Discover the 6 health benefits of red palm oil.
Red palm oil has garnered a lot of interest and controversy in recent years, the same as coconut oil, but for different reasons.
It has attracted attention for its possible effect on health, but it has also been the subject of an intense debate about the effects that its production can have on the environment.
Palm oil has long been used throughout the food supply and in certain parts of the world for thousands of years, but only recently has it gained wide recognition for its health benefits.
It’s been associated with everything from lowered cholesterol levels to decreased oxidative stress and better brain health.
However, not all palm oil is created equally. Making some smart purchasing decisions can help ensure you get the highest quality oil and purchases from producers who prioritize sustainability and positive environmental practices.
So how is red palm oil made and is palm oil healthy? Or do the side effects and environmental impacts of this product outweigh any potential benefits? Read on to find out.
What is red palm oil?
The definition of palm oil encompasses any oil that comes from the fruit of oil palms.
Elaeis guineensis, however, is a specific species native to southwestern Africa that is considered the main source of palm oil.
These trees grow up to 20 meters tall and produce between 20 and 30 leaves per year.
They also produce the palm fruit from which palm oil is extracted.
Palm oil comes from both the grain and the pulp of the fruit, and it is estimated that every 100 kilograms of palm fruit yield about 23 kilograms of palm oil.
Due to its high yield, palm oil has become a common cooking ingredient in many parts of the world.
Malaysia and Indonesia, in particular, account for about 80 percent of the world’s palm oil supply.
Also, due to its high smoke point and heat stability, red palm oil is a good choice for fried or stir-fried dishes.
It is also often found in many types of processed foods, such as protein bars, baked goods, and cereals.
Unrefined palm oil has a reddish hue and is often referred to as red palm oil.
This type of oil is especially rich in beneficial carotenoids and antioxidants.
Not only that but including a tablespoon or two of this healthy oil in your diet every day has been linked to several powerful health benefits.
Health benefits of red palm oil
The main health benefits of red palm oil are:
1.- Reduces cholesterol levels
High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for heart disease.
Too much of this fatty substance can build up in the arteries, causing them to harden and narrow, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.
Some studies have found that red palm oil can help lower the amount of bad LDL cholesterol in your blood to keep your heart healthy and strong.
The researchers found that palm oil caused a 13.1 percent decrease in bad LDL cholesterol and a 6.7 percent drop in triglyceride levels in people with normal cholesterol.
Palm oil was also shown to have a similar effect on blood cholesterol levels as extra virgin olive oil and could lower both triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
Other ways to lower your cholesterol naturally and quickly include eating more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, limiting your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, and getting enough fiber in your diet.
2.- Slows the progression of heart disease
In addition to lowering your cholesterol levels, palm oil has also been shown to help improve your heart health by slowing the progression of heart disease.
The effects of palm oil on heart disease were analyzed after 18 months, when 28% of a group of people with heart disease who were treated with palm oil showed an improvement, while 64 percent remained stable.
In contrast, no one in the placebo group showed an improvement, and 40 percent got worse.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are key to slowing the progression of heart disease.
In addition to including heart-healthy fats like red palm oil in your diet, getting enough exercise, eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, and keeping your stress levels in check can also help reverse and reduce your risk of coronary heart disease.
3.- Improves brain health
Red palm oil is packed with tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E that has powerful antioxidant properties and can contribute to healthy brain function.
This can have great benefits and can help with everything from decreasing dementia to improving cognition.
One study found that tocotrienols could improve cognitive function in mice.
Another study of 121 people with brain injuries found that twice-daily supplementation with tocotrienols helped block the growth of the lesions.
4.- Improves the state of vitamin A
Red palm oil is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid that is converted to vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin A is an incredibly important nutrient that is involved in many aspects of health, from maintaining healthy vision to promoting immune function.
Vitamin A deficiency can cause symptoms like dry eyes, frequent infections, and even blindness.
Red palm oil is often used as a supplement to help improve vitamin A status in those who are at risk for deficiency.
One study showed that treating pregnant women with red palm oil increased vitamin A levels for both themselves and their babies.
Another study looked at the effects of red palm oil in 16 participants with cystic fibrosis, a condition that affects the secretory glands and causes difficulty absorbing fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A.
Supplement with two to three tablespoons of palm oil per day for eight weeks It was found to increase your vitamin A levels.
To help maintain healthy levels of vitamin A and prevent negative side effects, be sure to include a few servings of other foods with vitamin A in your diet, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale.
5.- Reduces oxidative stress
Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that are formed in your body as a result of factors such as stress, poor diet, or exposure to pollutants and pesticides.
