Is palm oil good or bad for you? Nigerians do love their oil. You can peep into any pot of soup or stew and can almost be guaranteed to see a deep layer of oil lying on top of whatever ingredients are hidden deep underneath. I constantly ask at restaurants and parties “why is the food so oily?” and I constantly get a very popular answer “madam, that’s why the food dey sweet!” Really now?! Sweet? Seriously, I don’t see what can be sweet about having to use a straw to drink the oil floating on top of your bowl of soup. But anyone who has dug into a bowl of Nigerian soup or stew will tell you, it is ‘sweet’ aka finger-licking good. Anyhoot! Red palm oil is unrefined or virgin oil extracted from palm fruits.
My Nigerian peoples have probably not heard the health warnings about oil, cholesterol and all. But, they may already know something that the rest of the health enthusiasts out there are just discovering about palm oil. Contrary to popular opinion, palm oil really is “GOOD” for you?! Shocking! Commonly used in traditional dishes, palm oil (or palm fruit oil as it is also known) is a staple, used by generations of Nigerian, and West African, women to make the most mouthwatering dishes you could imagine. So, if it wasn’t bad for our grandmothers, why has it become bad for us? Have we been sucked into western propaganda about cholesterol and oils? After a number of comments on my blog and a few emails from my blog readers asking if “2 table spoons of oil is too much” for this or “no way you used 2 cups of palm oil” for that, I decided to dig around online to find out why there was all this hoopla about how “bad” palm oil is for your health. However, what did I find? Mainly new schools of thought about how the health benefits of this indigenous cooking oil of ours. Even more shocking is that palm oil has ZERO cholesterol, and that it is becoming a key ingredient in dairy-free and natural health food products often found on store shelves in place such as Whole Foods in the US and UK. Just read the labels and you’ll see for yourself.
Feel free to form your own opinion. I will continue to make traditional Nigerian dishes with palm oil and palm fruit sauce or butter – guilt free. It’s only as bad as you believe it to be and, like many other factors in life, is best when consumed in moderation. Palm oil is even Dr. Oz approved. The doctor calls red palm fruit oil his most miraculous find for 2013. And for me, in combination with many other unique ingredients, you just cannot cook many traditional West African dishes without it!
I was so intrigued by what I was learning about palm oil, I purchased a book on Amazon about it – The Palm Oil Miracle by Dr. Bruce Fife. It was a very informative and easy read. The great part is that there are some recipes in the last chapter that use palm oil and I’ll definitely be trying out a few and sharing on the blog. I also recommend reading the book if you are health conscious and want to learn more about this oil.
What I found out from my research is that palm oil is one of the healthiest oils and it has zero. I repeat – zero cholesterol. As I stated earlier. Other things I learned are;
- It is a rich, natural source for tocotrienols (a unique form of vitamin E) and carotenoids (Pro-vitamin A)
- Tocotrienols from Red Palm Oil is a powerful brain and heart protective vitamin E
- Red palm oil has more of the antioxidant carotene than tomatoes or carrots
- It’s unique combination of Tocotrienols and Carotenes [might] help stall the aging process
- Palm oil has been used as both a food and a medicine for thousands of years. It was prized by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt as a sacred food
- In tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, it is an integral part of a healthy diet just as olive oil is in the Mediterranean
- It possesses excellent cooking properties and is more heat stable than other vegetable oils and imparts great taste, texture, and quality
- As a natural vegetable oil, it contains no trans fatty acids or cholesterol
- It is currently being used by doctors and government agencies to treat specific illnesses and improve nutritional status
- Recent medical studies have shown that palm oil, particularly virgin (red) palm oil, can protect against many common health problems; protects against heart disease, improves blood sugar in diabetics, helps protect many forms of cancer, supports healthy lung function and healthy immune system among others
Here are a few more useful sources of information about palm oil that you can find online:
- Many Shades of palm oil – The Healthy Economist
- Drs Andrew Weil and Mehmet Oz recommend vitaminE tocotrienols – Palm Oil Heath
- Is palm oil good for you? – Heather Gather.com
- Is palm oil safe to eat? – Dr Gourmet