Red palm oil -- an unprocessed form of palm oil that retains the palm kernel's color and flavor -- is quickly gaining a reputation as a miracle health food. And it does have some advantages; while many oils contain fatty acids and calories, but not much else, red palm oil supplies generous amounts of vitamins A and E. However, there's no direct evidence that shows it will help you lose fat, including the significant loss you'd need to reduce your body fat levels by 27 percent. You can include it as part of a balanced diet, but don't count on red palm oil to melt away your fat.
Restricting Calories -- The Key to Reducing Body Fat
The most important step in reducing your body fat levels is controlling your calorie intake. Restricting your calories to the point that you're eating less than you burn forces your body to turn to other sources for energy, so it starts metabolizing your body fat. The calories required for weight loss differ from person to person -- figure out your needs using an online calculator -- but you'll generally want to eat around 500 to 1,000 less than you burn each day. This will allow you to slowly but steadily lose 1 to 2 pounds weekly and gradually reduce your body fat percentage. Expect a lengthy weight loss journey if you're trying to reduce your body fat levels by 27 percent; you can safely lose about 1 percent of your body fat monthly, according to the American Council on Exercise, so you should plan to reach your goal in slightly more than two years.
At 130 calories per tablespoon, red palm oil is high in calories, but it can still fit into a fat-loss diet. Just measure your portion size and count the calories toward your daily intake, so you're not accidentally over-consuming it and sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Eating even 2 tablespoons of red palm oil daily without accounting for those calories could significantly slow your weight loss; if you're trying to lose a pound a week, those 2 extra tablespoons would cut your weight loss in half, to 1/2 pound weekly.
Theoretical Benefit for Fat Loss
While no evidence shows that red palm oil helps you lose fat, the vitamin A in red palm oil could, theoretically, support your weight loss efforts. Each tablespoon of red palm oil supplies 240 percent of daily vitamin A needs. Your body converts vitamin A into a family of compounds called retinoids. Animal studies indicate that some of these retinoids affect your hormone levels, including hormones that control your appetite, and people who get more vitamin A from their diet tend to have a lower risk of obesity, reports a literature review published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research.
However, this research doesn't necessarily mean that red palm oil will make you lose weight. The research into vitamin A's effect on hunger hormones was conducted in animals, and vitamin A might not have the same effect in people. And while higher vitamin A intakes might correlate with lower rates of obesity, that doesn't necessarily mean that getting more vitamin A will make you shed body fat. Although the form of vitamin A in red palm oil is safe, taking extra vitamin A in the form of supplements could lead to toxicity.
Other Potential Benefits of Red Palm Oil
While red palm oil might not be a magic bullet for weight loss, it may offer other health benefits. It's high in antioxidants, which are a family of compounds that protect your cells and tissues from damage, including genetic mutations. Eating red palm oil has been shown to boost antioxidant levels in people, reports a review published in the British Journal of Biomedical Science in 2009. And each tablespoon of red palm oil contains 25 percent of the daily value for vitamin E, an antioxidant that's also involved in immunity.
Red palm oil might also benefit your cardiovascular health. While it's high in saturated fatty acids, which are traditionally linked to heart disease because of their harmful effect on cholesterol, it doesn't seem to negatively affect your blood cholesterol levels, reports the British Journal of Biomedical Science review. It might help lower blood pressure and lower your risk of atherosclerosis, but more research is needed to know for sure how much it helps.
Take a Balanced Approach to Fat Loss
Don't rely on red palm oil to melt away your body fat; use it to add flavor to a healthy calorie-restricted diet that will allow for fat loss. For example, use it as your cooking oil when making healthy homemade vegetable soups or stir-fries, or add a small amount of red palm oil to air-popped popcorn for a high-fiber snack. Flesh out the rest of your diet with generous portions of vegetables, healthy whole or cut-up fruit, whole grains and beans, nuts and seeds and lean proteins, like poultry and fish. For the most effective fat loss results, combine dietary interventions with more aerobic activity -- whether that's a dance class, a sweat session on the treadmill or a cycling trip around your neighborhood -- and strength training to help you retain muscle.