Contrary to the messages propagated during the low-fat era of the 1980’s to the early 2000’s, fats are actually essential to our body. They’re a concentrated source of energy, they provide building blocks for cell membranes and hormones, and they’re the conduit through which fat-soluble vitamins—like A, D, E and K—are absorbed by the body. Fat even makes you feel full longer and makes healthy food more enjoyable, which helps keep off weight.
Red palm oil is a highly concentrated source of Vitamin A, with 15 times more carotenoids than carrots (you can tell by the beautiful, rich red color). Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for eyesight, bones and teeth formation, and for tissue growth and repair.
Things get interesting when you look at vitamin E in palm oil. Vitamin E is really a complex of 8 subgroups of related compounds, such as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Like vitamin A, vitamin E is fat soluble—which means that these nutrients need fats to be absorbed by the body. Vitamin E battles free radicals within the fatty tissues and cell membranes, which has been shown to relieve symptoms of menopause, prevent scars on wounds and boost the immune system.
Both tocopherols and tocotrienols are found in palm oil. Tocopherols are present in most plant-based oils. Tocotrienols, on the other hand, are rare in food, yet are abundant in palm oil—70 percent of the Vitamin E in palm oil comes from tocotrienols.
Recent studies suggest that tocotrienols have powerful protective properties against heart disease, cancer and even dementia and Alzheimer’s.
What about the dangers of saturated fats?
After their decade-long demonization, emerging scientific studies tell a different story: Saturated fatty acids consumed in balance with essential fats are unlikely to contribute to cardio-vascular disease. Their consumption is shown in studies to be less harmful than that of refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and flour. And some saturated fatty acids, such as the lauric variety that is plentiful in palm oil, may well offer health benefits.
Thankfully, palm oil—both red palm oil and refined palm oil—is a fantastic oil to cook with!