Foundation Diet and Health
Diet and Health
QR Code
The best perspective for your health
This page was translated through Google Translator

Palm oil (palm fat, organic?)

For palm oil or palm fat (organic?) you have to cut down almost as much forest as for coconut oil. With 49% saturated fats it is unhealthy, coconut oil even unh
Macronutrient carbohydrates 0%
Macronutrient proteins 0%
Macronutrient fats 100%

The three ratios show the percentage by weight of macronutrients (carbohydrates / proteins / fats) of the dry matter (excl. water).

Ω-6 (LA, 9.1g)
Omega-6 fatty acid such as linoleic acid (LA)
 : Ω-3 (ALA, 0.2g)
Omega-3 fatty acid such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
 = 46:1

Omega-6 ratio to omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed a total of 5:1. Link to explanation.

Here, essential linolenic acid (LA) 9.1 g to essential alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) 0.2 g = 46:1.
Ratio Total omega-6 = 9.1 g to omega-3 fatty acids Total = 0.2 g = 46:1.
On average, we need about 2 g of LA and ALA per day from which a healthy body also produces EPA and DHA, etc.

Palm oil , Palm fat or palm fruit oil is obtained from the flesh of the palm fruit of the oil palm ( Elaeis guineensis ). This oil consists of around 49% saturated fats and is therefore considered unhealthy, but coconut oil is even unhealthier at 82%. The cheap production encourages the far too frequent use of palm oil. It must be distinguished from palm kernel oil.

Use in the kitchen:

In Asia and Africa, palm oil is used as margarine, salad oil or cooking oil. The fruit is also eaten as a vegetable or used to make palm wine. Palm fat is used for cooking, roasting and frying, primarily because of its high heat and oxidation stability.

Where is palm oil found? In western countries, palm oil is found in almost every second industrially processed product 1 . Baked goods, chocolates, pralines, biscuits, chocolate spreads, ready meals, spreads and even baby food (including baby milk) contain palm oil. Natural fat is often replaced with cheap palm fat (such as in chocolate, which contains cocoa butter ). Palm oil seems to be irreplaceable in the industry for the shelf life of many sweets. The cooling effect that palm oil has when it melts on the tongue is also used (e.g. for ice cream confectionery, chocolate coatings, toffees, creams, etc.).

Are palm oil and coconut oil the same? Palm oil comes from the red fruits of the oil palm, while coconut oil comes from the fruits of the coconut palm, the coconuts. What these tropical oils have in common is that they are solid at room temperature but have a very low melting point. In addition, unlike other vegetable oils, they contain a very high proportion of saturated fats, which have a serious impact on human health when consumed regularly.

We recommend reading all ingredient lists of products when purchasing and avoiding palm oil as well as coconut oil or coconut fat .

Vegan recipes with palm oil:

There are plenty of recipes with palm oil. Due to the high proportion of saturated fatty acids and the poor LA-ALA ratio (46:1), we advise against consuming it and do not suggest a recipe here.

Not only vegans or vegetarians should read this:
Vegans often eat unhealthily. Avoidable nutritional mistakes

Shopping - where to buy?

Supermarket chains such as Coop , Migros , Denner , Volg , Spar , Aldi , Lidl , Rewe , Edeka , Hofer etc. sometimes sell refined palm oil.

In European countries, untreated, pure palm oil is usually found in Asian shops as "unrefined palm oil". Organic palm oil is also available online or in health food stores. This is not completely refined, but deodorized at low temperatures (which does not have a good reputation either). Natural palm oil explicitly states "unrefined, unhydrogenated and unbleached" on the packaging. You will also find it labeled as red (raw, cold-pressed) palm oil.

Cold-pressed oils (laws, raw food)

In Switzerland, oil is referred to as cold-pressed oil if the oilseed was not heated, the pressing temperature did not exceed 50 °C and no problematic post-treatment took place.

According to the Federal Department of Home Affairs ( FDHA ), an edible oil is considered cold-pressed (or may be described with synonyms such as (extra) virgin, unrefined, cold-pressed or natural) if it has been obtained by pressing or centrifuging from previously unheated raw materials, the temperature during pressing did not exceed 50 °C and it has not been subjected to refining, i.e. no neutralisation, no treatment with adsorbents, bleaching earth or steaming .

