December 14, 2012

Appropriate intake of palm oil protects against chronic diseases

By Funke Oshifuye

Palm oil has a balanced  composition of both  saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Coupled with nature’s gift of high vitamin E content, the oil is naturally very stable.

Palm oil contains an equal proportion of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. It’s particularly rich in the saturated palmitic acid (44 per cent), with substantial amounts of the monounsaturated oleic acid (40 per cent), and smaller amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (10 per cent).

Palm oil is nature’s richest source of carotenoids as compared to the other vegetable oils  –15 times more than carrots, and 30 times more than tomatoes. Carotenoids are natural chemical compounds that give crude palm oil its orange-red colour and that make palm oil red in colour.

The most active and important form of carotenoids found in palm oil is beta-carotene. Many carotenoids contain Vitamin A which is an effective antioxidant that helps strengthens the body’s immune system and reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease and cataract. Vitamin A is a very essential vitamin for our eyesight. Talking about vitamin E, palm oil is rich in Vitamin E (tocopherols & tocotrienols).

In fact, no other vegetable oil has as much Vitamin E compared to Palm Oil. Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant, capable of reducing the harmful types of oxygen molecules (free radicals) in the body.

This means they may help to protect you from certain chronic diseases, while delaying the body’s ageing process. Solid fats made from palm oil are trans-fatty acid (TFA) free as they do not have to go through hydrogenation. Hydrogenation of oils produces trans-fatty acids along with saturated fatty acids. TFAs increase the amount of bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol in the body which in turn poses a lot of health risks especially cardiovascular diseases.

Fats have been getting a lot of bad publicity but we still need fats in our diet. Palm oil is very rich in calories. One gram of palm oil supplies 9 Kcal of energy. Energy should come from all groups of f 30 per cent of the total calories derived from our food should be obtained from fats and oils. Fatty acids are raw materials for building the membranes of every cell in your body, including your bones, nerves and brain!

The micronutrients keep your body cells healthy and functioning properly. Malnutrition can set in and you can become sickly or prone to infections if you do not have fats and oils in your diet. Palm oil also supplies other important fat-soluble vitamins D, E and K.