If we want to be healthier and reduce our risk for chronic diseases, the U.S. government advises that we keep closer tabs on our fat intake. According to the new 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released jointly by the United States Department of Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, we should get less than 10 percent of our daily calories from saturated fatty acids. As we consume more saturated fatty acids than what is recommended, ideally we should decrease these and replace them with monosaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Huh? What does that mean in plain English? And is it true that you (and the food industry) have ready access to a secret weapon – Malaysian palm fruit oil – that might make following the ‘10 percent’ guideline a whole lot easier, not to mention delicious?
Making sense of fats
To take charge of your fat intake, you first need to know where it’s coming from. So let’s first look at the different types of fats and how they may sneak into our diets.
- Saturated fats: These raise total cholesterol as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. They are found abundantly in animal products such as beef and pork as well as palm kernel oil (not the same thing as palm fruit oil) and coconut oil. However different saturated fats have different effects on blood cholesterol. A saturated fat that your body makes, which is present in palm fruit oil, may help keep optimal cholesterol levels.
- Monosaturated fats: These lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing the HDL (good) cholesterol. They are found abundantly in avocados, nuts, olive oil and liquid palm oil (called palm olein).
- Polyunsaturated fats: These also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while increasing the HDL cholesterol somewhat. They are found in all vegetable oils, and are abundant in corn oil and sunflower oil.
- Trans fats: These bad guys raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Despite all the bad press they’ve gotten, they can still be found in many processed foods such as French fries and baked goods.
Preserving your right to delicious yet healthful food
Here’s the dilemma facing food manufacturers and home cooks: When you remove the saturated fats or trans fats from food, it’s got to be replaced with something else. When a recipe calls for solid fat, for example, what are the alternatives to butter? Here’s where Malaysian Palm Fruit Oil comes to the rescue.
Numerous studies have confirmed the nutritional value of palm fruit oil make it as healthful as olive oil, but it does some things that olive oil can’t. For example, palm fruit oil is very stable and, unlike olive oil, it is great for high heat cooking. It can easily be substituted for solid saturated fats such as butter, margarine or shortening, and is delicious when used for cooking and baking. Palm fruit oil can also be blended with a small amount of butter if you want the buttery flavor when cooking at higher temperatures or baking.
Why is palm fruit oil is popping up not just on food nutrition labels but also in prestigious medical journals and other scientific publications? Palm fruit oil is unique in that it contains almost equal amounts of unsaturated fats and saturated fats, (mainly palmitic and smaller amounts of stearic acids). As a result of its balanced composition, palm fruit oil has almost no impact on your cholesterol as long as your total dietary fat and saturated fat intake is in line with the levels recommended by health agencies such as the American Heart Association.
Basically it behaves more like a healthier monounsaturated fat than a saturated fat. The virgin and red varieties of palm oil are also rich in powerful antioxidants called tocotrienol and tocopherols (vitamin E), as well as carotenes (vitamin A).
Foods made with palm fruit oil, which is naturally trans fat-free (a claim also shared with olive oil), have a long shelf life and other desirable properties including great texture and flavor. Palm fruit oil also is very affordable and readily available. Palm oil is now the largest traded edible oil and accounts for about one quarter of the world’s fats and oil supply.
To start enjoying the benefits, look for red palm oil or Malaysian Palm Oil.
Dr. Pramod Kholsa is associate professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. He has been working on diet and lipoprotein metabolism for almost 20 years. Additionally, he has been doing research on palm oil since 1989.Dr Khosla is the author of some 50 original articles and has consulted extensively for the oils and fats industry for more than 20 years.