Palm oil contains significant health benefits, including protecting brain function and increasing vitamin A levels to enhance its absorption. It is also associated with reducing risk factors causing heart disease.
Nevertheless, the current topic, ‘Is Palm Oil Bad For You?’ has stirred a good deal of concern, indicating its harmful impacts. The current article, therefore, serves to identify the benefits and risks of palm oil on one’s health in the first place.
Palm Oil And Its Usages
Palm oil is extracted from the fleshy fruit of the oil palms. It generally comes in unrefined forms and due to this reason, is mostly described as ‘red palm oil.’ This is because of its reddish-orange color in its purest form.
For information, the Elaeis guineensis tree has been identified as the main source of palm oil. These trees are the natives of the coastal countries of West and Southwest Africa, namely Angola, Gabon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The abundance of the source of palm oil in these regions does speak of its popularity in terms of its usage.
Palm oil is also sourced from the tree, Elaeis Oleifera, mostly found in South America. However, there is no commercial utilization of this tree, signifying its limited availability in the region. Interestingly, people tend to produce palm oil from a hybrid of these trees.
The increase in demand for the product has further prompted the need to plant more trees across the globe. Of note, countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia have started producing and using Palm oil. They have even increased their supply to 80% from a global perspective.
Because of its less expensive nature and high use potential, palm oil has gained worldwide significance. About one-third of global plant oil production comes from palm oil demand
Palm oil exists in both unrefined and refined forms. The former, including color and unique flavor and odor make palm oil highly useful in traditional cooking in countries like Nigeria.
On the other hand, refined palm oil follows considerable processing steps to give it a neutral color and flavor. This form of palm oil is used mostly in food manufacturing companies. Of note, frying mass-produced food also makes good utilization of this oil.
Other usages of refined palm oil have included the following:
- An additional ingredient in peanut and other nut butter. This is to stabilize and prevent oil from separating and settling at the jar top.
- Preparing cereals.
- Baked goods, including bread, cookies, muffins, etc.
- Protein and diet bars.
- Making chocolates.
- Utilized in coffee creamers.
- Making margarines.
Potential Health Benefits of Palm Oil
Palm oil carries many nutritional benefits. The reddish-orange color/pigmentation of unrefined palm oil is derived from antioxidants, otherwise termed carotenoids. Since these include beta carotene, it is this component that helps one’s body to absorb vitamin A.
The other health benefits of palm oil include:
- Protection of brain health and function: Being an excellent source of tocotrienols, these contain vitamin E to support brain health.
- Reducing risk factors related to heart disease: Palm oil has the potential to reduce heart disease risks. Its specific ingredients optimize i.e., high LDL and low HDL levels.
Risks Associated With Palm Oil Consumption
Though palm oil carries various health benefits, it also involves significant risks:
- High Cholesterol: Being an edible oil, daily or excess consumption of the same is likely to increase cholesterol levels, a primary risk factor for heart disease. Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats are the main culprits in this regard.
- Likely Impact on Breastfeeding Mothers: There is unestablished information related to the possible side effects on breastfeeding mothers. However, this fact is yet to be established.
- Interaction with Medications That Slow Blood Clotting: There is a significant likelihood for palm oil to interact with medications that slow blood clotting. Adding palm oil thus adds to the effect, causing profuse bleeding through simple bruising.
Having had a brief discussion regarding the benefits and risks of palm oil, this has truly initiated a question, “Is palm oil good or bad for health? Answering this question is highly dependent on the way palm oil is ingested – in amount or frequency.
Individuals consuming it in huge quantities should consider the possible side effects of the same. Moreover, the benefits of this oil in improving heart and brain function should be noted by ingesting it in the amount prescribed.
Excessive or daily intake, especially for adults or children, is not considered acceptable because of the saturated and monounsaturated fat contained there.