What is Red Palm Oil?

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I was recently asked to write a post on the unique Malaysia Palm Oil. You may not be familiar with this product but did you know that palm oil is used in several commercial foods? You have most likely already tried it.

What I am learning like with most ingredients in our modern world, not all palm oil is created equally. When I started doing research on this product I found much controversy over both its health aspects and effects on the environment.

 

So what is Palm Oil?

Palm oil by definition encompasses any oil that comes from the fruit of oil palms. These plants create high yields, one acre of oil palm produces 11 times more oil than an acre of soybean, 10 times more than sunflower and 7 times more than canola. Also unlike many other crops these plants have a typical lifespan of 25-30 years so they don’t need to be replanted each year.

Because of its high yield,  palm oil has become a common ingredient for cooking and food manufacturing. Malaysia and Indonesia, in particular, account for about 80 percent of the worldwide palm oil supply.

 

How is Palm Oil Made?

There are 4 main steps of palm oil production:

  • Separation of fruit, palm fruits grow in bunches.

  • Softening up the flesh.

  • The pressing of the fruit.

  • The purification of the oil.

Step four is what tends to make the difference in quality. An ultra-refined product goes through a purification process that renders the oil white and nearly flavorless. This highly-refined palm oil, is a great choice for high heat stir frying, but you are losing some nutritional value. Refined palm oil is about 50% saturated fat, 39% monounsaturated fat, and only around 11% polyunsaturated fat, making it stable for cooking and storage in a semisolid at room temperature. This can easily be used as a primary cooking oil.

Palm Kernel Oil

Palm kernel oil comes from the seeds of the plant.Palm kernel oil is highly saturated (around 80% SFA, 15% monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat, making it fantastic for high heat cooking. It’s very similar to coconut oil.

Red Palm Oil

Unrefined Red Palm Oil

Unrefined Red Palm Oil

This is the virgin, unrefined oil that I am using in my cooking currently. Palm oil is naturally reddish, and it comes chock full of vitamins and antioxidants. When palm oil is highly refined, it loses its color and taste right along with the beneficial effects. Vitamin E which may help prevent LDL oxidation, it is loaded with beta carotenes many more than carrots or tomatoes, and co-enzyme Q10 a major participant in cellular growth are all found in red palm oil. Furthermore, the vitamin E in red palm oil is made up of both tocotrienols and tocopherols; the vitamin E in most foods is mainly tocopherol, which may be less effective than the tocotrienols abounding in red palm oil. Red palm oil does have a mild earthy carrot like taste and distinct color that infuses foods.

 

Why should we eat Palm Oil?

Unrefined palm oil is rich in natural chemical compounds important for health and nutrition. As stated above it is a natural source of Carotenoids & Vitamin A as well as supplying fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins D, E and K. Since it is a fat it also supplies an abundance of calories that give energy for our daily life.

Fatty acids are the raw materials for building new cells in your body, including your bones, nerves and brain! The micronutrients keep your body cells healthy and functioning properly. We need fat to live!

Palm oil is high in saturated fats but it is free of trans fats and has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol.

Also it’s an extremely shelf stable fat so it is easy to keep around without worrying it will go rancid.

 

How to Cook with Palm Oil?

Palm oil is very versatile this is one reason why many food manufacturers have switched to using natural tropical oils such as palm oil to replace the trans fats of partially hydrogenated oils. Malaysian palm oil has become prized for its healthy qualities, creamy texture and long shelf life making it perfect for use in items such as ice cream, margarine, dairy fat replacement, cookies, crackers, dough even non edible products like cosmetics, home and personal care items.

It can be easily blended with other types of fats or oils to create balanceed textures in food formulations.

I think one of the best qualities of palm oil is that is its a very stable oil with various melting points. When cold its is hard but can be warmed slightly to be soft and creamy. It also has a very high smoke point of 450. Theses qualities make it a suitable oil for everything from mild salad dressings, dips and spreads to roasting vegetables, braising and searing meats.

 

Know what you are buying:

Although Palm oil is a healthy fat that can be produced sustainably there is still controversy over this product. The growing market has put strain on environment, some forests, peatlands and wildlife habitats have been destroyed to keep up with demands. Some palm oils are heavily processed and oxidised for culinary purposes that decrease the health benefits. There are some reports of human rights violations by some companies that have unsafe working conditions and low wages.

 

To help ensure that you’re getting the highest-quality oil from producers that prioritize sustainability and positive environmental practices. Become a well-informed consumer and gain the health benefits of palm oil without the potential downsides. Look for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) mark on your products.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an organization focused on improving sustainability and producing oil that is environmentally friendly. It has created a set of guidelines and standards that producers must adhere to in order to be RSPO-certified, such as the principles listed below.

  1. Commitment to transparency

  2. Compliance with applicable laws and regulations

  3. Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability

  4. Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers

  5. Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity

  6. Responsible consideration of employees, and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills

  7. Responsible development of new plantings

  8. Commitment to continuous improvement in key areas of activity

By opting for RSPO-certified products, you can be sure you are purchasing from producers with sustainable practices who are dedicated to protecting both wildlife and the environment.

 

Be Smart:

Like most foods in our diet it’s best to use palm oil in moderation and use it in combination with other healthy fats. For most people, the palm oil health risks are pretty minimal as it is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction or any negative side effects. Regardless, if you do experience any adverse symptoms after eating palm oil, discontinue use and talk to your doctor.

Give it a try with these Simple Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa

Fish Tacos made with Red Palm Oil. I loved the color it turned the fish!

Fish Tacos made with Red Palm Oil. I loved the color it turned the fish!

or Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup Made with Red Palm Oil

Red Lentil Soup Made with Red Palm Oil

I also used it in everyday cooking like searing steaks and braising pork ribs.

Steaks seared in Red Palm Oil

Steaks seared in Red Palm Oil

Pork Ribs Seared and Braising with Red Palm Oil

Pork Ribs Seared and Braising with Red Palm Oil

What is your favorite cooking oil?

 

Resources:
Malaysian Palm Oil Council
Palm Oil Health
The Impacts of Oil Palm on Recent Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss
Quality assessment of palm products upon prolonged heat treatment
Palm oil and cardiovascular disease
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

Full Disclosure:

Sometimes I receive sample products to test and share my honest opinions about. I will ONLY promote products that I love and currently use myself. I feature these products as they have made my life simpler or more enjoyable in some way. I share them with you only as a resource to better support you in enjoying a simply delicious happy and healthy life.
All reviews are my own words and my own opinions. I share them as an expert in the field and hope these products work for you and bring as much joy to your life as they have to mine.

 

I will occasionally link to specific sites or include affiliate links to help you purchase similar or recommend products. Again, I will only feature items I currently use and think will truly benefit you and your family. As always it is my true effort to serve you please contact me if you have questions about this process, products I mention or would like me to consider your product for a feature highlight. I am happy to help.
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