Monday, 28 May 2012
Palm oil is produced from the fruit of the oil palm Elaeis Guinnesis which is found in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America. Although humans have consumed palm oil for over 5,000 years, commercial planting and cultivation did not begin until the middle of the 20th century.
Production and Uses
Palm oil is extracted and refined through pressing and crushing rather than through the use of chemical solvents such as hexane. Palm oil can be further refined into palm olein (liquid) and palm stearine (solid). Palm olein is used as a frying oil as it is stable in high temperatures, whilst palm stearine is used in biscuits, cakes, and non-hydrogenated margarine. Palm stearine is also used to stop peanut butter from separating. Palm oil resists oxidation and rancidity, which means products made using palm oil have extended shelf lives.
Organic palm oil
The fact that palm oil is solid at room temperature, has a neutral taste, and can be extracted without the use of solvents has made organic palm oil a very useful ingredient in organic food processing. The only other organic fats which are solid at room temperature are butter and coconut oil, both of which are highly saturated fats.
Is palm oil a highly saturated fat?
No. Palm oil is frequently confused with palm kernel oil. Palm oil contains a balance of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. In addition, palm oil contains essential substances such as linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid which the body cannot manufacture), and tocopherols and tocotrienols, which act as natural anti-oxidants against damaging free-radicals.
Does palm oil raise cholesterol levels?
No, like other vegetable fats, palm oil is free from cholesterol. Because palm oil is solid at room temperature there is no need to use hydrogenation, a technique which hardens liquid oil but also produces damaging trans fatty acids and raises cholesterol levels in the process. Human feeding studies have shown that palm oil does not ordinarily raise blood cholesterol levels, and in some cases, has been found to lower harmful LDL-cholesterol.
Are there any other health benefits?
Rats fed on a palm-oil enriched diet had a reduced tendency to form blood clots. Unrefined palm olein (which is bright red in colour) is a major source of carotenoids which inhibit some types of cancer. The unrefined oil is also a major source of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A. The End.