Move over coconut oil. Red palm oil is just as tasty and easy to cook with and has just as many health benefits, if not more! Over two billion people, mainly in Asia, already know about the miracle cooking ingredient, but word is quickly catching on in the US and other parts of the world, too, with Dr. Oz even touting its many benefits.
What Is Red Palm Oil?
This oil is a highly saturated fatty oil made from the fruit of the "Elaeis guineensis" tree, native to Africa. It's rich in carotenoids, which gives the fruit its distinctive red hue, and powerful antioxidants. Today, it's a go-to cooking ingredient in Malaysia and Indonesia, due to its tasty carrot-like flavor, rich texture, and how easy it is to cook with, since it has a long shelf life and a high smoke point. However, red palm oil has been used by humans, including the Egyptian pharaohs, for thousands of years for all kinds of medicinal purposes.
In modern times, the oil is sometimes processed into foods like protein bars and cereals, but when this happens, it loses its red color and nearly all of its nutritional benefits.
Is There A Need?
Red palm oil is special because of the multiple health benefits it contains in just one spoonful, however, these health benefits can be found in other fruits and foods as well, so it's not necessary to pick up a bottle on your next grocery run in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For those who have concerns about the environment, it may actually be a product to pass on, as the mass production of the oil in Malaysia and India has led to deforestation, and in some cases, unsafe and unfair working conditions.
Environmental groups and other activists are working toward a sustainable solution. That said, for those who are looking for easy, healthy cooking options (stir fry and sauteed meals, in particular), it's a fantastic option.
10 Health Benefits
The health benefits of this oil are practically drastic and overwhelming, with many historic accounts of it being used for everything from snake bite anecdotes to gonorrhea treatment. But here are the benefits that have the most modern-day scientific backing and should be looked at for modern day uses.
Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease
Many scientific studies show that consuming this oil reduces inflammation and plaque build-up in the arteries, thus reducing one's risk of getting heart disease or having a heart attack. One scientific study compared the effects of palm oil, soybean oil, peanut oil and lard on cholesterol levels, and found that palm oil reduced cholesterol levels by 13.1%, and triglyceride levels by 6.7%. Because the oil is rich in vitamin E, it also dramatically reduces the risk of having a stroke. In rare cases, this oil has increased cholesterol
Improves Brain Cognition
This oil is densely packed with vitamin E, and not just any vitamin E, but a specific and super powerful form of it: tocotrienol. For example, a study from the Journal of Nutrition focusing on people with brain lesions showed that daily consumption of tocotrienol blocked the further growth of their brain lesions. Basically, this means that this oil is fantastic for your brain! It promotes healthy blood flow to the brain and even prevents and treats brain damage associated with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and strokes.
Fights Disease And Infection
Studies show that this oil helps the immune system function better, in part thanks to the phytosterols it contains. This alone has almost unlimited health benefits, preventing disease and helping to speed up the healing process when fighting a disease or infection. One specific example is in 2002; Cooper et al. found that the oil helped to reduce the severity of malaria infection in Nigerian children.
In a 2006 study, this oil was found to improve treatment of cancer symptoms, and also minimize the harmful effects of chemotherapy. This is all thanks to the carotenoids and Vitamin E contained in the oil. More notably, studies also suggest that this oil consumption helps reduce the risk of developing many cancers, including skin, stomach, pancreas, lung, liver, breast, prostate, and colon. It's crucial to not confuse ordinary palm oil with this oil, as the former has been associated with an increased risk of cancer.
This oil contains beta-carotene and vitamin A, which are essential to good vision. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include night blindness, so adding the oil to your diet can prevent that. Moreover, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that giving antioxidants, including beta-carotene, to people with vision issues over the age of 50 reduced their risk of developing advanced macular degeneration by 25%.
The carotenes in red palm oil protect the skin from the sun's destructive ultraviolet rays. So, this oil is basically a natural, healthy sunblock when it's applied to the skin. But that's not the only benefit that this oil has for your skin. It's also used to minimize scars and acne, treat dermatitis and eczema, and even fight wrinkles! By eating this oil, and also using it as a topical ointment or moisturizer, you can slow down the skin's aging process and enjoy a healthier, younger-looking complexion.
Stimulates Hair Growth
Tocopherol, which red palm oil contains, has been proven to boost hair growth time and time again. A study in 2010 showed that people with hair loss who took tocotrienol for eight months straight experienced an incredible 34.5% increase in hair growth. In fact, vitamin E, which this oil is packed with, has been used to reduce hair loss resulting from side effects of certain medical drugs.
Stimulates Weight Loss
Traditional fats and oils like margarine do not efficiently break down into energy and end up getting stored as fat in the body. However, this palm oil has the opposite effect. It's digested easily and as a result, stimulates the metabolism. Just one tablespoon of red palm oil gives you all the vitamin you need for a day, and this vitamin A then converts into retinoids, which in turn affect your hormone levels and appetite. This is one of the reasons it's believed that red palm oil can help to stimulate weight loss and prevent obesity.
For people looking for healthy weight loss options, cooking with red palm oil is an easy and flavorful way to burn calories fast, along with a healthy diet and exercise. Although the oil has a high smoke point, its health benefits are best achieved when sauteing or stir-frying.
Improves Liver Function
A recent study performed by The Ohio State University Medical Center found that end-stage liver patients who took Tocomin SupraBio red palm oil experienced many benefits to their liver. It joins other studies that also prove that this oil has health benefits for chronic liver disease patients. As well, red palm oil ingestion can help reduce the risk of developing liver cancer in the first place. Red palm oil goes straight to the liver when it's eaten, so this may be a factor in its surprising healing benefits.
Helps With Pregnancy
Vitamin A is recommended for a pregnant woman, as it helps the fetus to develop properly and prevents complications in late pregnancy. Too much vitamin A can have the opposite effect (770 mcg per day is ideal), however, so a balanced diet including this oil versus taking supplements could be a safe option. The oil can also help couples get pregnant, as it promotes reproductive health.
This palm oil has stood the test of time as both a healthy cooking ingredient and versatile medicine, with ancient Egyptian pharaohs and Dr. Oz alike all singing its praises. The health benefits of the oil are seemingly endless, but the more remarkable benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, helping to treat various diseases and infections, and overall improving the immune system.
Because the oil is jampacked with so many nutrients, including vitamin A and E, it also helps slow down the aging process, which leads to better vision and skin and even hair growth. Pregnant women, in particular, will find that red palm oil makes a great dietary supplement.
The health benefits of the oil can be easily enjoyed, as it's simple to cook with and has a pleasant carrot-like flavor and rich texture. However, both the red color and the health benefits of the oil vanish when it's processed into foods like baked goods, cereal, and protein bars, so it is best to purchase it raw. Finally, although there are few downsides to ingesting the oil, there are downsides to its production.
The understandable increase in demand for the miracle oil has led to deforestation and poor working conditions in some parts of Asia, so it's advisable to purchase the oil from brands that support sustainability or even consider not purchasing it at all.