Palm oil is often used in preparing processed foods, and as it has a high smoke point it’s used in many prepared dishes too. Palm oil has a bit of a bad reputation, and it’s controversial because harvesting of this type of oil has negative environmental impacts.

This oil comes from the fruit of the palm tree found in warm climates like Africa and Asia, and it’s in big demand by manufacturers these days as an inexpensive substitute in food for trans fats (which are banned in America).

Nutritional Profile

Palm oil’s nutritional profile is quite similar to other cooking oils, according to USDA. A tablespoon contains around 120 calories and 14 grams total fat. Of the fat, 7 grams are saturated fat, 5 grams are healthy monounsaturated fat, and 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat.

This oil also contains 2 grams of vitamin E, and 1 gram of vitamin K.

Olive oil has a similar nutritional profile, apart from the ratio of the different fat types. One tablespoon of olive oil contains just 2 grams of saturated fat, while it has 10 grams from monounsaturated fat.

Palm oil actually has less saturated fat than other tropical oils, like coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

What is Palm Oil Used For?

Palm oil is often added to store-bought processed foods, such as peanut butter and coffee creamers. It’s also in many brands of ice cream, pizza dough, bread, frozen foods, packaged soups, sauces, desserts, and snack foods. It’s also used in some skincare and beauty products, such as lipstick, detergent, and soap.

Because palm oil has a high smoke point, it’s better suited for cooking foods at high temperatures, and it gives food a creamier mouthfeel.

Is Palm Oil Unhealthy?

Some studies have shown that palm oil can reduce the risk factors linked with heart disease, and it may aid brain function.

It’s high in tocotrienols, which is a form of vitamin E that acts like an antioxidant. Some research suggests that tocotrienols can slow down the progression of dementia and lower the risk of stroke.

Palm oil isn’t the healthiest oil you can use in your cooking, and some studies have shown that palm oil isn’t beneficial for heart disease.

Is Palm Oil Safe to Cook With?

Some nutritionists suggest that olive oil and avocado oil are better options for cooking with, and the palm oil in processed foods will probably be ok in moderation, but avoid it where you can.

Research hasn’t shown any definite benefits to using palm oil over other oils, so it’s a good idea to go with healthier cooking oil choices when you prepare food at home, or eat out.