Numerous studies have demonstrated the heart health benefits of including palm oil in your diet, but here’s another – lesser known – way that palm oil contributes to heart health. It can be used in place of the now-banned partially hydrogenated oils/trans fats. 

Partially hydrogenated oils are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil to increase a food’s shelf life. A primary dietary source of trans fats, they were used for years until the Food and Drug Administration announced they were not safe, indicating that removing them from foods could prevent thousands of heart attacks each year. 

Palm oil is a natural fit as an alternative 

Because palm oil is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E tocotrienols and tocopherols, it is naturally resistant to oxidation and provides a long shelf life, particularly for baked goods. It is solid when cool, making it an easy substitute for partially hydrogenated oils such as all-purpose shortenings used for cakes and cookies. 

Crude palm oil is refined using steam or other non-chemical processes. To make it an even easier replacement for partially hydrogenated oils, it must match different physical properties. This is done by melting and slowly cooling palm oil, a process called fractionation, then blending the resulting fractions. This enables processors to convert palm oil into an almost unlimited variety of shortening products, with varying temperature tolerances.    

Malaysian sustainable palm oil sets itself apart 

A relatively recent convert to using palm shortening is Michael Itskovich, founder and director of innovation and R&D for Nikola’s Bakery, who specializes in conceptualizing, designing, developing, formulating and producing one-of-a-kind, marketable and profitable brands for retail and food service. “As with many people in our industry, I had a huge misunderstanding about palm shortening. In the past, I was turned off to the whole idea of palm shortenings because those I’d used had inferior taste and mouthfeel, and were unstable. 

“The quality of Malaysian palm oil shortening opened my eyes to the possibilities. It’s not just a minor difference. This is a world apart! It far exceeded my expectations with respect to performance and functionality. Going forward, we will only use Malaysian palm shortening for anything plant-based or requiring a higher fat content.” 

He adds that Malaysian sustainable palm oil is also, “cost effective, sustainable, naturally non-GMO and trans-fat free, which are all great talking points for the finished products.”

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