This post was originally published on May 23, 2012 and updated on December 14, 2021.

While Malaysian palm fruit oil is trending among both healthy choosers and gourmet cooks, there is still some confusion about where and when to use this healthy oil versus olive oil. Factors that you should take into consideration include your current cholesterol level and the temperature of the dish you plan to prepare.

Health considerations

Palm oil is 50 percent saturated fat and 50 percent unsaturated fat. More specifically palm oil contains approximately 44% palmitic acid, 5% stearic acid, 39% oleic acid (monounsaturates), and 10% linoleic acid (polyunsaturates).

• With the right balance, saturated fatty acids maintain your HDL (good cholesterol) while polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease your LDL (bad cholesterol). If your cholesterol is elevated, choose an oil rich in polyunsaturates, or even one of the more liquid fractions of palm fruit oil (i.e. such as pressed red palm oil) which contains a healthy balance of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids as well as antioxidant-rich carotenoids an vitamin E.

Olive oil contains 72 percent monounsaturated fat, 14 percent saturated fat and 9 percent polyunsaturated fat.

• Olive oil is mostly monounsaturated fatty acids. If your cholesterol is in the healthy range, consuming olive oil is fine. Since monounsaturated fatty acids are neutral, they won’t cause trouble with your cholesterol. However they also can’t get you out of trouble if your body is desperately needing more polyunsaturated fatty acids.

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Cooking considerations

Cooking at high temperatures can damage some oils. Unless an oil is suitable, high heat may cause your food to taste bitter or scorched.

• Olive oil is great for salad dressings and other low-heat uses.

• Palm fruit oil is great for high-heat applications. It won’t form nearly as many harmful free radicals during high temperature cooking as polyunsaturated oils. It is also ideal for those cooking applications when you don’t want the flavor of olive oil.


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