Sunflower oil is mainly a triglyceride; a typical constituent is shown. The British Pharmacopoeia lists the following profile:
- Palmitic acid (saturated): 5%
- Stearic acid (saturated): 6%
- Oleic acid (monounsaturated omega-9): 30%
- Linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6): 59%
Several types of sunflower oils are produced, such as high linoleic, high oleic and mid oleic. Mid-oleic sunflower oil typically has at least 69% oleic acid. High oleic sunflower oil has at least 82% oleic acid. Variation in unsaturated fatty acids profile is strongly influenced by both genetics and climate. In the last decade, high stearic sunflower lines have been developed in Spain to avoid the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in the food industry.
Sunflower oil is high in the essential vitamin E and low in saturated fat. The two most common types of sunflower oil are linoleic and high oleic. Linoleic sunflower oil is a common cooking oil that has high levels of polyunsaturated fat. It is also known for having a clean taste and low levels of trans fat. High oleic sunflower oils are classified as having monounsaturated levels of 80% and above. Newer versions of sunflower oil have been developed as a hybrid containing linoleic acid. They have monounsaturated levels lower than other oleic sunflower oils. The hybrid oil also has lower saturated fat levels than linoleic sunflower oil.
The phosphatides (0.1-0.2%) present in the oil are lecithin (38.5%) and cephalin (61.5%); they occur in combination with protein and carbohydrates.
Sunflower oil also contains lecithin, tocopherols, carotenoids and waxes. Sunflower oil's properties are typical of a vegetable triglyceride oil.