22 Miraculous Benefits of Palm Oil

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

When one hears about palm oil, he or she would often confuse it with coconut oil or palm kernel oil because of its source. Palm oil is also mistaken with other vegetable oils because it can be used for cooking and it does not have any distinct taste that would help it stand above the rest.

Palm oil, as the name implies came from the fruit of oil palms. It often looks reddish in color because it contains more beta-carotene content than carrots. What makes it different from both coconut and palm kernel oil is that its color is different, and its saturated fat content is lower than the others. Palm oil only has 49% saturated fat content, while palm kernel oil and coconut oil have 81% and 86% saturated fats. Palm oil also has high saturated vegetable fat content and when placed in room temperature, it is partly solid.

Red palm oil does come in another type: crude red palm oil. What makes it different from the usual type is that it is refined and bleached. As a result, this specific type of palm oil does not have carotenoids and has a different scent than red palm oil.

The first dated records of palm oil use can be dated as far as 5,000 years ago. According to discoveries made in the 1800s, palm oil was used as early as 3,000 B.C. and it was traded throughout the ancient world. Later on, palm oil was discovered to be great for cooking and Europeans also discovered its cooking value when they purchased some palm oil from the Africans. Aside from cooking, they noticed palm oil would also work well as an industrial lubricant and a key ingredient for soaps.

Today, palm oil is a popular cooking ingredient in many parts of Africa, Brazil and Southeast Asia because it is cheaper and has high saturation qualities that makes it good for frying. It is also the largest source of calories for many poor communities worldwide. It is also used as a key component for many food items, lifestyle products and some are also used for bio-energy. Currently, Indonesia and Malaysia are the top producers of palm oil in the market and it is expected that the demand for it would increase by 2020 and 2050.

Like similar vegetable oil, palm oil is extracted through various processes to get the purest essence of the palm oil. The palm is milled and refined to remove other residues or scents that would affect the final product. Refining also ensures that the quality is adjusted properly depending on where the palm oil would be used and purified accordingly.  If it would be used for soaps and other products, the palm is physically refined to remove any scent and coloration, as well as its fatty acids. If it is used for cooking, the palm would be placed further in fractionation to produce palm olein, a vital component for cooking oil. When it comes to red palm oil, it is often cold-pressed to retain its quality and bottled to use for cooking and making dressing.

As noted above, palm oil is semi-solid when it is in room temperature, making it look similarly to butter or trans-fat. As a result, many often use it as an alternative to make healthier pastries and other baked goods. However, experts, such as those from the USDA, stress that it is important to still regulate the use of palm oil on food, especially if the person consuming it has high cholesterol levels. It is also not ideal to consume palm oil in huge amounts because it may change the color of your skin due to the carotenes value of the oil even if it does mean you are now protected from UV rays.

Considering the demand for palm oil, the international community and its regional organizations have taken steps to ensure that palm oil is properly distributed, labeled and used throughout their territories. In Europe, palm oil is clearly listed as an ingredient in food labels to help users plan their food options properly. It is also not allowed in Europe that food producers would say the food item in question has vegetable in “varying proportions” as it may question just how much other vegetable oil was used in the product.

A council is also made to ensure that while palm oil is produced and used by the public, it would not affect the environment. Some groups have cited that the production of palm oil has destroyed many rainforests in exchange to making them suitable for palm oil production. Deforestation then led to the increase of extinction or endangerment of some of the world’s endangered species, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. In order to counter this problem, the the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil regularly speaks with NGOs and other affected groups to ensure palm oils produced worldwide are of high quality and would not affect the environment it is produced on. They also inspect various palm oil productions in the world and give them their certification before they can produce palm oil.

Palm oil is mostly comprised of fatty acids which are saturated in nature. Some aspects of the fatty acids are monounsaturated oleic acids. When it is unrefined, unrefined palm oil is a notable source for vitamin E tocotrienol, a very powerful nutrient a person needs. Red palm oil also has carotenes which gives it a red color. With the composition of palm oil in mind, many experts have tried their best to determine whether or not it is possessing other benefits for users aside from possessing vitamin E tocotrienol and others. 

