Is Palm Oil Really Bad For You?
Although most people believe that palm oil is unhealthy, it has a lot of nutritional value. Palm oil is preferable to butter and superior to high-trans fat shortenings. Besides being rich in healthy fats, it is also an amazing source of antioxidants, and vitamins, mostly vitamin E.
Now, to the million-dollar question: How good or bad is palm oil for you? This article will address this frequently asked question based on our research and the responses we have received from nutritional experts.
What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is the vegetable oil that is produced the most frequently worldwide. It is an edible vegetable oil with the scientific name Elaeis Guineensis that originates from the fruits of oil palm trees.
This oil is a rich source of dietary fibers, crucial components of a balanced diet. However, there are two types of palm oil: crude oil, which is produced by pressing the fruit, and palm kernel oil, which is produced by chopping up the stone (or kernel) in the fruit’s center.
It is regarded as a low-cost oil since it frequently yields more than other vegetable oils while having a lower overall cost of production. According to the Wildlife Federation, Indonesia and Malaysia account for more than 85% of the world’s palm oil supply. Other oil producers include Nigeria, Ecuador, Colombia, and Thailand.
Palm oil is produced from the fruit or kernel of the oil palm tree and is the most widely used vegetable oil worldwide. Indonesia and Malaysia produce most of this oil consumed in the US.
Different Forms of Palm Oil
Unrefined Palm Oil
According to certified Dietitian Gillespie, Palm oil that has not been refined has undergone fewer processing steps. As a result, compared to refined oil, which is more neutral, it has a greater color and flavor.
Unrefined palm oil is unprocessed oil extracted straight from the palm tree. It has a reddish color with a distinct flavor and odor. This kind is frequently used in traditional West African cuisine, including Nigeria. Red palm oil, often known as unrefined palm oil, is less widespread and more of a specialty item in Western diets.
Refined Palm Oil
Crude palm oil is bleached, deodorized, and neutralized to get the refined version. Refined oil is the most generally used version and undergoes much processing to create its final result.
Gillespie said nearly 50% of processed foods, including peanut butter, pizza, coffee creamers, margarine, and chocolate, as well as many personal care products, contain refined oil, which serves as a stabilizer.
She said, “We don’t use palm oil for cooking; instead, most of the palm oil we consume in Western diets is typically found in these processed items.”
Many processed goods and personal care items use the refined type as a highly processed oil stabilizer. Unrefined oil is less intensively processed and typically has a minor nutritional advantage.
They are comparable in terms of nutrition and health. However, processing removes the carotenoids found in unprocessed oil. As a result, the refined oil cannot offer this health advantage.
Health Benefits of Palm Oil
The consumption of this type of oil is increasing globally. It is, however, a very contentious meal. And while it is said to have several health benefits. However, it is rumored to be dangerous. The health benefits of palm oil include the following:
- Maintaining brain health
- Lowering the risk factors for heart disease
- Increasing the status of vitamin A
Maintaining Brain Health
Tocotrienols, a vitamin E compound with potent antioxidant capabilities that may help with brain function, are abundant in palm oil.
Studies on both animals and people indicate that the tocotrienols found in this oil may help safeguard the delicate polyunsaturated brain fats, decrease the onset of dementia, lower the risk of stroke, and stop the development of brain lesions.
Lowering the Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Heart disease prevention is said to be a benefit of palm oil. This oil positively affects heart disease risk variables, including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol, even if some study results have been conflicting.
When used in place of trans fats, this oil is thought to improve heart health. Saturated fats like oleic and linoleic acids, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats are also included in palm oil.
When you ingest it as part of an otherwise healthy, balanced diet, studies found that this oil protects the heart and blood vessels and has no additional risk for heart disease.
Increasing The Status of Vitamin A
Because red palm oil is high in carotenoids, which the body may convert into vitamin A, it may also aid those deficient or in danger of becoming so.
A study showed that eating two to three tablespoons of red palm oil every day for eight weeks increased the blood levels of vitamin A. This condition makes it very difficult to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, mostly in persons with cystic fibrosis.
All types of palm oil have antioxidants, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats, which may be good for the heart and the brain. Carotenoids in unrefined oil are abundant and may help increase vitamin A.
The Downsides of Palm Oil
Nations like Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia have tropical, humid temperatures perfect for raising oil palms. However, industries destroy tropical forests and peatlands to make room for oil palm plantations.
Deforestation can negatively impact net carbon emissions since forests are essential for lowering greenhouse gas emissions because they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Also, the degradation of natural landscapes alters the ecology, endangering the well-being and variety of species. The bad news is that palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid associated with an elevated risk of heart disease, is particularly abundant in this oil.
