UK-BASED food technology expert Kurt G. Berger said over the course of his research of more than 50 years, many people are unduly suspicious of palm oil, an ingredient many are still unfamiliar with. He tells Business Times in an interview that once the functional and economic advantages of this “more natural product” are explained, people will become more confident of the health benefits of palm oil in their daily diet.
Question: Why does palm cooking oil sometimes turn “cloudy”? Is the oil still safe for consumption?
Answer: Palm oil becomes jelly-like and cloudy when stored in the fridge, when all the other major vegetable oils remain liquid. This is due to its 50 per cent content saturated acids, mainly palmitic and stearic.
More importantly, the other half of palm oil’s fat content is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – known to increase HDL, the “good cholesterol”, and can benefit the cardiovascular system.
Unlike other vegetable oils grown in temperate countries, palm oil contains the whole spectrum of Vitamin E, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients. Its deep orange hue shows it is packed with beta-carotene, a Vitamin A variant.
Question: What is the world’s most consumed oil?
Answer: Today, palm oil is consumed by three billion people across 150 countries. Palm oil is mainly consumed as cooking oil. It is the main ingredient of margarine and shortening. Last year, leading industry journal Oil World showed that global consumption of vegetable oils is around 180 million tonnes.
Of that volume, palm oil accounted for 30 per cent of the global market share, while rivals like soyabean oil only command 24 per cent and canola 13 per cent.
Question: Is palm oil less nutritious than other more expensive cooking oils?
Answer: Palm oil is nutritionally balanced. One tablespoon of palm cooking oil contains 120 calories and 13.6g of fat. With a balanced combination of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats, palm oil is made up of 44 per cent oleic, 10 per cent linoleic, 40 per cent palmitic and five per cent stearic acids.
While palm oil is the cheapest cooking oil in the world, it is nutritionally comparable to olive oil. It is packed with carotenes such as beta-carotene and lycopene – the same nutrients that give tomatoes, carrots and papaya their reddish-orange colour.
Palm oil has the richest natural source of the supervitamin E called tocotrienols. Olive oil does not contain any carotenes or tocotrienols, yet it is cleverly marketed as being heart healthy.
Question: How well is palm oil digested?
Answer: Once consumed, palm oil does not remain intact in our stomach for long. Once the enzyme pancreatic lipase comes into contact with the fats we consume, it breaks down the fat molecules into fatty acids and mono-glycerides, which are then absorbed by our intestines.
Palm cooking oil and margarine are 95 to 97 per cent digestible, which falls within the range of 93 to 99 per cent for most edible oils and fats.
Question: Does palm cooking oil contain cholesterol?
Answer: Like all vegetable oils, palm oil does not contain cholesterol. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administrator has allowed palm-based products sold under the Smart Balance brand (containing up to 50 per cent palm oil and 50 per cent local oils) to carry the US patented label “To help increase HDL (good cholesterol) and improve the cholesterol ratio (HDL/LDL)”.
Source : Business Times