Palm oil has become the most popular vegetable oil in the world. Many issues have been raised in terms of its nutritional value, and the environmental effect the cooking oil’s popularity has had on the Earth. The big demand has raised questions about its sustainability. These are valid issues worth considering when picking vegetable oils for cooking and baking, for example. But is palm oil bad for you?
What Is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is produced from an African palm tree. This tree has been farmed for centuries to extract oil. The product also produces something called “palm-kernel oil” that’s extracted from the tree’s seeds. However, in recent years the surge in demand has caused environmental experts to warn about the negative effects this has had on the Earth’s ecosystem.
Pure palm oil is tougher to find but is available in many Southeast Asian and African countries. Meanwhile, you can find the products in specialty stores. Some blends include palm oil and other ingredients. One distillation process removes certain substances from the tree’s fruit for various uses.
Palm Oil Nutritional Value
Palm oil is relatively low in omega-6. Health experts generally recommend that people consume a high ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 oils. However, it’s worth comparing this oil with other olive and coconut oils, which are usually used for Keto-friendly recipes like fat bombs. This adds a high amount of healthy fat to your diet, which is critical for low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets.
In terms of its nutritional value, this oil is high in healthy fats, including omega-3s. It has a high saturated fat content. It is often considered less healthy versus unsaturated fat. However, a big factor is a source and plant-based saturated fat is considered healthier than animal-sourced fat.
The oil’s saturated fat makes it a good option for cooking oil. That’s the same with other high omega-3 oils like coconut and olive. The oil can maintain its structure at high heats, and won’t change/break down during the heating process.
One drawback of the palm tree-based oil is it can be unhealthy to consume large amounts. So it’s best to cook with a small amount.
You can find several processed foods that have palm oil. It’s believed to be a cheap/stable oil, which explains its popularity. The oil is also used for other functions like cosmetics (soaps/moisturizers).
Is Palm Oil Bad for You?
This is a loaded question so it’s important to take a closer look at the pros/cons of natural oil. One big issue is the high amount of saturated fat in the oil. Here’s what you get in 1 tablespoon:
There are about 115 calories. That’s about 5% on a 2000-calorie diet so it isn’t sky-high. However, keep in mind this is just 1 TBSP of oil. It’s important to add up the calories of the stuff you’re cooking/baking so you’ll know the total calorie count of the dish/meal.
You get a total of 0g. This isn’t a good or bad thing since it’s cooking oil. If you’re on a particular diet like Keto, Paleo, or Vegan it’s important to add diet-friendly ingredients that help you get all your daily macro/micronutrients. For example, you could add some meat/fish, beans, dairy, etc.
There’s 14g of total fat, which includes 7g of saturated fat. This figure is quite high compared to other oils, which raises concerns among some health experts. On one hand, keep in mind this is a plant-based source so it’s not like eating some fatty beef/pork.
In general, it’s recommended that people consume a high ratio of unsaturated/saturated fat. This oil is 50/50. There are mixed results about how unhealthy any saturated fat is. It’s better to be on the safe side and limit how much high-saturated fat cooking oils you use.
Vitamins and minerals
You get 11% of Vitamin E’s daily value (DV). Vitamin E. This is a good amount and can help you reach your total DV for the day. This is an important vitamin/antioxidant that provides various benefits for skin, hair, etc.
The oil is also high in antioxidants, including “carotenoids.” That includes beta-carotene, which gives carrots their orange color. This is an important pigment since the body converts to Vitamin A.
Top Alternatives to Palm Oil
You can also find locally-grown oils as an alternative to this oil. For example, Malaysia and Indonesia are the world’s largest makers of palm oil. If you buy local oils, you’ll reduce the high demand for those countries to support your local economy, and pick a “greener” option.
Used coffee grounds
You can add used coffee grounds to provide some nutrients for potted plants. You can find some organizations that use old coffee grounds to make a palm oil alternative. Studies show that 6 million TONS of this waste ends up in landfills every year.
Companies like Revive Eco produce a palm oil-like product that can be used for drinks, food, medicines, and cosmetics.
These are some interesting alternatives to the plant-based oil that are being researched. For example, one company uses stuff from fungi to produce an oil that resembles palm oil. Meanwhile, in the UK scientists are doing similar studies to produce oil from yeast. Both of these options seem promising.
It might be surprising that the little critters can replace vegetable oil. One possible use of algae is as a biofuel. Palm oil is a popular type of biodiesel. Much of the industry’s resources are used for that function. It’s projected that by the year 20205 lots of algae biofuel (10,000) barrels could be made daily.
Sustainable palm oil
This is a pseudo alternative because it’s still palm oil. One of the main issues is whether the oil manufacturer uses sustainable farming for the palm trees. This involves doing some research.
However, you can find some companies that use eco-friendly practices to produce their oil. Sometimes companies won’t provide transparency about these issues. If they don’t, then you should keep shopping after learning is palm oil bad for you.