Across the globe, palm oil consumption and usage are greatly increasing. This magical fruit is extracted to make a unique kind of oil that can make cookies more delicious, soap bubblier and fries crispier. Also, the oil can even make lipstick suppler and keep ice cream from melting down. For all these amazing qualities, people all over the world are buying fruit and its oil. However, on the contrary, it also poses certain risks to the heart. There are also certain environmental issues related to the steady increase in its production.

Read this article to get an insight into palm oil and its effect on health and ecosystem balance.
Palm oil

What Is Palm Oil?

Palm oil is derived from fruit of oil palms plant. The chief source of palm oil is the Elaeis guieensis tree, which is indigenous to the coastal regions of West and Southwest Africa. A similar oil palm plant known as Elaeis oleifera is found in South America, but it’s rarely grown for commercial purposes. But a hybrid variety of the two plants are at times used in the production of palm oil.

In recent times, the cultivation of oil palm has been extended to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Now these countries produce more than 80% of the world’s palm oil source. It is one of the least expensive oils and most widely used globally, accounting for about 1/3 of global plant oil production.

Well, it’s significant to note that palm oil should not be confused with palm kernel oil. Though both are derived from the same plant, palm kernel oil is extracted from the seed of the fruit, and it delivers different health incentives.

Difference Between Unrefined And Refined Palm Oil

Unrefined palm oil is raw oil that is extracted directly from the palm plant, and it is reddish in colour with a unique flavour and odour. This oil is mostly used in traditional cooking in West African countries.

While the refined palm oil goes through several processing steps to render it a neutral colour and flavour. It is more extensively used in food manufacturing products.

Also Read: Cooking Oils: How To Choose The Right One

Palm Oil Nutrition

The nutritional value of one tablespoon of palm oil is:

Calories: 120kcal

Fat: 14 grams

Saturated fat: 7 grams

Monounsaturated fat: 5 grams

Polyunsaturated fat: 1 gram

Vitamin E: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)

The calories of palm oil come from fat and its fatty acid breakdown is mostly 50% saturated fatty acids, 40% monounsaturated fatty acids and 10% polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Health Benefits of Palm Oil

Boosts Brain Health

Being an excellent source of tocotrienols, a type of vitamin E with powerful antioxidant actions palm oil is believed to improve brain function.

Studies reveal that the presence of tocotrienols in palm oil may shield the brain cells, slow dementia progression, lower the risk of stroke and avert the growth of brain lesions. Aside from these, red palm oil contains antioxidants carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A.

Augments Heart Health

Palm oil has been attributed with heart-protecting qualities that avert the risk of cardiovascular disease. This oil is beneficial in lowering the risk factors of heart disease such as diminishing bad (LDL) cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol. However, it’s vital to remember that an increase in or decrease in cholesterol levels cannot predict heart disease risk and there are several other factors involved.

Supplements Vitamin A Levels

Red palm is intrinsically rich in carotenoids, which the body can convert into vitamin A. Thus, supports the improvement of the vitamin A status in people who lack this vitamin. Also, a study revealed that red palm oil supplementation can increase vitamin A levels in both children and adults.

Also Read: Rice Bran Oil: Nutrition, Extraction Process, Health Benefits For Heart, Diabetes, Skin And Side Effects

Controversies About Palm Oil

There are numerous ethical problems regarding the impacts of palm oil manufacturing on the environment and communities. In the past decades, huge demand for palm oil has led to an extraordinary expansion of oil production in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. These countries have ideal climates that are best suited for oil palm tree cultivation. But to accommodate oil palm plantations large areas of tropical forests and peatland are being destroyed.

Deforestation is claimed to negatively impact net carbon emissions, as the forests hold a significant role in decreasing greenhouse gases by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Furthermore, the destruction of landscapes causes changes in the ecosystem that threaten the health and diversity of wildlife. Thus, to ensure that the palm oil you buy is sustainable and ethically cultivated, buy from small farms or brands that have been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).