Uses and Health Benefits of Palm Oil

Palm oil is edible oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. It also has a scientific name, which is Elaeis Guineensis. You can produce two types of fat, including crude oil, which comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil, which comes from crushing the kernel or stone in the middle of the fruit.

Oil Palm trees originate from West Africa, but they somehow were brought to South-East Asia 100 years ago as a decoration tree crop. Now countries like Indonesia and Malaysia make up over 85% of palm oil’s global supply, but 42 other countries also produce palm oil.

Palm oil is present in everything we find in the supermarket, including pizzas, doughnuts, chocolates, deodorants, shampoos, toothpaste, and lipsticks. It is used in making animal feed and biofuel in different parts of the world. This oil is highly versatile and has many other properties and functions that make it very useful.

Uses of Palm Oil

Palm Oil
splash of palm oil

1. Making Food

Palm oil is used in making different kinds of food items. Its highly saturated nature makes it stable at room temperature in temperate regions, creating a better alternative for butter and other vegetable oils.

2. Animal Feed

Animal feed is also made from Palm oil. In March 2017, Deutsche Welle made a documentary on palm oil in which they revealed that this oil is used to create alternatives for milk to feed calves in dairies in the German Alps.

These milk alternatives contain 30% of milk powder, and the remainder of the raw protein is made from skimmed milk powder, whey powder, and vegetable oils, including mainly coconut oil or palm oil.

3. Biomass and Biofuel

Palm oil is used to make biofuel and produce both methyl ester and hydro-oxygenated biodiesel. The process makes palm oil methyl ester of transesterification. It is often mixed with other fuels to make palm oil diesel blends. Moreover, palm oil used for frying food can also be converted into methyl esters for biodiesel.

4. Health Benefits

Palm oil is also used as medicine for its several health benefits. A study proves that the nutrients obtained from palm oil are more effective than other kinds of vitamins. You can use it to accelerate the dermal wounds’ healing process.

This discovery also makes palm oil a valuable ingredient for treating skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, cardiovascular diseases, acne, etc.

5. Pharmaceutical Products

Pharmaceutical companies utilize palm oil in making various medicines. Due to its vitamin E, carotenes, and triglycerides, palm oil is among the essential phytonutrients beneficial to the pharmaceutical industry. The tocotrienol and tocopherol in vitamin E help reduce the damages that free radicals cause in the human body.

6. Cosmetics

In cosmetics, palm oil is used due to its moisturizing and texturizing properties. The derivatives of palm oil, including glycerol, fatty acids, or fatty alcohols, are used in cosmetic products for their foaming and moisturizing properties. Palm oil and its derivatives have crucial cosmetic properties with no substitutes; hence they are used more often.

7. Food Service

Palm oil also helps in the food service industries in restaurants and cafés. It is used to cook food, and most restaurants prefer to use palm oil because it is a better alternative to butter and vegetable oil. Most butter and vegetable oils present in markets cost them a lot, so they prefer to use palm oil instead of other oil.

8. Making Detergent

Palm oil is used to make detergents by refining it to make soaps, washing powders, and cleaning products. The derivatives of palm oil are used in detergents as surfactants to ensure that they can provide good cleaning as they attack and remove the dirt effectively. Due to this, many detergent industries invest in optimizing palm oil as bio-based raw material.

Nutrient Profile of Palm Oil 

Fresh oil palm fruits
Close up of fresh oil palm fruits and cooking oil, selective focus.

A tablespoon of palm oil (about 14 grams) provides the following nutrients: 

Calories  14
Fat  14 grams 
Monounsaturated fat  5 grams 
Saturated fat  7 grams 
Polyunsaturated fat  1.5 grams 
Vitamin E  11% of the daily recommended value 

Most of the calories in palm oil come from fat. The combination of fatty acids in palm oil is very healthy for the various aspects of our health. It is present in the form of palmitic acid, which contains about 44% of the calories of this oil. Other types of beneficial acids in palm oil include oleic, linoleic, and stearic acid. 

