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The Health Benefits of Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, and Coconut Oil

Updated on February 19, 2014
The Fruit of The African Oil Palm Elaeis Guineensis. You Can See Both The Ripe and Unripe Fruits. The Red Ripe Color Is Where The Palm Oil Gets Its Color.
The Fruit of The African Oil Palm Elaeis Guineensis. You Can See Both The Ripe and Unripe Fruits. The Red Ripe Color Is Where The Palm Oil Gets Its Color.

Since ancient time, the palm tree, in its different varieties has been a source of livelihood to those who live around and outside of the regions where it grows. One palm tree in particular, the oil palms of the Arecaceae, or palm family, has been the source for many well known palm products.

The African Oil Palm Elaeis Guineensis, a species vastly grown and breed in countries such as, Ghana, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other West and Southwest African Countries is the source of the Palm Oil, and the Palm Kernel Oil. The Oil Palm Elaeis Guineensis is a very fruitful tree that has a high yield of these two natural oil per tree. Oils derived from this palm tree species are used as cooking oil, ingredients for soap, skin oil, and as a dietary supplements.

A third oil, the Coconut Oil, is from a different palm called Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera). Cocos Nucifera is a member of the palm family Arecaceae. The fruit of this tree is the coconut from which the oil is extracted.

Palm Kernel Oil, Coconut Oil, and Palm Oil are the three cooking oil derived from the palm family. These three palm-derived oils, though contains highly saturated vegetable fats, do not contain cholesterol.

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Palm Oil is usually red in color. High in Carotenes.
Palm Oil is usually red in color. High in Carotenes.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is a red cooking oil that is extracted from the pulp of the oil palm fruit of Elaeis Guineensis tree, and is a popular cooking oil in Nigeria, West Africa, and in East Asia. It is used in the preparation of many porridge dishes, soup dish, and can also be used in frying, baking, and as a salad oil.

I especially like to use palm oil for the stew of beans, to cook egusi and ogbono soup; these are special dishes in Nigeria. Palm oil is naturally reddish in color because of a high beta-carotene content. To tone down the reddish color of palm oil in dishes, I sometimes use it in combination with olive oil (equal portions), this also helps to enhance the taste of the palm oil.

Palm Oil, because of its high saturated fat level, can withstand extreme deep-frying heat and resists oxidation. It's been shown to have a similar effect on ones total cholesterol as olive oil. Palm oil is cholesterol free, and full of high potent anti-oxidants.

Health Benefits of Palm Oil

Due to it semi-solid form at room temperature, Palm Oil has been sometimes misconstrue as an artery clogging oil. But, its been found that Palm oil is actually packed with lots of health benefits. Among some of its benefits is the fact that Palm oil is very high in Tocotrienol, a form of Vitamin E.

  • Palm Oil Vitamin E is said to have an anti-ulcer property that offers potential benefits in the prevention of gastric ulceration, and has been found to help in fighting cancer cells in the body. Palm Oil is also:
  • Palm oil is high in Beta-carotene, a very powerful antioxidant that's been shown to help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Palm oil is free of trans fatty- acids, meaning it's a trans fat free oil

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The anatomy of a palm kernel fruit.
The anatomy of a palm kernel fruit.

Palm Kernel Oil

Palm kernel oil is an edible plant oil derived from the nuts of the palm oil kernels. Remember, that palm oil which is derived from pulp between the outer kernel fruit skin and the hard shell that houses the nuts. So you have the red skin, the dark husk mixed with reddish pulp (mesocarp), the hard shell, and the nut/kernel, which is encased in the shell.

The Process of Making Palm Kernel Oil

Palm kernel oil is a common cooking ingredient. It is semi-solid at room temperature, and is more saturated than palm oil and comparable to coconut oil. The making of this oil of the palm fruit is a long process that begins with the harvesting of the palm kernel fruit. After it is harvested,

  • The whole palm kernel fruits are left to dry in the sun for days, about three to four days.
  • After this drying process, the kernels are cracked open to reveal the nuts on the inside.
  • These nuts are then washed and roasted.
  • Roasted nuts are taken to the mill for grounding into a paste, usually brown in color.
  • The paste is then heated in a big cast iron on an open pit.
  • As the paste boils and bubbles, the kernel oil floats to the surface. The heating continues until most of the oil is extracted from the paste.
  • Processed palm kernel oil is then packaged for use or for sale.

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Health Benefits of Palm Kernel

Palm Kernel has a longer shelf life than other vegetable oils, and remains stable at high cooking temperatures. This makes it well suited for cooking and in the production of kitchen stables, such as, margarine.

  • Palm kernel oil does not contain cholesterol, so it is a healthy substitute for butter and lard in cooking.
  • Palm kernel oil, when used alone or when mixed with other oil (like, Shea butter) helps in nourishing, and preventing dry skin.
  • Palm kernel also aids in healthy hair, nail, and lips treatment. Use as an hot oil treatment on dry, hair scalp for that soothing feeling and needed moisture.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel of the coconut, Cocos nucifera, another member of the family Arecaceae (palm family). In addition to the oil, another popular and widely used product of the Cocos nucifera, is the coconut milk.

Coconut milk is derived from the coconut fruit through pressing of the fruit. The milk can be used as a beverage or as an ingredient in most rice recipes or soup.

From within the fruit of the coconut is the clear coconut water. This clear liquid is a drink that's not only tasty, but also refreshing. So if you ever get stranded on an island, crack a nut to get a taste of this drink.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is commonly used in cooking and frying. This oil of the coconut palm is known for its many health benefits, some of which are listed:

  • It is known for its support of the overall immune functions. When used in cooking, Coconut oil has been shown to help to regulate digestive system.
  • Its ability to help prevent bacterial, viral and fungal infections may be the reason it's used as an ingredients in most soaps and cosmetics.
  • It's a healthy alternative for the replacement of butter and margarine in diet, especially since it helps to promote a lean body and weight loss.
  • It has also been shown to help enhance overall skin health, and in the slowing down of skin aging process.

It is also common for most people to combine Coconut Oil with other oils like the Saffron Oil and use it as an hair moisturizer, and even as a body massage oil.

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Author: Comfort Babatola - ©2013

Comments

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    • profile image

      Naa Kowah 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for this information. I use coconut oil for my hair and It's been really helpful. I hope to try the palm kennel oil as well.

    • ComfortB profile imageAUTHOR

      Comfort Babatola 

      6 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Thanks tillsontitan & teaches12345 for your comments. Very well appreciated.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Palm oil is certainly a detailed process. It is also so very healthy in recipes. I am trying to acquire a taste for coconut oil. I use a little in my coffee in the mornings. Thanks for the information.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      One of the things I love is about hub pages is how much I learn! This hub was very educational for me and contains great information. You've outlined each well and filled in the blanks quite nicely.

      Couldn't vote up but voted useful and interesting.

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