Palm trees

Red Handed: More to the Palm Oil Story

Among the beige, white and yellow cooking oils at the grocery store, you may have noticed a bright reddish-orange oil recently joining the lineup. This vibrantly colored fat is red palm oil and it is gaining attention as one of the latest “superfoods.”

Red palm oil retains its vivid pigment because it is minimally processed and therefore retains a great deal of nutrition. Beta-carotene and vitamin E are both found in high quantities within red palm oil. These two vitamins act as potent antioxidants within the body and have been found to reduce inflammation and promote heart health. Despite its high saturated fat content (about 50%), red palm oil is still considered by most to be heart healthy due to its impressive antioxidant content.

Though red palm oil may be new to home cooks, most Americans have been unknowingly consuming refined palm oil for years, as it is found in about 50% of all packaged food products. Since it is such a common ingredient, demand has been steadily rising for palm oil which is raising concerns about its environmental impact. Rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia are being leveled in order to make way for additional palm tree plantations. This forest destruction is not only decimating indigenous forestry and plant life, but also the natural habitat for hundreds of species including the orangutan. Sustainable certifications like RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) and Green Label exist, but currently only 4% of total palm oil produced is carries this distinction.

Though red palm oil boasts an impressive nutrient profile, we should strive to meet our daily nutrient goals via whole foods and not oils. Beta-carotene can be found in foods like carrots, winter squash, kale, and cantaloupe and Vitamin E can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables. If you do want to give red palm oil a try, keep an eye out for red palm oil that carries the RSPO or Green Label sustainability seals.

This post was originally published by the Natural Gourmet Institute. Learn more about today's Natural Gourmet Center.

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