Red palm oil has a reddish-orange tinge primarily due to the antioxidants called carotenoids. These are very beneficial for our body as they can be converted into vitamin A, which is extremely good for maintaining the health of our eyes.

Benefits of Palm Oil

Closed up pile of bottled palm oil
Closed up pile of bottled palm oil in the market

1. Reduce Cholesterol Levels

High cholesterol is one of the significant factors that lead to heart disease. Excessive cholesterol can build up in the arteries and cause them to become narrow and harden, forcing a person’s heart to work a lot harder to pump blood throughout the human body.

study shows that red palm oil can decrease harmful LDL cholesterol and a 6.7% drop in triglyceride levels in people with normal cholesterol.

2. Prevent Heart Diseases

A study conducted on the benefits of palm shows that besides reducing cholesterol levels in the human body, palm oil has also been proven to improve heart health by slowing down heart disease progression. A healthy diet and exercise are two main things that help slow down the progression of heart disease. Therefore, you should include palm oil in your diet.

Besides having this heart-healthy fat in your diet, getting the right amount of exercise, eating more anti-inflammatory food, and keeping your stress levels in check can also help reverse and reduce coronary heart disease risk.

3. Helps Boost Brain Health

Palm oil contains tocotrienols, a type of vitamin E with powerful antioxidant properties that can help support healthy brain function. This oil can have long-term benefits and help in everything, including slowing down dementia and improving cognition. According to a study conducted in 2010, tocotrienols improve awareness in mice.

4. Maintains Healthy Vision and Vitamin a deficiency

Red palm oil is an excellent beta-carotene source, a carotenoid converted to vitamin A in the human body. Vitamin is an essential nutrient that is helpful in many things like maintaining healthy vision, promoting the immune system, etc.

Lack of vitamin A can cause problems like dry eyes, frequent infections, and even blindness. According to a research article, palm oil can help improve vitamin A status, and people at risk of vitamin A deficiency use it as supplements.

5. Helps in Reducing Oxidative Stress

Palm oil also helps in reducing oxidative stress. It prevents the growth of free radicals that are highly reactive compounds produced by stress, low diet, or exposure to pollution and pesticides. Eventually, they can build up in the human body, leading to oxidative stress, inflammations, cell damage, and even chronic diseases.

Red palm oil has high antioxidant compounds proven to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress due to free radicals, as established by a case study conducted by SonamChawla and ShwetaSaxena research journal.

6. Helps Improve Skin and Hair Health

Palm oil is excellent for improving skin conditions and hair health. Many people who use palm oil appreciate how effectively it works and can help enhance a scar’s appearance and fight acne.

All this is proven to be possible in a study that shows that it’s because of the vitamin E present in palm oil, which is the primary nutrient that plays a central role in skin health. Palm oil also helps grow your hair due to its rich tocotrienol content.

Some Precautions for Consuming Palm Oil 

Harvested oil palm fruits in oil palm plantation.
Harvested oil palm fruits in oil palm plantation.

Though palm oil has a long list of health benefits, people must know some of the precautions regarding its intake. Keep the following special precautions in mind when consuming palm oil:

  • Palm oil during pregnancy: palm oil is safe to consume orally as a medicine during the last trimester of the pregnancy.
  • Breast-feeding: though there is a lack of scientific data on palm oil consumption by nursing mothers, it is probably safer to consume palm oil in foods instead of taking it orally. 
  • Palm oil for children: it is safe to consume palm oil by mouth for children up to 6 months. They can use it daily as a medicine.
  • People with high cholesterol levels: one of the most significant precautions regarding palm oil is its ability to increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. Therefore, people with high cholesterol levels must consume palm oil with extreme care and regulated amounts.

Palm Oil – Beneficial In Many Ways

Palm oil is an excellent edible oil that comes from the fruit of palm trees. It is used in making food, biofuel, energy, medicine, and animal feed. In addition, this fantastic oil also has many health benefits like relieving inflammation, improving skin conditions and heart health, etc. Due to the health benefits of palm oil, it is best to include it in your diet.