There are many consumers who avoid palm oil for health reasons. This may include dietary or allergen concerns. Yet the question remains, is palm oil good or bad for you?
While environmental concerns may still be a leading reason people avoid palm oil, there is a growing segment who seek alternatives because they experience reactions from it.
Others may be concerned about palm oil’s saturated fat content.
What are palm oil health dangers? Are there palm oil health benefits? What’s the difference between red palm oil and palm oil?
Is palm oil saturated or unsaturated?
Table of Contents
As reported in health.com, palm oil’s nutritional profile is similar to other edible and cooking oils. According to the USDA, one tablespoon is the equivalent to 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat.
Of those 14 grams, 7 grams are in the form of saturated fat, and 5 grams are monounsaturated fat. There are 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. .
Palm kernel oil contains 11 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
To compare, olive oil contains 2 grams of saturated fat.
Palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil are high in saturated fat.
Many health and wellness experts believe food high in saturated fat negatively affect the heart.
What is saturated fat?
In general, the higher the saturated fat content, the more solid it is at room temperature.
This makes it ideal for baking. It also contributes greatly to mouthfeel — think creamy products like ice cream, frozen desserts, chocolate candies, dough, canned frosting, margarine, and more.
Palm oil is versatile. Just as it can remain semi-solid at room temperature, companies can also process it into liquid form for cooking.
Is palm oil bad for your health?
There hasn’t been enough research to determine the potential health affects of palm oil.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health states the main argument against using palm oil as an edible oil is because it contains palmitic acid which is a saturated fatty acid.
They report that would contribute to rising total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
They note its effects on serum lipid levels and cardiovascular disease in humans is still a point of discussion.
Is palm oil dangerous to health?
This is a popular question, perhaps because there is a lot of controversy around palm oil. The biggest reason is its impact on the environment.
Palm oil has a high saturated fat content which many argue affects cardiovascular health. Most health experts recommend other oils — olive oil in particular — for cooking.
Please discuss with your health professional if you suspect you are allergic or sensitive to palm oil. Many people report having digestive issues when they have palm oil.
Palm oil has become one of the world’s most widely produced edible fats. The palm oil that’s now so common in foods and non-food products comes from the African oil palm: Elaeis guineensis.
Most of the world’s palm oil grows in Malaysia and Indonesia.
It used to be that people who were avoiding palm oil did so because of the environment.
Now that it’s become more commonplace in foods, people are starting to take notice of it. They see it on labels more and more.
Much of this is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned food manufacturers from adding artificial trans fats into their products.
In 2015, the FDA gave companies until 2018 to phase palm oil out of their food products; some have extensions until January 2020.
Many companies turned to palm oil as a replacement for artificial trans fats.
As companies worked through their ingredient reformulations, palm oil appeared on labels more frequently.
Palm oil became and is now a common ingredient in margarine and other butter substititutes. It’s a staple in shortening, canned frosting, frozen desserts, desserts, candy, cookies, snack bars, and cereal. It’s in everything from Twizzlers to Dunkin’ Donuts.
Many companies are using palm oil and palm oil derivatives in new products and flavors they introduce to market.
Consumers are eating more of it than ever before.
While palm oil is an edible vegetable oil, non-food companies use it in many non-food products as well.
You can learn to lessen overall demand for palm oil by learning how to use less palm oil each week.
Avoiding palm oil for health reasons
We have a popular post, Can You Be Allergic to Palm Oil. I wrote it because my son gets sick from anything with palm oil in it. There are consumers who are negatively affected by it. Palm oil affects their health. They have reactions from it, and they are seeking answers.
Whether it’s an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, palm oil is proving to negatively affect some people.
In addition, in BakeryandSnacks.com, the International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme (POFCAP) explained they want to “help consumers find foods without palm oil for ethical, allergen, or dietary reasons.”
POFCAP is authorized to certify products as “Palm Oil Free” in 20 countries. They have nearly 1,000 products certified.
Consumers are more exposed to palm oil
As the demand increases and its prevalence is more common in foods, consumers are eating more of it in processed and packaged foods than ever before.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that palm oil production almost doubled from 2003 to 2013. This was even before the FDA banned the use of artificial trans fats in foods.
Palm oil is now in half of packaged foods and consumer goods.
In addition to processed foods, consumers are also exposed to palm oil in cleaning products, toothpaste, cosmetics, lotion, deodorant, soap, over-the-counter medicines, sunscreen, and many more products.
Some consumers are noticing reactions to it. Others may be concerned with the saturated fat content in the foods.
Is palm oil healthy? Is palm oil good for you?
