Some nutrition professionals have given Palm oil a bad rap. What nutritionists are referencing, however, is palm kernel oil. Palm fruit oil, on the other hand, also known as red palm oil, is a natural plant oil derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. There are plenty of potential benefits, particularly when consuming palm fruit oil instead of palm kernel oil that most of us aren’t aware of.
Palm Fruit Oil vs. Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil is made from the kernels of the palm fruit. It’s highly saturated fat, which is why health professionals caution against it. It is most often found in products such as baked goods, chocolate, and other sweets. It can also be used as a thickener in processed foods. The oil is usually refined, which means it has been chemically treated to remove impurities and make it more stable at high temperatures.
Palm fruit oil, on the other hand, is made from the pulp of the red palm fruit that has been pressed to extract its oil. This means that it contains other nutrients, just like virgin olive oil. This type of oil is more likely to be found in health food stores than conventional grocery stores because it’s harder for manufacturers to make money from this product since they have to manually extract it from palm fruit rather than using machines at factories as manufacturers do with palm kernel oil.
Read: The Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil
Health Benefits of Palm Fruit Oil
As already mentioned, while palm kernel oil is best when avoided, palm fruit oil is a secret nutritional powerhouse. These are reasons why you should start including a bit of palm fruit oil in your daily diet.
Rich in Antioxidants
Palm fruit oil is an excellent source of antioxidants, including tocotrienols (part of the vitamin E family), which have been shown to have greater antioxidant activity than tocopherols. These antioxidants have reduced the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease. Some research also shows that this antioxidant could have a powerful effect on our brain health. (1)
Improve Heart Health
According to research, consuming palm oil has been linked to lower cholesterol levels, specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is known as the “bad” cholesterol. One study has found that when individuals living in various countries, such as Nigeria and China, consumed palm oil regularly in their diet, their LDL cholesterol levels were lower. (2)
Good for Brain Health
Palm oil has been shown to be helpful in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The high concentration of tocotrienols, as well as carotenoids, may benefit both cognitive and neural health. (3)
Nutrients in palm oil play a role in cancer prevention
Research suggests that consuming palm oil may help reduce the risk of cancer development. Studies have shown that red palm oil contains carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which has been linked to reducing the risk of cancer and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. This is particularly true for breast cancer. (4)
Supports Immune System
Another benefit of palm oil is its ability support the immune system. The vitamin E found in palm oil is responsible for this benefit since it helps to enhance immune function and fight off infections. This is important for anyone who wants to keep their immune system strong and prevent the onset of infections. Red palm oil is especially beneficial for those suffering from certain autoimmune disorders. (5)
Despite all of this, palm oil has been at the heart of much controversy in the wellness industry. The reason for the controversy is that palm oil is a highly processed food. It’s been found to contain a large amount of trans fat, which can lead to negative health implications. However, many companies have taken steps to eliminate this trans fat from their products and make them safe for consumption once again. If you’re interested in using red palm oil as part of your wellness routine, be sure to check whether or not it’s been processed with trans fats.
Another controversy is deforestation. Palm oil is a highly cultivated crop, and its production can be destructive to rainforests. As such, many companies have taken steps to ensure they’re only buying palm oil from sustainable sources. If you’re interested in using red palm oil as part of your wellness routine, be sure to check whether or not the brand you’re using has committed to sustainability.
The Bottom Line
Although palm oil has been criticized in the past for its environmental impact and high saturated fat content, consuming palm fruit oil, instead of palm kernel oil, has the potential to provide several health benefits. The high concentration of antioxidants, ability to lower cholesterol levels, and potential to help with chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, make it a beneficial addition to your diet. Its potential to boost the immune system also makes it an excellent choice in these times when it’s essential to boost your body’s defenses. Palm fruit oil is still high in saturated fat so it is always important to consume everything in moderation and to choose environmentally friendly sources to ensure that you reap the benefits of this excellent oil without harming the environment.
Keep Reading: Olive oil: Health benefits, how to use, and what to look out for
- “Palm Oil–Derived Natural Vitamin E α-Tocotrienol in Brain Health and Disease.” NCBI. Chandan K. Sen, PhD, et al. June 2011.
- “Palm oil and the heart: A review.” NCBI. Osaretin J Odia, et al. March 2015.
- “Oil palm phenolics confer neuroprotective effects involving cognitive and motor functions in mice.” NCBI. Soon-Sen Leow, et al. September 2013.
- “An Updated Comprehensive Review on Vitamin A and Carotenoids in Breast Cancer: Mechanisms, Genetics, Assessment, Current Evidence, and Future Clinical Implications.” NCBI. Jee Ah Kim, et al. September 2021.
- “The Role of Vitamin E in Immunity.” NCBI. Ga Young Lee and Sung Nim Han. November 2018.