How many of you are confused about what you read in the papers and hear on the news weekly? What’s healthy and what’s not?
Well one item talked about in the gym this week has been palm oil and is it healthy and safe to eat.
All around the world, palm oil consumption is increasing. However, it is a highly controversial food.
On one hand, it’s reported to provide several health benefits.
On the other, it may pose risks to heart health. There are also environmental concerns related to the steady increase in its production.
What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil comes from the fleshy fruit of oil palms. It is sometimes referred to as red palm oil because of its reddish-orange colour. Palm oil comes from palm trees native to Africa, where it has been consumed for thousands of years. It is semi-solid at room temperature and differs from palm kernel oil in colour and nutritional composition.
What is Palm Oil used for?
Palm oil is used for cooking and is also added to many ready-to-eat foods in your grocery store. Its taste is considered savoury and earthy. Some people describe its flavour as being similar to carrot or pumpkin.
In addition to nut butters, palm oil can be found in several other foods, including: Cereals, Baked goods like bread, cookies and muffins, Protein bars and diet bars, Chocolate, Coffee creamers and Margarine. Palm oil is used in cooking, especially in West African cuisines and curries. It is also found in certain products and fuels.
What’s the nutrition of one tablespoon (14 grams) of palm oil:
• Calories: 114
• Fat: 14 grams
• Saturated fat: 7 grams
• Monounsaturated fat: 5 grams
• Polyunsaturated fat: 1.5 grams
• Vitamin E: 11% of the RDI
All of palm oil’s calories come from fat. Half of which is saturated. It also contains vitamin E and antioxidants called carotenoids, which your body can convert into vitamin A.
What health benefits does it have?
Palm oil may help protect brain function, reduce heart disease risk factors and increase vitamin A levels in certain people.
What damage can it do? Palm oil may increase certain heart disease risk factors in some people. Repeatedly reheating the oil may decrease its antioxidant capacity and contribute to the development of heart disease.
Is it bad for the environment?
There are several ethical issues regarding palm oil production’s effects on the environment, wildlife and communities. In the past decades, increasing demand has led to an unprecedented expansion of palm oil production in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. These countries have humid, tropical climates that are ideally suited for growing oil palm trees. However, in order to accommodate oil palm plantations, tropical forests and peatland are being destroyed.
Replacing tropical forests and peatland with palm oil trees is devastating the environment, wildlife and people’s quality of life.
Should I use it?
The effects of its production on the environment, health of wild animals and lives of indigenous people are deeply concerning. If you want to use palm oil, purchase ethical, RSPO-certified brands. Additionally, since you can get similar health benefits from other oils and foods, it’s probably best to use other fat sources for most of your daily needs.
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