Q: What’s the story with palm oil? First, I hear it’s bad news for us and the planet, and now I’m hearing it’s a health food!
A: Palm oil, like coconut oil, has long suffered from an undeserved bad reputation. It’s true that decades ago, cheap, commercial palm oil was high in trans fats. It was also frequently confused with its far less healthy relative, palm kernel oil. But today’s red palm oil is finally beginning to be appreciated as the healthy, non-inflammatory oil that it is.
No wonder. For one thing, it’s loaded with compounds like carotenoids and tocotrienols. (Members of the carotenoid family include powerful antioxidants like beta-carotene – they’re the reason that Malaysian red palm oil is red.) Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family and are known to protect the brain after a stroke.
Palm oil is a nice blend of healthy fats: It’s 50% plant-based saturated fat and 40% monounsaturated fat (the same kind found in olive oil). The remaining 10% comes from polyunsaturated fat. Unlike refined “vegetable” oils such as corn oil and soybean oil, it isn’t primarily made up of pro-inflammatory omega-6s, and it isn’t genetically modified – but the majority of soy and corn definitely is.
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