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Is Palm Oil Good for Your Health?


One Green Planet has plenty of posts on the ethics of palm oil. We all know that palm oil is an environmental disaster; it is a major cause of deforestation and habitat loss, specifically for orangutans. The WWF has a good report on the various impacts for further reading. Even the human impact of palm oil has been questioned, as growing evidence shows the exploitation of human labor in the edible oil’s production. Most recently, palm oil has been in the news for more positive reasons. The huge palm oil company Wilmar committed to ending its deforestation practices and exploitation in its production of the major crop. Whether they manage to keep this promise is yet to be seen. But it’s a huge step in the right direction.

palm oil


With all of this talk about the ethics of palm oil, a person might wonder if eating it is healthy. The oil itself is derived from the fruits of the oil palm. It is consumed in both oxidized and fresh forms. As a fresh food, it contains health benefits like reduction of blood pressure and the risk of arterial thrombosis. Unfortunately, much of the commonly used palm oil is in an oxidized — that is to say, processed — form. Once the oil is oxidized, it poses health dangers on the psychological and biochemical levels. Such as reproductive toxicity and organ toxicity, impacting organs such as the kidneys and lungs. To read more about the science behind this, peruse this free article by the Plant Foods for Human Nutrition journal.

Palm oil is used as a cooking oil and in packed food products, confectionery, soups, crackers, and margarine. It can also be used for non-consumptive purposes, such as in soaps and detergents. Naturally, one of palm oil’s biggest assets is its many potential utilities. After soybean oil, it is the most used edible oil on earth. In the United States, the major use of palm oil is in recipes that require a hard fat such as butter or lard. It is worth noting, that American consumption of palm oil is two percent of the global consumption. Which represents only eight percent of domestic vegetable oil consumption.

As a result, palm oil became popular because it is a replacement for trans fats. So that packaged foods can wear the label of zero grams of trans fat, some food companies have opted for palm oil over more traditional fats in a Western diet. Palm oil contains about as much saturated fat as butter, and, as this NPR piece points out, all of these fats are generally found in foods that aren’t recommended for frequent consumption. Saturated fats are the fats that are solid at room temperature and are considered the most detrimental to human health.

Many support the view that palm oil is not nutritionally ideal. Palmoilaction.org.au cites both the Australian government and the Australian National Heart Foundation in its recommendation against palm oil consumption. The idea is quite simple: we don’t want to be replacing high trans fats foods with high saturated ones, either. The Center for Science in the Public Interest claims that since the edible oil is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat it,  it could promote heart diseases. The Center classes palm oil as better than partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but more harmful than liquid oils such as olive and canola. The Human Food Project claims that palm oil causes low-grade inflammation, that is linked to insulin resistance and obesity. Admittedly, palm oil has nutritional value, such as antioxidants. Once it is processed down into those highly processed foods, the healthier option is to cook with whole foods. Rather than choosing pre-made meals and snacks.

So, are you going to try to avoid palm oil even more now? The easiest option is to cook for yourself, using whole foods. And to eat a minimal amount of pre-made and packaged options. Realistically, though, everyone occasionally caves into temptations, so here is a list of eight vegan products that contain palm oil, and keep in mind that lots of packaged foods have the oil hiding in them. So read up on our guide on vegan products that are “safe”. If you’re really inspired, read how we recommend you take action, as there will surely be more news about palm oil in the future, and the environmental issues surrounding the product certainly needs more attention.

Image source: Martin H. / Wikimedia

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5 comments on “Is Palm Oil Good for Your Health?”

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mobotak mobotak
9 Months Ago

All of palm oil\'s calories come from fat. Its fatty acid breakdown is 50% saturated fatty acids, 40% monounsaturated fatty acids and 10% polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The main type of saturated fat found in palm oil is palmitic acid, which contributes 44% of its calories. It also contains high amounts of oleic acid and smaller amounts of linoleic acid and stearic acid.

