A well-documented Star newspaper article, originally published by Nestle, takes a head-on approach to dispelling some of the most prevalent Malaysian palm oil myths. “Palm oil’s effect on health has been a topic of debate since it first entered the U.S. market in the 1980s, where soy bean oil is widely used for cooking,” the article notes. “In this article, we attempt to answer some questions about palm oil by looking at some of the common myths surrounding it.”
While this article did a nice job of addressing the myths, here is some additional myth-debunking information not found in the original content:
• Myth: Palm oil and its products are unhealthy because they are high in saturated fat. Malaysian palm oil contains almost equal amounts of unsaturated fats and saturated fats, (mainly palmitic and smaller amounts of stearic acids). In the body, it behaves more like a monounsaturated fat. It has virtually no adverse impact on your cholesterol levels. Comparable nutritionally to olive oil, it can be used for cooking at higher temperatures than olive oil and is ideal for those cooking applications when you don’t want the flavor of olive oil.
• Myth: Palm oil is used to make margarine, which usually has trans fat. Thus, palm oil must also have trans fat. Trans fat is produced through hydrogenation. Malaysian palm oil‘s natural semi-solid properties and the versatility of blending with its solid fraction, palm stearin, makes hydrogenation of palm oil unnecessary. Therefore, food products containing palm oil as its sole or main fat ingredient are essentially trans fat-free.
• Myth: When palm oil is used to fry food, it can become toxic. Not likely because Malaysian palm oil has such a high smoke point. It can handle high heat better than others. What’s the big deal about a little smoke? It’s not just the annoying high-pitched beep of your smoke detector going off. When an oil is heated beyond its smoke point, its molecular structure begins breaking down. It may even form trans fats. The oil may lose its nutritional value, and give your food a bitter or burnt taste. Once it reaches that point, the oil really shouldn’t be consumed. Another possible health concern: The smoke from over-heated oils isn’t healthy to inhale. It may contain toxic fumes and harmful free radicals, which are may elevate your risk of come chronic diseases including cancer. This is why you should turn on your stove vent and open a window if a cooking oil starts to smoke.
• Myth: Palm oil is not nutritious because it’s just fatty acids. The article mentions that palm oil is rich in vitamin A, but barely touches on its high vitamin E tocotrienol content. Those tocotrienols are being researched for their benefits on several serious health risks including cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer. One preliminary study even found that palm-derived tocotrienols may slow your body’s ability to create new fat cells and kill off some of the fat cells you already have.