Some experts have found their answer to this question and here are 22 major benefits it can offer to users:

1. It is trans-fat free

It is trans-fat free

If you are on a diet, foods with unhealthy trans-fat should be far away from you. Check if the food you are eating has palm oil in it because it is often used as an alternative to unhealthy trans-fat.

2. It has great antioxidant properties

It has great antioxidant properties

Red palm oil has been noted to have a high vitamin E tocotrienol by comparison to other vegetable oils in the market. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that would help clear the body from free radical that may cause problems in the body in the long run. Palm oil is considerably the richest source of vitamin E in the market, making it ideal for those looking for tocotrienols for their diets.

3. It delays the onset of aging and boost vitality

According to nutritionist and naturopathic physician Bruce Fife, palm oil can help boost a person’s cardiovascular system if it is consumed

Thanks to its vitamin E content which clears out radicals in the body, it delays the signs of aging in the body. Vitamin E also ensures that UV damage such as fine lines and wrinkles are reduced. Taking in some palm oil by adding it in food would also help improve the body’s capacity to fight illnesses and complications thanks to its antioxidant properties.

4. It prevents inflammation

It prevents inflammation

Regular cooking oil tend to cause inflammation internally when it is consumed, which is not good news for your organs, especially the brain. The reason these cooking oils can cause inflammation is due to its omega-6 fatty acid content. Omega-6 fatty acids, in huge quantities, can trigger inflammation due to its components and it also triggers blood clotting. With palm oil, it would balance out the omega-6 fatty acids in the body and prevent it from causing infections.

5. It prevents hydrogenation

It prevents hydrogenation

Oils tend to go under a process known as hydrogenation, which helps prolong the shelf life of food. However, in this process, the liquid unsaturated fat in the oil is slowly converted into solid fat or trans-fat because of the inclusion of hydrogen in the mix. Trans-fat is a major cause of various diseases such as cancers, heart complications and some believe it can also cause complications for newborn development. Palm oil on its own is solid fat, so it would not hydrogenate like other cooking oils.

6. It can reduce neurological damage caused by stroke

It can reduce neurological damage caused by stroke

As noted above, vitamin E tocotrienols are quite high in red palm oil, making it ideal for a variety of uses. In this end, Tocotrienol from palm oil creates a shield for the brain after one suffers from a stroke. Studies also suggest that red palm oil can help enhance the speed of recovery of a patient suffering from stroke.

7. It improves brain health

It improves brain health

Vitamin E tocotrienols are also beneficial when it comes to ensuring white matter health in the brain is sustained. In a two-year clinical study done on the capacity of tocotrienol to weaken the growth of white matter lesions, taking supplements with high vitamin E tocotrienols weakened its progression and prevented the risk of stroke for patients. Palm oil, as noted above, has high tocotrienol levels.

It is also noted by some studies that the antioxidant properties of palm oil ensure that free radicals do not cause damage to a person’s brain and nerve tissues. It also promotes better blood circulation, preventing the possibilities of developing diseases such as Parkinson’s dementia and other nervous system problems.

8. It has a lot of vitamin A

Regular cooking oil tend to cause inflammation internally when it is consumed, which is not good news for your organs, especially the brain

Aside from vitamin E, palm oil also has more carotenes or Vitamin A content than carrots. It is also important to note that with just one tablespoon of palm oil, a person can get the recommended daily allowance the body needs for their vitamin A and vitamin E levels. A tablespoon of red palm oil has 240% of vitamin A and 25% vitamin E allowance.

9. It can help protect the immune system

It can help protect the immune system

Palm oil, specifically red ones, also have high beta carotene content by comparison to tomatoes. Beta-carotene is well-known for its antioxidant properties, which would help combat any problems in the immune system.

10. It can help with weight loss

It can help with weight loss

A person can get fat easily if they do not watch what type of fat they consume consistently and if they do not do anything to flush it out. Healthy fats coming from sources like palm oil can help sate your appetite faster. Healthy fats coming from palm oil would also help the body absorb more of the nutrients. Vitamin E tocotrienols would also help out in this process by slowing the body’s capacity to create fat cells and kill the ones currently in the body. Some even say it would be good to prevent the onset of obesity.