Red palm oil\'s reddish-orange pigment stems from antioxidants known as carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which your body can convert into vitamin A.

In fractionated palm oil, the liquid portion is removed by a crystallizing and filtering process. The remaining solid portion is higher in saturated fat and has a higher melting temperature.

It May Have Health Benefits
Brain Health
Heart Health
Improved Vitamin A Status


1 Years Ago

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat as well but is a healthy oil I will continue to research but not sure palm oil is bad for you at all unless they hydrogenate it. I had heard it was a good oil for you. Much better than canola or corn or soybean oil for sure.

C Oliver
28 Mar 2017

Just because you heard coconut oil is a healthy oil. doesn\'t make it so.. It really does not have magical properties, and many of the studies cited by those who advocate consuming it report that it really is not good for you.

Coconut oil is 100 % processed product devoid of essential nutrients... its a junk food.. Many in the coconut oil business promote it as the "good" saturated fat. But "this is a case where facts have been twisted into fiction," states Dr. Jay Kenney, Educator and Nutrition Research Specialist at Pritikin.

Bottom Line:

Don’t believe claims on the Internet and elsewhere that coconut oil is good for you. Coconut oil is bad news for your LDL cholesterol, heart, and overall health. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-coconut-oil-good-for-you/

1 Years Ago

I think palm oil is not healthy. It is particularly high in saturated fat and it can cause hypertension.


08 Aug 2017

well this bass drop in marshmello and fatrat are amazing however is reading this in Charles cambelle I say hiiiii DONT FALL ASLEEP

08 Aug 2017


08 Aug 2017


Linda Weston
1 Years Ago

My concern is mainly the source of the palm oil......is it from sustainable areas or, I fear, from places where we are loosing the forests and jungles to support this use of palm oil? I have asked this on several site but I do not get an answer perhaps I am right in thinking its from places where the Orangatans are suffering greatly

F. Breeze
1 Years Ago

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest claims that since the edible oil is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat it, it could promote heart diseases. The Centre classes palm oil as better than partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but more harmful than liquid oils such as olive and Canola.7 Feb 2014

CANOLA OIL Canada Oil Refineries creates a poison giving people MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS! I\'ve accessed the academic \'My Athens\' data base this is TRUE!


08 Aug 2017

I know right hay once there was three brown bears they lived in a dark dark dark corner for the first bear look out side you door for the second bear look outside your window and for the third little bear well...thers no chance for you at all (:

The Raven
26 Sep 2017

its TRUE!

my nig
26 Jan 2018

do you know da wae brudder?

1 Years Ago

CANOLA OIL a refined version of RAPESEED OIL the medically and scientifically [peer reviewed] known to cause Multiple Sclerosis,
BETTER FOR YOU????? really?

2 Years Ago

too long details...still the main question remains un answerd.....the palm oil is good or bad for human health....? who can say the answer...??

Mark Wolcott
3 Years Ago

Utter rubbish: "Saturated fats are the fats that... are considered the most detrimental to human health."
See article below:
Saturated fat is critical for good health, and should comprise the majority of one\'s fat intake.

priya aggarwal
4 Years Ago

Thank you for this informative post on Palm oil. It’s important to raise awareness about healthy edible oil and this post has surely helped a lot of us understand the ill-effects of this oil. As a dietitian, I would also like to add, choosing the right oil for cooking is crucial as it can affect your health accordingly. After all the research I have done in this field, I have found that a blend of two kinds of oil is best for the health. Choose the oil which has multi-seed technology like Saffola Total. I usually recommend this oil as it is a blend of safflower and rice bran oil and it has double antioxidants, which helps in controlling cholesterol. Most of us are prone to many diseases and choosing the right kind of oil can prevent most of them. I hope this helps!

Janis Keller
4 Years Ago

Palm oil is not good for the rainforest. Palm oil plantations are DEVASTATING the rainforest and the Orangatans. NEVER buy the stuff!!!

pete prokop
08 Feb 2015

that would be orangutans, Janis.

