be detrimental to health in certain context (context always matters – nothing is absolute) I will note that the post also says that HOSO is also healthy because it’s low in saturated fat. This comment has me seriously questioning credibility here. There is more and more evidence everyday that saturated fat is not inherently unhealthy and does not correlate with high cholesterol and heart attacks (see inflammation due to pufas/excessive processed sugars, etc). The comment about saturated fat was particularly perplexing when in the next paragraph, coconut oil is recommended. I’m on board with this recommendation, but coconut oil is proportionately high is saturated fat. Surely, the author must know this and understand the dissonance between this recommendation and the assertion that saturated fat is unhealthy, or rather, that something that is low in saturated fat is healthy based on that merit?

  • David Archer
    November 20, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Back in the day, an oil called rapeseed oil was often used for industrial purposes.

    It was cheap to produce, but people couldn’t eat it because it contained some unfavorable substances:
    •Erucic acid: a fatty acid that caused heart damage in some rat studies (1).
    •Glucosinolates: bitter compounds that made the oil taste bad (2).

    A bunch of Canadian scientists wanted to turn rapeseed oil into an edible oil, so they used selective breeding techniques to “create” seeds that contained less of these harmful, bitter substances.

    This is how canola was born… but “Canola” is a marketing term. It stands for Canadian Oil (some believe it stands for Canada Oil, Low Acid).
    Canola is actually not a unique plant. It’s just a name for rapeseeds that have been bred to be low in these undesirable compounds.

    Since the year 1995, biotech giant Monsanto has manufactured rapeseeds that are genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide RoundUp.

    Today, about 90% of the world’s canola crop is genetically modified. I can’t speak for anybody else, but when I eat anything with Canola Oil in it I get severe stomach cramps and a genuine nausea feeling and an extended stay on the porcelain throne.
    Here is a link to a very good article regarding Canola Oil:

  • Amelia Winslow
    December 15, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts here, David. I’ll do more research on canola too.

  • Brandi Phoenix
    January 4, 2018 at 6:41 am

    The word that concerned me was Oleic…It sounded close to Olean, so I started worrying that it was a sneaky way of saying that it was an Olean/Olestra product. I didn’t want to have to nix my almond milk coffee creamer on the account of it having that product on board!

  • Amelia Winslow
    January 10, 2018 at 10:21 am

    I hear you, Brandi!

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