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Nutritional Value of Palm Oil

By Johnalee Johnston

Since its discovery in the forests of 19th-century Malaysia, palm oil has been commercially utilized in culinary and cosmetic applications. The nutritional value of palm oil offers mixed blessings in the form of potent antioxidants and saturated fat. In fact, one tbsp. of palm oil can help to reduce the risk of heart disease while increasing bad cholesterol. The trick to harnessing the good nutritional values of palm oil seems to lie in the old adage of "everything in moderation."

Vitamin E

The eight antioxidants found in vitamin E are the main reason for its reputation as a no-nonsense skin protector. While the vitamin E found in palm oil does work to inhibit the “free radical gang” from wreaking havoc in your skin, it is also responsible for helping to prevent heart disease and cancer. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the pitfall of vitamin E is that once it takes out a free radical, its antioxidant power is neutralized.

Vitamin K

Without vitamin K, the slightest cut to your skin would cause massive blood loss from the body. Vitamin K enables blood clotting, which helps to seal off wounds from the inside and keep blood flowing throughout the body where it is needed. According to the National Institutes of Health, NIH, deficiencies in vitamin K often have symptoms of easy bruising, bleeding and a resistance to antibiotics. While vitamin K is also created from bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, one tbsp. of palm oil offers an additional boost.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The small amount of omega 3 fatty acids found in palm oil can go a long way toward helping your brain function at full throttle. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, researchers have found that by reducing inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Omega-3 is highly concentrated in the brain, where it aids memory, cognitive and behavioral functions. Also called polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 represents the smallest variety of fat in palm oil.

Saturated & Monounsaturated Fats

Healthy dietary fat is a necessary component for making energy-producing fatty acids that the body needs but cannot make by itself. A single tbsp. of palm oil contains 13 g of saturated and monounsaturated fat in almost equal proportions. While saturated fat is considered to be a major precursor to heart disease and the main dietary cause of bad cholesterol, monounsaturated fats tend to lower cholesterol. Both fats are high in calories that can only be burned after 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, according to NIH.

Antioxidants

The rich amber hues of palm oil are called carotenoids by scientists and are a good indication of its antioxidant properties, or disease-fighting capability. The American Palm Oil Council credits beta-carotene, a derivative of vitamin A, as palm oil’s main carotenoid antioxidant. Beta-carotene works to boost the immune system and protect the body from developing diseases caused by cellular damage. Beta-carotene is found in the pigment of palm oil; as a fat-soluble nutrient, its potent healing abilities are enhanced by the presence of healthy fats in palm oil.

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