Although not well known in the United States, palm oil has been the oil of choice in many part of the world for centuries. Interest in this natural oil, as well as other exotic oils such as coconut and avocado, is rising, due in part to their health benefits. Reporter Laura Cassiday profiled red palm oil in the February 2017 edition of Inform Magazine. In the article, she shared red palm oil’s health benefits and reviewed how the minimally processed oil is produced. The Malaysian palm oil industry has developed and patented a low-temperature refining process that produces a high quality and nutrient-rich oil.
In the article, Cassiday explained that red palm oil is mildy processed. This enables it to retain, “beneficial components such as carotenes and antioxidants that are lost in traditional physical or chemical palm oil refining.” She also noted that red palm oil has shown promise combating vitamin A deficiency in some parts of the world. One tablespoon of red palm oil contains 240 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A and 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E.
Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Oil squeezed directly from the fruit is dark red in color due to its high carotenoid content. “The oil is also rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E isomers (tocopherols and tocotrienols), and phytosterols,” wrote Cassiday. Processing removes any impurities as well as any unpleasant odors or flavors.
Cassiday reports that the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia developed and patented a physical refining process that helps maintain the oil’s nutritional benefits. It uses low temperatures (less than 170 degrees Celsius) and low pressure (less than 100 mtorr). The resulting oil retains up to 80 percent of the carotene and vitamin A content of crude palm oil.
Malaysian sustainable palm oil, which is always non-GMO and naturally trans fat-free, is often used in better-for-you packaged foods such as Smart Balance spreads, natural peanut butters and premium nutrition bars.