What is Palm Oil?

Earlier this year, I was introduced to Palm Oil during an event and the fact that it has been widely used across different industries for various purposes is what made me curious about this oil. According to Wikipedia, “Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm Elaeis oleifera and the maripa palm Attalea maripa.”

Read my experience of the Palm Oil Gourmet Delights Event.

Now that we all know what exactly is palm oil, here I have got more information for you to know about this famous oil:

Health and Nutrition Benefits of Palm Oil

While reading about Palm oil, I was amazed to know that it is full of vitamins and nutrients. A 100 gms of Palm oil contains 884 calories and 100 gms fat.  The health benefits provided by the use of Palm oil are such that they help in improving vision (presence of beta-carotene), preventing cardiovascular issues (presence of HDL and LDL cholesterols in balanced amount), reducing the risk of cancer (due to tocopherols), provides naturally soft skin (as it contains healthy unsaturated fats and medium-chain fatty acids), improves hair growth, supplies the body with Vitamin K, richly loaded with antioxidants, contains zero Trans-Fat, rich in nutrients, helps during pregnancy (due to the presence of Vitamin A, D, and E), helps in providing the body with energy.

Palm Oil – Essential for Food Security

According to research, by 2050, we will be 9 billion population globally and to meet the energy and nutrient needs of humans, 150 million additional tonnes of fats and oils will be needed. When we compare Oil palm with other seed oils, it is more efficient, uses less land, needs fewer pesticides, and less fertilizer. These facts have already been proven again and again by the experts. The push to displace oil palm are by the ones who are rich lives in the developed regions and are well-fed; food security is not a concern for them. This Palm oil is widely used in India, South-east Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. If we choose to produce any other oil, then it would lead to more land being used; more fertilizer and pesticides needed.  This would be more catastrophic for one and all. Why would we stop using a food source that is so abundantly efficient and capable to feed everyone?

Palm oil – Land use efficiency

Now the world average yield of oil palm is 3.9 tons of oil per hectare per year. This corresponds to 5 or 10 times the per hectare production of other oilseeds (such as sunflower, rapeseed, etc.) This means a land-area saving of 90%.

The crop’s efficiency underscores why boycotting all palm oil will not stop deforestation. If demand for all palm oil halted tomorrow, it would be replaced with a demand for other vegetable oils, whose cultivation could actually increase the amount of land needed to produce the same amount of oil, destroying more forests and releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Palm oil and its many uses

Palm oil and palm kernel oil-based ingredients are found in approximately 50% of the products on supermarket shelves, including food and non-food items. Palm oil in many countries is used as a simple frying oil, but many other markets make use of both palm and palm kernel oil:

  • Consumer retail food and snack manufacturers

  • Personal care and cosmetics (mainly palm kernel oil)

  • Biofuel and energy

  • Animal feed (palm kernel expeller)

  • Pharmaceutical

  • Industrial

  • Foodservice/service industry

In my viewpoint, its properties like neutral flavour and presence of saturated and monounsaturated fats (keeps it stable at high temperature) make it ideal for frying purposes in the commercial food industry.

Is palm’s success its greatest enemy?

Palm oil is a versatile and cost-effective oil. It’s a $40 billion industry. It’s native to Africa but today, Malaysia and Indonesia produce 85% of the world’s supply. The reason why it’s the best possible vegetable oil in comparison to other seed oils is its yielding power. It yields 7x and 11x more oil per hectare than rapeseed and soybean, respectively, which exist as the two next most productive oils. There is a popular saying — “It’s lonely at the top”. And I truly believe in this statement and it also holds true for this “Palm Oil”; despite its so many uses and nutritional benefits, it has been going through so many controversies. I wonder what if we stop producing this wondrous oil… many of the industries won’t survive and how on earth we would be able to feed mankind!