However, there is no real evidence to support this. Additionally, oil companies have claimed human rights violations, including unauthorized clearance of farmland and forests, inadequate pay, hazardous working conditions, and drastically diminished quality of life.
The enormous industry growth brought on by the demand brings deforestation in tropical regions where palm farms can thrive. For the most sustainable options, purchase this oil from small farms or look for products that have received RSPO certification.
So, is Palm Oil Bad for You?
Even while the oil is abundant in some nutrients, such as vitamins A and E (as long as it is unrefined), its high palmitic acid character may raise some questions if your diet doesn’t include a healthy balance of fats.
“The fatty profile of this oil is appropriate and [believed to] support heart health when used in moderation. However, excessive consumption could have the opposite impact,” Gillespie explains.
The choice of whether to use palm oil or not depends on you. However, it is a good oil than other oils. Although one with the longest shelf life is palm oil, improper storage can cause it to go rancid (in a cool, dark place like a pantry).
When this occurs, the oil undergoes oxidation, which might boost the body’s generation of free radicals. But this is true for any frying oil. In addition to being a staple in cooking, most people utilize this in various snacks, wax, cosmetics, and skincare goods.
Even now, it serves both medical and biofuel functions. It is good for your health. People with diabetes can use it since it lowers blood sugar levels and boosts antioxidant status.
Palm oil is not harmful to your health when used in moderation. But it is also not very healthy. We advise taking the refined version in moderation.
Palm Oil vs. Other Oils
Palm Oil vs. Canola Oil
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are one of the healthiest fat you can consume and are prevalent in canola oil. There is some uncertainty in this, though. Canola oil frequently has a depletion of minerals and antioxidants during refining, and PUFAs are quite unstable.
Inflammation may result from eating too many PUFAs or having an unhealthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. You would be better off avoiding canola oil, even though it has a neutral flavor and high smoking point (400 degrees Fahrenheit).
Palm Oil vs. Olive Oil
Monounsaturated fat, also known as oleic acid or omega-9 fatty acid, is abundant in olive oil and is more heat resistant than polyunsaturated fats. The most beneficial oil is olive oil. The evidence is quite clear that this monounsaturated-fat-rich cooking oil.
It can reduce inflammation while protecting against heart disease, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides (while simultaneously boosting HDL). Olive oil has a relatively high smoking point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit, even though there has been much debate over whether or not you should use it for cooking. It is still a great choice if the cooking temperature is reasonable.
Palm Oil vs. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil, another choice high in monounsaturated fats, has the highest smoke point of the group (520 degrees Fahrenheit), surpassing even that of oil. Additionally, it has a neutral flavor, allowing you to use it in any baking or culinary recipe without changing the flavor.
It’s healthier for you and a great alternative to canola oil. Oleic acid and other plant substances like phytosterols, polyphenols, and tocopherols that support heart health are abundant in avocado oil.
Palm Oil vs. Sunflower
Sunflower oil has a high smoke point, similar to palm, making it suited for high-heat cooking. In addition, sunflower oil is most frequently offered as “high-oleic” oil, which is more stable. A monounsaturated fat called oleic acid has also been connected to greater heart function and less inflammation.
Palm Oil vs. Coconut Oil
Due to the substantial amount of saturated fat it contains, coconut oil has also received criticism. Although it contains some palmitic acid, most of it consists of lauric acid, which has also received unjustified criticism.
The Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society notes that most of the lauric acid you consume goes to the liver, where it is instantly utilized as energy. As a result, coconut oil may help with weight loss.
Although coconut has a reasonably high smoke point for cooking—350 degrees Fahrenheit—it is less stable than palm oil. However, because it contains less saturated fat than coconut, research suggests it is better for cardiovascular health than coconut oil.
Although it has a very high smoking point, this oil ranks among the pack compared to other common vegetable oils in terms of health advantages. However, this is less appealing because most people consume palm oil from foods rather than using it in their kitchens.
Palm oil is nutritional, but it’s advisable to take unrefined palm oil in the right proportion. It is rich in Vitamin E, antioxidants, and even Vitamin A. This oil can be a healthy supplement if consumed as part of a balanced diet.
The oil’s detrimental effects on the environment and wildlife habitats are its major downside. Also, when it comes to cooking oil, olive oil is a great choice because it reduces inflammation.
You can use this oil for several purposes, but people mostly use it for cooking and frying. If you want to include this oil in your meals, it is a great choice but choose healthy ones.