Safflower is considered to be one of the oldest crops in existence, with roots tracing all the way back to Ancient Egypt and Greece. Today, the safflower plant remains an important part of the food supply and is often used to make safflower oil, a common cooking oil that is also used to make a variety of processed foods, skincare products and more.
While some claim that safflower can promote inflammation and contribute to chronic disease, others point out that it contains several health-promoting compounds, including vitamin E, heart-healthy fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
So is safflower oil bad for you? Or is it among the healthy cooking oils that can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet?
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Safflower Oil?
Safflower oil is a type of vegetable oil made from the seeds of the safflower plant. To extract the oil, safflower seeds are crushed, pressed or treated with chemical solvents.
Not only is the oil widely used in cooking, but it’s also often used to produce margarine and certain processed products like salad dressings. It’s also found in a variety of skincare products and cosmetics, which is due to its ability to moisturize the skin and reduce inflammation.
In addition to its mild flavor, high smoke point and vibrant color, safflower is also naturally non-GMO and boasts a rich nutrition profile. In fact, each serving is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E.
Benefits/Uses for Skin and Beyond
1. Promotes Skin Health
Many people use safflower oil for skin health, thanks to its ability to soothe and moisturize dry skin. For this reason, safflower oil is commonly added to skincare products and cosmetics due to its skin-boosting benefits.
In addition to supplying a hearty dose of anti-inflammatory antioxidants, it’s also rich in vitamin E.
Vitamin E benefits for skin health are especially prevalent. Studies show that vitamin E can aid in the treatment of conditions like atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and acne, and it may even help enhance wound healing.
2. Good for High-Heat Cooking
Safflower oil has a smoke point of about 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that it is able to withstand very high temperatures without breaking down or oxidizing. This makes safflower oil for cooking a great choice, especially when using high-heat methods like frying, roasting or baking.
Besides preventing changes to the taste and aroma of foods, selecting cooking oils with a high smoke point for these cooking methods can also inhibit the formation of harmful compounds known as free radicals. These compounds can build up in the body and contribute to inflammation and disease, increasing the risk of serious conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
3. Improves Cholesterol Levels
Safflower oil is rich in unsaturated fats, which are a heart-healthy form of fat that have been linked to reduced cholesterol levels. They are especially high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to decrease levels of total and bad LDL cholesterol, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease.
Plus, according to one study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, consuming eight grams of safflower oil daily was able to reduce markers of inflammation and increase levels of HDL cholesterol, a beneficial type of cholesterol that helps remove fatty plaque from the arteries.
4. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Some studies have found that safflower oil benefits blood sugar control and may even reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. For example, a study conducted by Ohio State University found that consuming safflower oil daily for 16 weeks led to significant reductions in hemoglobin A1C, which is a marker used to measure long-term blood sugar control.
What’s more, a study out of Italy also found that swapping out saturated fat for monounsaturated fats like safflower oil could improve insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to use insulin more efficiently to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
5. Decreases Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is believed to be at the root of a number of different diseases, including autoimmune conditions, heart disease and cancer. Some studies have found that safflower oil may possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce several key markers of inflammation.
Keep in mind that safflower oil also contains high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which can actually contribute to inflammation when consumed in high amounts. Be sure to pair safflower with a variety of other healthy fats, including plenty of omega-3 foods, to help maximize the potential health benefits.
Risks and Side Effects
Many claim that the CLA found in the oil can help promote weight loss. However, despite the many glowing CLA safflower oil reviews, safflower oil is not a good source of CLA and contains minimal amounts compared to other foods like grass-fed beef and dairy.
Additionally, although there are plenty of CLA safflower diet reviews out there claiming that there’s a link between safflower oil and weight loss, most research shows that it has no impact on body weight.
Furthermore, safflower oil is very high in fat and calories. While it can definitely be included in moderation as part of a balanced diet, consuming high amounts can increase your calorie consumption, which could contribute to weight gain.
Many people also wonder: Is safflower oil inflammatory? Many vegetable oils, including safflower oil, contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which are a type of essential fatty acids found in a variety of foods.
However, having a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can contribute to inflammation. Therefore, it’s best to ensure you’re getting a good amount of omega-3 foods in your diet as well, along with other healthy fats like olive oil, fish, coconut oil and grass-fed butter.
Keep in mind that safflower may also interfere with blood clotting, which could increase the risk of bleeding in those with certain conditions. For this reason, if you are taking any medications for blood clotting or have upcoming surgery, it’s best to consult with your doctor before making changes to your diet to prevent any CLA safflower oil side effects.
Dosage/How to Use
Wondering where to buy safflower oil and how much you should include in your diet?
Keep in mind that safflower oil is available in both refined and unrefined varieties. Although unrefined safflower is less processed, it also tends to have a lower smoke point.
Consider your personal needs and preferences when shopping for safflower oil to find what works for you.
The amount that you should enjoy as part of a healthy diet can vary based on a number of different factors, including your weight, gender and activity level.
However, as a general rule of thumb, the United States Department of Agriculture has set the following guidelines for daily oil consumption:
- Children 2–3 years old: 3 teaspoons
- Children 4–8 years old: 4 teaspoons
- Girls 9–13 years old: 5 teaspoons
- Girls 14–18 years old: 5 teaspoons
- Boys 9–13 years old: 5 teaspoons
- Boys 14–18 years old: 6 teaspoons
- Women 19–30 years old: 6 teaspoons
- Women 31+ years old: 5 teaspoons
- Men 19–30 years old: 7 teaspoons
- Men 31+ years old: 6 teaspoons
Keep in mind that these amounts should include other healthy fats as well, including nuts, seeds, avocados, nut butter, grass-fed butter and other types of vegetable oil.
If you’re following a ketogenic diet or are very active, these amounts may be a bit higher for you.
Safflower oil is ideal for high-heat cooking methods like roasting, baking and frying. Because of its distinct color and aroma, it can even be used as a budget-friendly saffron substitute in certain dishes as well.
For topical use, simply add a few drops of the oil to dry, rough or scaly areas of the skin. Alternatively, try mixing it with a few drops of essential oil, such as tea tree or chamomile, and massaging onto the skin.
- Safflower oil is a type of vegetable oil made from the safflower plant. It is commonly used for cooking and added to margarine, salad dressing and skincare products.
- Some of the potential safflower oil benefits include better blood sugar control, reduced cholesterol levels, decreased inflammation and enhanced skin health.
- Because it has a high smoke point, it can also be used for high-heat cooking methods like frying or roasting without breaking down or oxidizing.
- In high amounts, it could contribute to weight gain and inflammation. It may also interfere with blood clotting for those with bleeding disorders.
- To start taking advantage of the potential benefits of safflower, try incorporating it into your natural skincare routine or swapping it in for other fats in your diet.