Is Palm Oil Bad For You: 8 Amazing Guide To Know

The most common vegetable oil in the world is palm oil, so it’s obvious to ask if it’s terrible for you. It is present just everywhere. The consumption of this oil is controversial and always comes with a question, is palm oil bad for you?

is palm oil bad for you
By Bernard DUPONT Flickr Copyright 2021

While people are still measuring both sides, the question still remains.

The impacts of palm oil1 range broader than just their impact on your body. It has vast implications for wildlife, forests, and indigenous people. In this article, we’ll explore all you need to know to answer the question: Is palm oil bad for you?

1. What Is Palm Oil?

palm tree
Photo by Maurits Bausenhart on Unsplash Copyright 2021

Palm oil is extracted from the fleshy fruit of oil palm, a kind of tree essentially found in warm climate regions of Asia and Africa. Due to its reddish-orange hue, unrefined palm oil is widely known as red palm oil. Palm oil, just like coconut oil, exists as semi-solid at room temperature, though its melting point is higher than the melting point of coconut oil.2

New York City-based nutritionist Natalie Rizzo mentioned that as the United States banned the addition of trans fats to food sold at grocery stores, many manufacturers have turned to palm oil, which acts as an inexpensive substitute.

2. How Exactly Is Palm Oil Used?

Palm oil is used to prepare food because of its high smoke point, making it better suited for cooking foods at high temperatures. In general, the more refined an oil is, the higher its smoke point will be, as refining removes impurities that can cause the oil to smoke.

Palm oil is versatile and can be blended and processed to produce a vast range of products with distinct characteristics.

In the United States, rather than cooking foods, palm oil is abundantly used for processed foods and ready-to-eat foods like peanut butter, pizzas, doughnuts, chocolate, margarine, and bread. It is also evidently present in inedible products like lipsticks, detergents, soaps, and shampoos.

3. Palm Oil Nutrition Facts

Palm trees
Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash /Copyright 2021

Palm oil’s nutritional description is quite similar to other cooking oils. One tablespoon of palm oil contains around 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat, including 7 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of healthy monosaturated fat, and 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Besides that, palm oil also provides 2 grams of Vitamin E and 1 gram of Vitamin K.

These stats are pretty similar to that of olive oil, except for the type of fats, which raises the concern is palm oil bad for you. One tablespoon of olive oil has only 2 grams of saturated fats, which has a risk of heart disease, and 10 grams of monounsaturated fat. Palm oil has relatively less saturated fat than other tropical oils, like coconut and palm kernel.

4. Is Palm Oil Bad for You?

Over the past few decades, palm oil has had a staggering reputation due to its incredibly high saturated fat content. Despite the high vitamin E content, Palm oil contains 50% saturated fat content, 40% monounsaturated fat, and 10% polyunsaturated fat.

Researchers found a significant link between saturated fats, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, and incremental risk of other health conditions, which pushes the question of whether palm oil is bad for you.

Palm fruit
Photo by Kseniia Ilinykh on Unsplash Copyright 2021

5. A Few of the Health Risks That Palm Oil May Pose

5.1. Increases Risk of Heart Disease

Palm oil has more saturated fat as compared to other liquid oils. Palm oil contains around 34% of saturated fat, whereas olive oil contains less than half. These saturated fats contribute at large to cardiovascular health.

5.2. Could Increase Your Appetite

Certain saturated fats tend to be more likely to increase cholesterol levels. The primary fat of palm kernel oil, palmitic acid, is one such fat. Studies have found that such fats increase the release of appetite-suppressing hormones like leptin and insulin, resulting in one eating more than needed.

5.3. Increases Risks of Atherosclerosis

The tocotrienol levels in fresh and aged palm oil differ slightly. As a result of this, reheated palm oil has fewer advantages as compared to new palm oil. Reheated palm oil will lose the benefits of fresh palm oil, increasing your health risks of diseases like atherosclerosis and affecting your cardiovascular health.

5.4. Palm Oil Increases Cholesterol Levels

Recent research has compared palm oil to other cooking oils, such as olive oil, refined oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. Palm oil raises cholesterol levels3 in people.

6. Consuming Palm Oil in Moderation

palm oil farm
Photo by Attila Janosi on Unsplash Copyright 2021

Consuming palm oil as a part of your balanced diet sure won’t hurt you. Consuming palm oil and other oils with high saturated fat content should be acceptable if the other liquid oils have potential health benefits.

By consuming a reasonable amount of highly unsaturated fats, saturated fat from palm oil can be easily diluted out to the point that it only comprises a fraction of the total fat and calorie intake.

7. Is Palm Oil Bad for the Environment?

Photo by Dimitry B on Unsplash Copyright 2021

If not for you at least, it sure isn’t good for the environment. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), palm oil is harmful to nature as it poses a higher risk of climate change due to its high-level carbon emissions.

As there is a rise in palm oil consumption across the globe, there also has to be an increase in palm oil production in the plantations. This means more deforestation of forests as once the oil palm tree grows tall and is out of reach to get the fruits; they have to be cut down to make room for the new trees.

This concern has raised a consequential movement for sustainable palm oil wherein manufacturers and retailers are committed to the sustainable use of palm oil.

8. If Not Palm Oil, Then What?

There are several healthier cooking oil options available in the market. An inexpensive substitute could be using other cooking oils. In terms of cooking, olive oil, avocado oil, ad canola oil turn out to be better options or even simple vegetable oil, for that matter. This is in line with the several environmental and health concerns that palm oil raises.

9. So, Is Palm Oil Bad for You?

While the health risks of palm oil are negligible, you can consume it in moderated amounts as a part of your balanced diet. Unless you cross the bar, you are unlikely to face the health risks of palm oil.

Palm oil isn’t as healthy as other cooking oils with unsaturated fats, so it should never become your go-to oil on the shelf. Though palm oil isn’t as bad as trans fats, it is always advisable to choose healthier cooking oils available when cooking food at home.

You should also consider environmental concerns and pick sustainable palm oil companies to reduce their impact on wildlife, forests, and indigenous people.

To read more articles like these, click here.

  1. Meijaard, Erik, et al. “The environmental impacts of palm oil in context.” Nature plants 6.12 (2020): 1418-1426. ↩︎
  2. Ekpa, O. D., and U. J. Ekpe. “Effect of coconut oil concentration on the melting point profile and free fatty acid formation of palm oil.” Nigerian Journal of Chemical Research 1 (1996): 8-12. ↩︎
  3. Ashen, M. Dominique, and Roger S. Blumenthal. “Low HDL cholesterol levels.” New England Journal of Medicine 353.12 (2005): 1252-1260. ↩︎

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