11. It can help boost one’s metabolism

Metabolism Booster

Normally, vegetable oils tend to cause the body’s metabolism to become slower. As a result, more fat is stored in the body. With red palm oil, the oil goes directly to the liver then triggers the calorie burn per day and giving you energy throughout the day.

12. It can help protect your cardiovascular system

It can help protect your cardiovascular system

According to nutritionist and naturopathic physician Bruce Fife, palm oil can help boost a person’s cardiovascular system if it is consumed. Palm oil has both HDL and LDL cholesterol in its composition, creating a balance in the body. It is cited by studies that if high levels of LDL cholesterol are in the body, chances are, the person may be at risk to strokes and heart complications. However, if you add HDL cholesterol in the mix, you would be able to reduce that risk.

13. It can help prevent vitamin deficiencies in children

It can help prevent vitamin deficiencies in children

For pregnant women and their children, it is always a problem to ensure that the body has all the vitamins it needs to ensure that both the mother stay strong and child would develop without any problems. Palm oil has all the essential vitamins a person needs and helps the body retain it.

14. It helps protects the liver

 It helps protects the liver

According to studies, vitamin E tocotrienols can help protect the livers of adults who have high cholesterol and those suffering from Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. NAFLD is considered as one of the most common liver disorders faced by people with obesity, oxidative stress and insulin resistance.

15. It can help regulate blood cholesterol levels

It can help regulate blood cholesterol levels

Like olive oil, palm oil is said to be capable of balancing a person’s blood cholesterol levels when it is used as an alternative to cooking oil.

16. It protects the skin from UV damage inside and out

Palm oil is mostly comprised of fatty acids which are saturated in nature. Some aspects of the fatty acids are monounsaturated oleic acids

If one uses red palm oil, it would create a sunscreen for the body to help against UV-ray damage inside and out. It also does not have any dangerous components, which may further affect the person’s skin.

17. It reduces the risks of cancer

It reduces the risks of cancer

According to some studies, vitamin E tocotrienols can help reduce the possibility of developing cancers. The antioxidant properties of tocotrienols helps clean the body from free radicals, ensuring that healthy cells would not turn to dangerous cells that causes cancer or other complications. For women, vitamin E tocotrienols help in reducing breast cancer development despite the type of estrogen receptor found in the body.   

18. It helps improve skin health

 It helps improve skin health

Palm oil is said to have high moisturizing properties which would help keep the skin feel soft and supple, which would be a blessing for those with dry skin. The re-fattening agents in the oil would help boost the development of the skin’s natural oils and help treat skin problems like scarring and stretch marks.

19. It fights acne and heals wounds

It fights acne and heals wounds

One of the most surprising benefits of palm oil is that it is a great tool to use against acne. According to studies, it has high antibacterial properties that stops the growth of bacteria that triggers the development of acne. In terms of healing wounds, some groups stress that since it has antibacterial properties, it would also help in boosting the body’s capacity to heal from wounds. However, studies regarding this issue have yet to be finalized or proven.

20. It helps improve hair health

It helps improve hair health

Palm oil is also considered a great supplement to have to revitalize the scalp and get it to produce natural oils to keep it moisturized. Palm oil is also good to clean hair thoroughly as it can remove both oil and dirt easily from the scalp. It is also said to be capable of strengthening hair roots, which would be good for those with dry scalps.

21. It can help with hair growth and thickening

Palm oil is also considered a great supplement to have to revitalize the scalp and get it to produce natural oils

Finding yourself losing hair for some reason or do you feel as if your hairline is thinner? Palm oil’s vitamin E tocotrienol content has been discovered to have great properties in stimulating hair growth and thickening by protecting hair follicles. As the hair grows, palm oil stimulates elasticity and ensures it grows thick, vibrant and shiny.

22. It ensures that nutrients remain in the food

It ensures that nutrients remain in the food

When cooking, some of the nutrients of the food tend to escape away because they are not heat stable. When exposed to a little bit of heat, they break down and as a result, the food loses its nutritional value. With palm oil, it has heat stable properties that ensures that the nutrients in the food you prepared will not break down and dissipate as you cook.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.