The American Heart Association designates every February as Heart Health Month to call attention to the importance of proper screening and preventive measures. If you’re still listening to old advice about avoiding saturated fats, take a few minutes to educate yourself about eating for a more heart-healthy lifestyle. 

For decades, health professionals have suggested cutting back on fats, especially saturated fat, to support heart health. That’s an outdated way of thinking. There is a tremendous amount of research showing that total fat consumption has little-to-no impact. But since it’s hard to remember all those details, here are two studies that sum it up nicely: 

  1. A groundbreaking meta-analysis by a team led by Cardiovascular Epidemiologist Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury from the University of Cambridge, indicated that we should not be worried about the amount of saturated fat in our diets. The analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2014, looked at more than 70 studies. They found no association between saturated fats and heart disease risk. 
  2. A more recent 12-month study published in Scientific Reports, found that a high-carb diet is associated with elevated cardiovascular risk factors; whereas a high-fat diet had no significant impact. The overwhelming majority of study participants (484 or 83.0%) consumed meals prepared with palm oil/palm olein.

Researchers now say that palm oil is a heart-healthy oil, even though it is 50% saturated fat. 

Why?  

Palm oil has a balanced fatty acid composition which is important for heart health. It contains almost equal amounts of unsaturated fats and saturated fats, (mainly palmitic and smaller amounts of stearic acids). 

In the body, palm oil behaves more like a monounsaturated fat and has virtually no adverse impact on your cholesterol levels. In fact, research has shown that palm oil and olive oil have basically the same effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Go Red (for Beta Carotene)

In addition to supporting Go Red for Women this month, you might also want to choose “red” when you purchase your cooking oil. Red palm oil’s natural red color comes from its abundance of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant with numerous health benefits. Palm oil is also rich in tocotrienols, which help support the brain and nervous system.

While not all saturated fats fall squarely into the heart-healthy category, palm oil joins a growing list in the “smart to eat” category that also includes grass-fed beef, ghee and grass-fed butter. 

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