Palm Oil

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 18. Nov. 2020

This controversial oil is found in everything from packaged desserts to cosmetics. Read up on everything you need to know about palm oil

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Palm oil...

  • rich in vitamin A.
    Palm oil is rich in vitamin A, which helps support healthy eyes and may lower the risk of developing certain kinds of cancer.
  • a good source of vitamin E.
    Vitamin E supports a broad range of biological functions, including brain and blood health.
  • ...contains little cholesterol.
    Palm oil is very low both in bad and good cholesterols.
  • not rich in healthy fatty acids.
    Unlike many types of oils, palm oil does not contain large amounts of healthy fatty acids.
  • bad for the environment.
    The market for palm oil has led to devastating deforestation, as natural environments are bull-dozed to make way for palm farms.
  • not recommended by doctors.
    Palm oil’s lack of nutritional benefits has not made it a favorite of doctors.

What You Should Know About Palm Oil

Palm trees might be best known for their coconuts, however they're responsible another valuable ingredient: palm oil. This versatile cooking oil is distilled from the fruit of oil palms, which goes through a complex steaming and pressing process to produce this light oil utilized in a variety of common foods and goods in your pantry, from ice creams and chocolate fillings to margarine. In fact, palm oil is the most widely-consumed vegetable oil in the world.

Unfortunately, this prevalence has turned palm oil production into one of the most destructive environmental practices in recent memory. It's estimated that palm oil production is responsible for about 8% of the world's deforestation between 1990 and 2008. 

While new restrictions have made palm oil production more eco-friendly in some cases, it's still best to do your research before buying palm oil so as not to inadvertantly support deforestation practices. Buy native palm oil from organic and ecological cultivation who are transparent about their cultivation practices. You can easily buy these varieties online, or at specialty food stores.


The true home of the oil palm lies in Africa. However today, the majority of the world's palm oil comes from oil palms in Indonesia and Malaysia.


Refined palm oil or palm fat tastes mild and almost neutral. Raw, native organic palm oil, on the other hand, has a slightly sweet and aromatic taste.

How Healthy is Palm Oil?

Because palm oil's  relatively high proportion of saturated fatty acids (around 52 percent), makes it one of the least healthy types of fats. However that's not to say palm oil is without its benefits. Native organic palm oil is rich in beta-carotenes, antioxidants which protect the body against damage from free radicals. Native organic palm oil contains about 15 times more beta-carotenes than carrots and about 50 times more than tomatoes. It also contains a particularly high proportion of vitamin E, another powerful antixodiant, as well as coenzyme Q10, a substance which studies show has positive effects on the heart, skin, muscles and gums.

Calories 900
Protein 0 g
Fat 100 g
Carbohydrates 0 g
Fiber 0 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips


If you value sustainability, you should only buy native palm oil from organic and ecological cultivation. In contrast to refined palm oil, it also contains far more of its original nutrients.


Organic palm oil is usually available in dark screw-in jars, which protect the fat from light. Nevertheless, you should always store palm oil in a dark and cool place and, after breaking the glass, best in the refrigerator.

How to Use Palm Oil

The high proportion of saturated fatty acids in palm oil means it has a very high smoke point, making it ideal for frying or deep-frying. It's also perfect for cooking in a wok, and gives soups, vegetable and rice dishes a pleasantly exotic taste plus and beautiful color.

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