How to Determine Whether Palm Oil is in a Product: What Will Happen to Your Health

Palm oil consumption is growing worldwide. However, it is a very controversial food. On the one hand, oil provides several health benefits. On the other hand, it can pose a risk to heart health. There are also environmental concerns associated with the steady increase in its production.

This article takes a closer look at palm oil and its health effects.

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is obtained from the fleshy fruit of oil palms. Unrefined palm oil is sometimes called red palm oil because of its reddish-orange color.

The main source of palm oil is the Elaeis guineensis tree, which grows in the coastal countries of West and Southwest Africa, including Angola, Gabon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and others. It has a long history of use in these regions.

Palm oil is currently one of the cheapest and most popular oils in the world, accounting for one-third of the world’s vegetable oil production.

It is important to note, however, that palm oil should not be confused with kernel oil. While both come from the same plant, palm kernel oil is extracted from the seeds of the fruit. It provides various health benefits.

How is palm oil used?

Palm oil is used for cooking and is also added to many ready-to-eat foods in grocery stores.

Its flavor is considered savory and earthy. Unrefined palm oil is a traditional product of Nigerian and Congolese cuisine and is especially good for curries and other spicy dishes. Some people describe its flavor as similar to carrot or pumpkin.

Refined palm oil is often used for stewing or frying because it has a high smoke point of 232 °C and remains stable under high heat.

In addition, palm oil is sometimes added to peanut butter and other nut butter as a stabilizer to prevent the oil from stratifying and settling at the top of the jar.

In addition to nut butter, refined palm oil can be found in several other products, including

  • cereals
  • baked goods such as bread, cookies, and muffins
  • protein bars and diet bars
  • chocolate
  • cream for coffee
  • margarine

This oil is also found in many non-food products such as toothpaste, soap, and cosmetics.

In addition, it can be used to produce biodiesel, which serves as an alternative energy source.

Potential benefits

Palm oil has been linked to a number of health benefits, including

  • protection of brain function
  • Reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • improvement of vitamin A status

How to identify palm oil in cheese

Every consumer who is concerned about their health asks themselves the question: How to distinguish real cheese from palm oil? However, it is not so easy to identify it “by eye” or “by tooth”. Often, manufacturers “mask” the taste of palm oil with various flavorings.

Experts generally believe that it is better to focus on the price. Cheese that is too cheap is definitely made from palm oil.

In addition, there are ways to check hard cheese at home. For example, semi-hard cheese can crumble and break when sliced if it contains palm oil. You can also keep the product at room temperature for a while. Good cheese will dry out in such conditions, while bad cheese will have oil droplets. But such a picture is also likely in case of violation of production technology.

Products containing palm oil

When buying a product, you need to look carefully at its name and composition. If the package says “dairy product”, “cheese product”, etc., and the contents mention vegetable fat, then we can conclude that the product is likely to contain palm oil.

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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