They can build up in your body over time, causing oxidative stress, inflammation, cell damage, and even chronic disease.
Antioxidants, on the other hand, are compounds that can neutralize harmful free radicals to prevent damage to your cells.
Red palm oil is high in beneficial antioxidants and has also been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Recently, it was found to cause improvements in kidney dysfunction and fibrosis, two conditions commonly associated with diabetic neuropathy.
Not only that, but it was also found to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation markers as well.
To eliminate oxidative stress, be sure to combine palm oil with a balanced diet and many other antioxidant-rich foods, such as turmeric, ginger, dark chocolate, and walnuts.
6.- Improves the health of the skin and hair
What you eat can have a huge impact on the health of your skin and hair.
Many people swear by using red palm oil for their skin and claim that it can do everything from improving the appearance of scars to fighting acne.
This is because it is rich in vitamin E, a nutrient that plays a central role in skin health.
Red palm oil for hair growth is also commonly used due to its rich tocotrienol content.
A study of participants with hair loss found that taking tocotrienol for eight months increased the number of hairs by 34.5 percent.
Meanwhile, the placebo group saw a 0.1 percent decrease in the number of hairs at the end of the study.
Red palm oil side effects and concerns
Although there are a wide variety of health benefits associated with red palm oil, there are some side effects and ethical concerns that must be considered.
First of all, consuming red palm oil can affect people differently.
While several studies have shown that palm oil can lower cholesterol levels, others have produced conflicting results and report that it can increase cholesterol levels in some people.
For this reason, it is best to use palm oil in moderation and use it in combination with other healthy fats in your diet.
Additionally, much of the palm oil on the market today are heavily processed and oxidized for culinary purposes.
This depletes palm oil of its health-promoting properties and can have negative health impacts.
Make sure to use cold-pressed, unrefined palm oil to avoid adverse health effects.
There are also some concerns about the environmental impacts of palm oil production.
The growing market has put a strain on countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, where a large amount of palm oil is produced.
Unfortunately, this has led to palm oil deforestation as forests and peatlands have been destroyed to keep up with increasing demands.
This has had devastating consequences, causing the loss of habitat for wildlife and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
There have also been reports of human rights violations by palm oil companies with problems such as unsafe working conditions and low wages that are of particular concern.
Red Palm Oil Nutrition
Take a look at the nutrition facts for red palm oil and you will see that it is made up mostly of fat and is made up of almost equal parts of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
One tablespoon (14 grams) of palm oil contains approximately:
• 119 calories
• 13.5 grams of fat
• 2.2 milligrams vitamin E (11 percent DV)
Red palm oil is also rich in carotenoids, which are the plant pigments responsible for its reddish-orange coloration.
Red palm oil is especially high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that can be converted to vitamin A in the body.
This nutrient-rich oil also has a very strong and distinctive flavor that sets it apart from many other oils like olive oil or grapeseed oil.
The flavor of red palm oil is often described as a carrot, and it also has a rich texture that makes it ideal for many dishes.
History of red palm oil
We are believed to have been using palm oil for the past 5,000 years.
In fact, in the 19th century, archaeologists unearthed palm oil in an Egyptian tomb that dates back to 3000 BC.
Although originally used as cooking oil, palm oil also had a variety of medicinal uses in Africa.
It was used as an antidote for poison, a cure for gonorrhea a natural laxative, a diuretic, and treatment for the pain of head and skin infections.
Malaysia and Indonesia represent the majority of world palm oil production today.
The Federal Land Development Agency (FELDA) is a Malaysian government agency and one of the largest producers of palm oil.
In 1956, the Land Development Law was enacted, which sought to combat poverty.
The settlers were given 10 acres of land from FELDA with oil palm or rubber and 20 years to pay for it, resulting in an explosion in palm oil production.
These regions have suffered the most deforestation and destruction due to palm oil.
A 2016 review even noted that 45 percent of the land now used for palm oil production in Southeast Asia was a forest in 1990.
It was not until 2004 that the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was formed, with an emphasis on sustainability and responsible production that minimizes impact on the environment, wildlife, and the community.
For most people, the health risks of palm oil are fairly minimal, as it is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction or any negative side effects.
In any case, if you experience any adverse symptoms after eating palm oil, stop using it and talk to your doctor.
Be aware that some studies have found that reheated palm oil could increase arterial plaque, which can result in an increased risk of heart disease.
For this reason, it is best to avoid repeated reheating, as it can decrease the antioxidant activity of the oil and lead to negative health effects.
Also, while red palm oil is associated with many health benefits, it is important to keep your intake in moderation.
Too much of any type of fat can have negative consequences, such as weight gain and increased cholesterol levels.