To know oil palm trees is to love palm oil

Did you know that 1 in 8 working Malaysians is dependent or is in a job that deals with the palm oil industry?

Many assume that the palm oil industry is just confined to farmers. But it is more than that. Bankers, insurance companies, freight forwarders, cargo surveyors, scientists are also part of the sprawling palm oil supply chain.

Malaysia is lucky to have oil above and below the ground. By 2020, Malaysia can expect more foreign revenue from palm oil produced by oil palm trees, instead of petroleum extracted from the depths of the ocean surrounding our shores.

As you can see, Bank Negara has given due recognition to the oil palm industry.

If you compare the new RM50 note with the old, you will see the central bank has replaced the picture of an oil rig with that of an oil palm tree.

Today, Malaysia's sprawling palm oil industry is employing more talents. The industry entails production of margarine, cooking oil, oleochemicals, transport and storage of palm oil at the ports, palm oil futures trading at brokerages, design and build of refineries and biodiesel plants, animal feed, vitamin E extraction and even the development of nutrient-enriched moisturisers and toothpaste.

While palm oil is the world's most consumed vegetable oil, it is not yet truly appreciated and recognised for its nutritional and medical benefits. A quick search on the internet show that the bulk of literature on vegetable oils favours softoils like olive, soybean, rapeseed and sunflower over tropical oils.

Many think that since palm oil is the cheapest vegetable oil, it is not that nutritious. This is not true. The fact is --- palm oil contain tocotrienols or super vitamin E that has cholesterol lowering properties while softoils do not.

Even in Malaysia, the world's biggest palm oil exporter, the average consumer sees palm cooking oil as laden with saturated fats (and therefore unhealthy). Indeed, public awareness among Malaysians on the difference between palm oil and kernel oil is still lacking.

Let's start from the begining. Unlike other vegetable oils, you can extract two types of oils from palm fruits.

The oil from palm fruit is widely used as a cooking oil, as an ingredient in margarine, and is a component of many processed foods.On the other hand, palm kernel oil is an important component of many soaps, washing powders and personal care products.

Palm oil is naturally reddish because it contains a high amount of carotenes. Palm oil carotenoids have comparative alpha-carotene and beta-carotene distribution as carrots. Red palm oil has 15 times the amounts of carotenes in carrots and 300 times more than in tomatoes. Just one tablespoon of red palm oil meets 100% of the adult reference dietary intake.

Palm oil is a unique vegetable oil because it contains a balanced ratio of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Often consumers tend to perceive palm oil as similar to coconut oil, which is also high in lauric and myristic acids. This misconception has led many to believe that palm oil is 'unhealthy' for food.

Although, palm oil is grown in the tropical regions, compared to other tropical oils, its saturated fat content is approximately 30% less than coconut oil. Studies have found that, unlike coconut oil, palm oil's impact on serum lipid and lipoprotein profiles compares favourably to corn oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, and olive oil.

Since palm oil is relatively higher in saturated fats than corn, soybean and olive oils, it makes a stable cooking oil. Palm oil can withstand very high heat. It does not break down or oxidise easily when used in deepfry cooking.

Like all other vegetable oils, palm oil is cholesterol-free.

To extract palm oil, the fruit of the palm oil tree is collected and pressed, yielding a rich, dark-red oil which is high in carotene. When the oil is exposed to heat through processing and cooking, it rapidly loses the carotene.

However, with the new refining technology, more than 90% of the natural carotenes and vitamin E can be retained.

That is why regular palm cooking oil (like Seri Murni, Neptune, Red Eagle, Knife, Cap Buruh, Serimas, Saji and others) is still dark orange.

3 Responses to To know oil palm trees is to love palm oil

  1. There's nothing wrong or inferior about tropical oils, like palm oil and coconut oil, being different from soft oils grown in cold countries.

    If all vegetable oils are the same, our diet would be so boring. Let's savour the uniqueness of these edible oils.

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