Ben Michaels
12 Jun 2015

Well, the media has made everyone believe that palm oil = killing orangutans for a good reason.

A) the claim was the absorption of CO2 of palm tree is inferior to tropical forests hence detrimental to the environment and cause global warming. Also planting on swamp lands affect carbon sequestration.

They were quick to realize that this claim would not work, because when compared to rapeseed oil (canola), corn, or other plant oils, not only is the absorption of CO2 much higher, the amount of pesticides used to produce a liter of palm oil is far lesser, the amount of land use to produce a liter is 15 times smaller, the job opportunities given were few hundred times more than canola oil. (it is a very labor intensive and manual to harvest palm fruits, hence it has brought job opportunities and wealth to communities planting oil palm. Average wage is around US$800 per month for oil palm industry, while minimum wage set by the government is around US$300 for some countries in south east asia.)

B) Once the claim of CO2 does not work, they move on to the health benefits or disadvantages of palm oil against other oil.

This has lead to the battle between trans fat, saturated fat, mono, poly, etc. The fact is, our body needs all kinds of fat, and everything in moderation is good. Do people not die of heart disease for not consuming palm oil?

Palm oil has only been large cultivated since 100 years ago, when the British (ruler of Malaysia then) first brought the species from Africa to be planted in Malaysia. It has since been the diet of many in south east asia, and accross the world in all kinds of products (food, cosmetics, cleaning agents, etc).

Pork lard was once perceived as unhealthy, however it has remeerged as one of the healthy oils in recent years. Coconut oil was once perceived major cause of heart disease, but it has made a comeback in recent years. Maybe Palm oil will one day be a healthy alternative?

Palm oil has great attributes especially its stability under high heat for example frying. Fried food is a predominant diet in the south eastern asian diet, and they have used palm oil as a stable and relatively inexpensive oil for commercial use. Corn or canola are unsuitable for high heat applications.

The ability to produce palm oil cheaper than the other forms of vegetable oils has also gave the perception of it being lousy and cheap. However the reason of it being cheaper is simply its higher growth efficiencies.

C) Thirdly, they move on to the topic of oil palm affecting biodiversity.

Tropics being one of the most biodiversified forests in the world, has clearly one disadvantage comparing to temperate, boreal forests. There are probably less than 50 types of trees in a temperate forests (some countries only have around 10 types) while tropics have more than 2000 species.

The argument is, the cutting of every piece of forest would lead to extinctions of some species of trees, plants, animals (namely orangutan).

The fact is, orangutans are rarely seen in the vast forests as they tend to be nomadic, and live in communities. They can not extinct basically because there are vast lands accross the tropics, and mostly unaccessible/untouched to man. The amount of land used for oil palm today is about 4.49 million hectares in Malaysia and 7.8 million hectares in Indonesia, as they are the two larger producers in the world.

Though it sounds extravagant, the land use is 14% of the 33 million hectares of land in Malaysia. (which also equates to 7% the size of france, and 0.6% the size of Australia.) Most of these lands were previously used for other agricultural purposes such as cocoa, rubber, paddy, etc.

So how many hectares of lands were used for canola, corn, etc? Have they affected biodiversity, probably not, because the amount of species in temperate countries are far lesser, hence there are more of the same species available elsewhere.

However this claim has proven effective with orangutans seen on children text books, products, tv, etc claiming that it is the closest relative of humans (genetically) and its going to extinct if you take palm oil.

So why palm oil = killing orangutans? It is simply because, the lucrative business of corn, soy, rapeseed (canola), olive is affected by Palm Oil. Palm oil is taking over a lot of different vegetable oils simply because it is more stable, better and cheaper. Such claims are needed to create trade barriers, trick consumers into believing it is not good for health or environment, and to protect the local companies (vegetable oil growers and its downstream).

I will call it a politically motivated campaign rather than facts.

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