Palm oil is obtained from the flesh, also known as mesocarp of the palm oil fruit. Like olive oil, palm oil is a fruit oil. Therefore, palm oil should not be mistaken for palm kernel oil which is extracted from the kernel or seed of the palm fruit. Each palm fruit produces about 90% palm oil and 10% palm kernel oil. Palm oil has a balanced composition of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids coupled with high content of Vitamin E.
Based on archaeological evidence, palm oil consumption was discovered in an Egyptian tomb in Abydos. Since there was no palm oil being produced in the country this evidence suggested that palm oil has already been widely traded during the time of the Pharaohs, which was approximately five thousand years ago.
Palm oil is presently the major edible oil traded and consumed by about 3 billion people over more than 150 countries worldwide. Being one of the most sustainable oilseed crops of incredible productivity, palm oil thus plays an important role in starving off global hunger and improving the global food security.
Palm oil, like most other vegetable oil for palm kernel oil and fats, contains only traces of cholesterol (<50 µg/gram or <5 ppm). This amount is considered as cholesterol-free based on Malaysian Food Regulation. Compared to animal fat, palm oil is thus cholesterol-free.
People tend to mistaken palm oil for palm kernel oil. It is palm kernel oil and not palm oil which portrays similar characteristics as coconut oil. Palm oil contains an equal proportion of saturated [mainly palmitic acids (44%)] and unsaturated fatty acids [monounsaturated oleic acid (40%), and smaller amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (10%)]. On the other hands, coconut oil is only 8% unsaturated, the balance being mainly unsaturated fat consisting of lauric and myristic acids, which are proven to be cholesterol-raising.
Palm oil is a rich source of natural vitamin E, both tocopherols and tocotrienols, having very potent antioxidant properties. In fact, among the commercially available refined vegetable oils, palm oil has the highest content of natural vitamin E tocotrienols. Refined palm oil contains vitamin E up to 500ppm.
Palm olein, the liquid fraction of palm oil, without undergoing hydrogenation is a very stable frying oil due to its balanced fatty acid composition and high content of vitamin E. Unlike the polyunsaturated cooking oil (such as soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil), palm olein has lower tendency to oxidise and it is resistant to formation of unhealthy polar components and cyclic polymers. Thus, with such advantages, it also offers a longer shelf life for products.
Palm oil is semi-solid in nature and this makes hydrogenation of palm oil unnecessary, thus avoiding the formation of detrimental trans fatty acids. Many solid fat products made with palm oil are actually trans-free, unlike the polyunsaturated edible oils which are liquid in nature and require the hydrogenation process to harden the oils in order to attain the semi-solid consistency for manufacturing of food products such as margarine, shortening, vegetable ghee, confectionery and bakery products.
A number of controlled human studies worldwide have shown no significant rise in serum total blood cholesterol when palm oil replaced the habitual fats of healthy studied subjects with normal blood cholesterol levels when you consume within the total recommended amounts of fats (not more than 30% energy intake). Not only being trans-free, palm oil are palmitic acids which renders the oil to be non-cholesterol raising, coupled with the high content of vitamin E. The bottom line is, palm oil is just like other fats if you use wisely in your diet and you can reap the attributes that it has to offer.
Red palm oil is a natural, minimally processed, rich edible oil with carotenes and vitamin E. More than 20 natural carotenes are present in refined red palm oil which explains its deep red colour. It is the only commercially-available refined cooking oil that contains a high amount of carotenes, of about 50mg in every 100g of oil (500ppm), which are most beta-carotenes and alpha-carotenes.