Palm oil is a nutritional wonder. Its been used by human populations for at least 5000 years and today we’re finding out the technical details behind its benefits.
What oils should you be cooking with?
The issues surrounding what oils to eat and use for cooking are not too straightforward. Here is my introduction to what you should understand about oils.
To make a long story short, saturated fat has been wrongly demonized and is essential to health. Palm oil not only supplies fatty acids essential for proper growth and development, it is also packed with an assortment of vitamins, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients important for good health.
When I’m talking about palm oil in this article, I’m talking about the oil of the pulp of the fruit of the oil palm trees, not the oil of the kernel of the fruit which has different properties. When you buy it in the store its most likely the one I’m talking about, though its good to be aware the kernel oil is also available and different in important ways.
The Sacred Palm and its fruits
Among the many reasons that the Palm tree is revered by traditional cultures, one good reason is the blessings of the oil of its fruit. It has such a rich history…
- It has been entombed with the pharaohs so that they have access to it in the afterlife.
- In the 15th century, when Portuguese explorer Ca’da Mosto tasted palm oil in Africa, he wrote: “It smells of violets, tastes like olives and has a colour that blends foods together like saffron, but even all this can’t sufficiently describe its special qualities”.
- In Asia , palm oil is also referred to as ‘gold oil’
- Rudolf Diesel in 1900 used vegetable oil as fuel for his car, from which the motor engine subsequently took its name. Years later, palm oil was successfully developed as a biofuel for cars.
It has been a remedy of choice in many traditional cultures of especially Africa and Asia. Even today palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia, Brazil, and beyond.
Scientific stuff: Carotenes
The traditional admonishment for nursing mothers to supplement their diet with palm oil to enrich their milk has been noted in several cultures. Studies now show that adding palm oil into the diet can double or triple the amount of vitamin A in mother’s milk!
In fact palm oil is the richest dietary source of provitamin A carotenes (beta-carotene and alpha- carotene).
It has something like 15 times the amount of provitamin A carotenes than carrots!
Notice Palm Oil is the same color as Carrots?
The color comes from carotenes such as beta-carotene and lycopene – these are what give tomatoes, carrots, and other fruits and vegetables their rich red and orange colors. Not only does palm oil contain beta and alpha carotenes and lycopene, but also at least 20 other carotenes.
Carotenes are valuable nutrients and powerful antioxidants. Also, our body can convert them into vitamin A, an essential nutrient which is only found in animal foods! But luckily carotenes from fruits and vegetables can supply the needed vitamin A if an adequate amount of good fat is also consumed. Palm oil itself has that fat.
Plus, Vitamin E –> antioxidant
Palm oil is a great source of natural vitamin E. It has a high amount of tocotrienols, all four of them, which are a very potent form of vitamin E. Vitamin E is known primarily as an anti-oxidant, but it is also involved in immune function, cell signaling, regulation of gene expression, and other metabolic processes.Recent studies show tocotrienols are important in the protection of the skin, especially in the prevention of oxidative stress and skin anti-aging and wound-healing. Maybe some of the beautiful skin attributed to Africans and Asians is also a reflection of generations of consumption of good oils, not just strictly melanin?
Palm oil then is a fantastic antioxidant because of not only the vitamin E tocotrienols, and carotenes, but also vitamins K, CoQ10, squalene, phytosterols, flavonoids. phenolic acids and glycolipids.
Its high antioxidant profile makes it a potent anticancer food. Studies show that palm tocotrienols inhibit the growth of skin, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, colon, prostate, breast, and other cancers. Most of the research has been with breast cancer.
And it Protects Against Heart Disease!
Populations that have a high consumption of palm oil have the lowest incidences of heart disease. Look at Nigeria, Malyisa, Indonesia, and Papua New Guina. The science is that the high antioxidant content keeps inflammation and free radicals under control. Further, tocotrienols strengthen the heart so that it can better withstand stress. It helps maintain blood pressure and studies show that adding it to the diet can remove plaque buildup in arteries and, therefore, reverse the process of atherosclerosis. This has been shown in both animal and human studies.
To go back to the question of what oils you should be cooking with. Another clue is that the high saturated fat and antioxidant content of palm oil make it extremely resistant to oxidation and free-radical formation. Probably the biggest problem with eating out is that everything is made with rancid and most likely-GMO light vegetable oils that cannot tolerate the heat to which they are subjected.
More good alternatives are coconut oil and real butter.
One of the many benefits of palm oil is indeed its use for cooking and baking. It is very heat-resistant and has a high smoking point, very stable.
More Palm Oil Benefits
Neurological diseases like alzheimers, parkinsons, huntingtons and schizophrenia have a lot in common with each other. They are all products of poor circulation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress generates free radicals. One of the problems with free radicals is that they damage brain and nerve tissue. Poor circulation affects the brain by starving it from needed oxygen and glucose which leads to brain cell death. Palm oil benefits these issue by reducing oxidative stress and improving blood flow.
Palm oil can be invaluable in the treatment of many diseases as well as helping to prevent premature aging.
Would you believe using palm oil as a biofuel is more environmentally friendly and its more advantageous than other combustible fuels such as petrodiesel and standard petrol? Colombia has pledged to produce biodiesel using palm oil mixed with diesel. Beyond that palm oil can be used in candles, soaps, and much more.