The question of whether palm oil is healthy for you is a common one. Many wonder: Is palm oil good for you?
According to Harvard Medical School nutrition experts, palm oil is better for us than artificial trans fats. However, they encourage consumers to use olive oil and canola oil because — unlike palm oil — they are naturally liquid at room temperature.
Is palm oil carcinogenic?
Healthline.com also reports that palm oil is high in saturated fat and that it’s been linked to a cancer risk. They cite a study from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which reports palm oil can cause cancer when processed at high temperatures, approximately 200 degrees Celcius (393 degrees F).
Their expert Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain found glycidol to be a carcinogenic and genotoxic.
As reported on WebMD, the EFSA stated palm oil may cause cancer based on studies on mice. Note, the study didn’t test on humans.
Glycidyl fatty acid esters, or GEs
Glycidyl fatty acid esters (GEs) are a new class of food-processing contaminant.
When palm oil is heated to temperatures above 200 degrees C or higher, harmful substances form. These are called Glycidyl fatty acid esters — GEs. The highest form of them are in palm oil.
Avoiding palm oil for health concerns
While consumers avoid palm oil for health reasons and environmental reasons, if you have reactions to palm oil or other conditions, talk to your doctor. Please do not use this for medical advice.
It’s very common in everyday products. It’s a very versatile oil. Companies use palm oil in many ways.
Because palm oil has so many different applications in so many types of products, it goes by hundreds of names. Many of them do not have the word “palm” in them. This makes reading labels challenging — though it can be done!
Here are some tips for avoiding palm oil. Limit buying processed and packaged foods. Choose whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. Cook at home. Choose food and non-food products with the least amount of ingredients. These are favorite products we use which make it easier to live without it.
Limiting processed foods is one of the best things you can do.
When you learn the types of products palm oil is in, you may be surprised how much you encounter each day in foods and non-food items.
Start reading labels.
Since the artificial trans fat ban went into effect in the United States, companies needed to find other cheap alternatives. They used trans fats because they were cheap. Now they’ve turned to palm oil.
Red palm oil health benefits
Red palm oil originally attracted attention for its health benefits.
According to CleanEatingMag.com, the benefits from red palm oil are when the “red” in the palm oil stays intact and isn’t processed and stripped down.
Virgin red palm oil — in it’s most natural state and still red — is high in lycopene, beta-carotene, and tocotrienols.
They recommend up to 1 – 2 tablespoons per day as well as using ones that are sustainable.
Is palm oil good or bad?
RealSimple.com tries to answer the question if palm oil is bad for you. In one section, they compare the palm oil industry to that of the tobacco and alcohol industries. Palm oil is big business. It’s also very political as well.
Companies are burning and deforesting rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia for palm oil plantations. However, in both of these countries, companies are not allowed to sell products advertising “Palm Oil Free” and “No Palm Oil.”
When you read about palm oil, it’s critical you determine the source. Also consider who may be profiting from the study or may be damaged from the study.
This is particularly important as you research sustainable palm oil and the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil. There are many sides to this issue. Just because a company says it uses sustainable palm oil doesn’t mean it is.
POFCAP — the organization who certifies products as Palm Oil Free — estimates up to 80% of what’s considered sustainable is not.
This post explains how companies are forbidden to advertise their products as palm oil free and from seeking Palm Oil Free Certification labeling. By promoting a product as Palm Oil Free, this leading palm oil organization believes it suggests products without it are superior to those with it.
So no matter what you read, be aware of who is circulating those lists and how they may benefit from positioning palm oil in a positive or negative light.
Palm oil health
Now that palm oil has become more common in foods, especially in the United States, there are questions about palm oil health. Consumers see it on labels and wonder what it is and if it’s good for them.
As consumers are more exposed to palm oil, it’s likely medical experts will take a better look at how it may affect them.
Some experts believe palm oil health dangers may surface now that consumers using more products with it (in the United States) than ever before.
Whereas consumers come in contact with palm oil and may consume it daily, this was not the case 5 – 10 years ago. Many people unknowingly use it morning, noon and night. It’s in their soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant. It’s in their creamer and muffin as well as their granola bar, bread, and spices.
Many consumers experience trouble digesting palm oil. Others report allergy-like symptoms. If you experience reactions from palm oil, be sure to report them to the FDA.
Report symptoms to FDA
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has a MedWatch Voluntary Reporting online form. It’s easy to complete and submit to report your symptoms. Just be sure to have the product information.
Bookmark this link and click on Consumer/Patient. Another option is call them at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Health professionals continue to recommend olive oil instead of palm oil.
If you are avoiding palm for health reasons or if you are concerned with the amount you consume, you can start by reading labels.