Why is red palm oil so healthy?
Red palm oil is particularly healthy because it contains the above-mentioned carotenoids and a special form of vitamin E. Most people are not aware of the fact that many different kinds of vitamin E occur in nature and that some forms of vitamin E are more beneficial than others. Red palm oil contains vitamin E tocotrienols, a powerful form of vitamin E, which acts as a super-antioxidant.
The carotenoids in red palm oil also act as antioxidants and one of these carotenoids, namely lycopene, is associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer.
Our bodies need antioxidants to counteract so-called 'free radicals'. When we are exposed to pollutants in cigarette smoke, industrial pollution, stress, unbalanced diets, pesticide and insecticide residues in food and water, and many other negative environmental influences, we are also exposed to free radicals.
A build-up of free radicals in the body is associated with degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer, as well as general ageing. It is, therefore, in our own best interest to ensure that we eat a diet rich in antioxidants that will prevent the damage that is done to our bodies by free radicals.
What about heating?
Most people are aware of the fact that important nutrients can be broken down or destroyed when food is cooked. Research has shown that red palm oil can be heated during cooking without destroying its rich phytonutrient content.
What are tocotrienols?
Tocotrienols are super-antioxidants that belong to the vitamin E family. Red palm oil is particularly rich in these tocotrienols and is the only vegetable oil that has an abundant tocotrienol content.
Scientific studies conducted at the Universities of Louisiana and Wisconsin in the USA, the University of Reading in the UK, and the University of Western Ontario in Canada, have identified the following health benefits of red palm oil:
* a reduction in the incidence of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries which can result in heart disease);
* a reduction in blood cholesterol levels;
* a reduction in blood clotting, combined with blood vessel dilation, thus preventing heart attacks and strokes;
* inhibition of the growth of breast cancer cells, which suggests that red palm oil may act as a chemopreventive agent;
* a 45% enhancement of the efficiency of breast cancer drugs such as Tamoxifen.
These research results are good news indeed and may herald a new chapter in the prevention of heart disease and various types of cancer.
The difference between red palm oil and palm kernel oil
Right now, you might be saying, "But palm oil is supposed to be just as harmful as animal fat because it is loaded with saturated fats!" No, there is a vital difference between palm kernel oil and red palm oil.
Palm kernel oil is produced from the seed of the palm kernel and is high in saturated fats. Foods made with palm kernel oil should be avoided as they are potentially harmful.
Red palm oil, on the other hand, is produced from the flesh of the palm fruit, and is very healthy.
Luckily, palm oil has a red colour that will help you make the correct choice.
The following table illustrates the nutritional benefits of red palm oil:
Nutrient Red palm oil Sunflower oil Safflower oil Maize oil Olive oil
Vitamin E (mg) 80 39 27,4 20,7 7,6
Carotene (mg) 50 0 0 0 0
It is evident that the vitamin E and carotene contents of red palm oil are superior to those of the above-mentioned cooking and salad oils.
If you see red palm oil for sale in South Africa, don't be put off by its red colour - the red colour advertises that this oil is extremely healthy and rich in carotenes. Red palm oil is a 'food of the future' and you will be doing your health a favour if you use it as part of your daily diet. – (Dr Ingrid van Heerden, DietDoc)