Safflower, sunflower, and canola oils are sold in high oleic, mid oleic, and low oleic (linoleic) versions based on the amount of oleic acid in the oil. These differences in the fatty acid content comes from natural genetic variations in the plants from which these oils come. These differences have been enhanced by conventional plant breeding methods.
Low oleic oils contain low amounts of oleic acid -- typically around 20% oleic. Low oleic (linoleic) types of canola, safflower, and sunflower oils contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids -- specifically linoleic and linolenic acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are important in the diet, but they become rancid fairly quickly in storage and break down quickly when heated.
Mid oleic oils contain rougly 50% to 65% oleic acid, and high oleic oils typically contain 70% or more oleic acid. These oils are good alternatives to olive oil, which contains about 70% oleic acid. Oils high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, do not break down as fast when used in the kitchen for frying and sauteeing. They work better in soap because they are not as prone to becoming rancid (also called DOS, dreaded orange spots).
How to tell the difference?
Check the label for phrases such as "good for frying or sauteeing" or "high temperature" or even "high oleic." All of these are telling tell you the oil is a mid or high oleic type. If you don't see any helpful information like that, then look closely at the nutrition information to find the answer.
For example, the nutrition information on a bottle of safflower oil shows this --
The key information to know is this:
Saturated Fat = 1 gram per serving
Polyunsaturated Fat = 2 grams per serving
Monounsaturated Fat = 11 grams per serving
Total Fat = 1 + 2 + 11 = 14 grams per serving
Or get this number directly by looking at the Total Fat amount on the label.
Quick and dirty estimate
Sometimes an estimate is all you need. Can you tell if the monounsaturated fat for this safflower oils is at least half of the total fat?
In this example, the monounsaturated fat is 11 grams and the total fat is 14 grams. The monounsaturated fat is a LOT more than half of the total. Looks high oleic safflower oil to me!
% oleic (monounsaturated) fat = (grams monounsaturated fat per serving) / (grams total fat per serving) X 100%
If the monounsaturated fat is around 70% or higher, it is a high-oleic oil.
If it is roughly between 50% and 65%, it is a mid-oleic oil.
If it is around 20%, it would be a low-oleic oil.
% oleic (monounsaturated) fat = 11 / 14 * 100 = 78.5%
The calculator gives the same answer as the quick and dirty check. This is high oleic (HO) safflower oil.
Broaddus, Hanna. Types Of Sunlower Oil: High Oleic vs. Mid Oleic vs. Linoleic. Centra Foods. Version dated 20 April 2016. http://www.centrafoods.com/blog/types-of-sunlower-oil-high-oleic-vs.-mid-oleic-vs.-linoleic
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