An oil may be described as “gently steamed” if the refining process was limited to steaming and the temperature did not exceed 130 °C . 23

In the EU and the USA, there does not appear to be a generally applicable temperature limit set by law for cold-pressed oils. For example, the guidelines for edible fats and oils of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (D) are similar to the EDI regulation, but they do not specify a permissible maximum temperature for general cold pressing - since they only apply to products whose labelling and composition are not conclusively set by law (i.e. not for olive oil, cocoa butter, milk fats, spreadable fats). 24

On the other hand, both the EU directives and the amendment to the EDI regulation on foods of plant origin, mushrooms and table salt (and its amendment) provide for a special rule for the labelling of olive oils . 25,26

These are selective marketing rules in which the term raw food is not defined. "Raw food" and "raw" are therefore not state-protected terms (as is the case with the term "organic"), which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Although it is agreed that with purely mechanical cold pressing, the pressing temperatures generally do not exceed 40 °C, one should not naively assume that cooking oils are raw food quality. There is a suspicion that the measuring method used does not indicate the temperature in the press cylinder (where the heat is highest), but only the outlet temperature in the oil hose. With water-cooled olive oil presses (so-called "water-cooled 37°" oil presses), one probably cannot even say with certainty what the exact temperature is inside the press cylinder, because the entire press cylinder is surrounded by cooling sleeves.

In addition, the pressing pressure and speed as well as the moisture content of the oilseed affect the pressing temperature. If, for example, the moisture content is too low, the temperature rises during pressing and it is difficult to stay even below the maximum limit of 50 °C. 27

When buying, always look for organic and fair production, because quality seals without organic certification often use labels as so-called "greenwashing". Unfortunately, the environmental protection and social standards here are hardly any better than those of large, conventional plantations. 2

The food industry uses palm oil as a cheap fat ingredient in many ready-made products. Always read the ingredients list when shopping and try to avoid unnecessarily added palm oil.

Ingredients - nutritional value - calories:

The orange flesh of the stone fruit of the oil palm consists of 45 to 50% oil. Pure palm oil consists of 100% fat, of which about 49% 3 is saturated.

In contrast to refined palm oil, red, unrefined palm oil has a high content of carotenoids and vitamin E ( α -tocopherol and tocotrienol). Wikipedia states that one tablespoon of raw palm oil should, according to the manufacturer, cover more than the daily requirement of vitamin A , beta-carotene and vitamin E. 9 There are scientific studies that show that the antioxidants contained in red palm oil reduce oxidative stress and may be useful in preventing vitamin A deficiency (in low- and middle-income countries). 18,19,20,21 A meta-analysis from 2017 confirms this, but points out that in the case of vitamin A deficiency, the improvement curve no longer increases above a certain intake level and that the intake of red palm oil has no significant overall effect on serum α-carotene levels, body weight or hemoglobin levels. 22

The complete ingredients of palm oil, the coverage of the daily requirement and comparison values with other ingredients can be found in our nutrient tables. In the article Nutrients explained you will get a detailed insight into the topic. CLICK FOR before the text.

Health aspects - effects:

The negative reputation of palm oil predominates in most cases, not only because of its health effects, but also because of its negative impact on the environment.

However, there are always studies that cannot confirm the negative effects of palm oil. It should be noted here that in the case of cardiovascular diseases, for example, not only the saturated fatty acids (especially palmitic acid) but also the triglyceride structure play a role in high cholesterol levels. In addition, the development of cancer cannot be directly linked to palm oil. 4 If you eat a generally healthy diet, the human body tolerates small amounts of palm oil very well. 5

It is important to critically question whether the food industry and the palm oil industry participate in or support such studies. The following should also be noted:

Dangers - Intolerances - Side effects:

Is palm oil harmful to humans? Refined palm oil contains undesirable substances that arise during industrial processing. The intense heating of vegetable oils can produce harmful substances such as glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), 3-MCPD fatty acid esters and 2-MCPD fatty acid esters. Chlorine-containing pesticides promote their formation. 2 The European Food Safety Authority ( EFSA ) warns against these harmful substances. 6

Glycidol fatty acid esters can form during the refining of vegetable cooking oils ( Wikipedia under Glycidol). A risk study found that palm oil or palm fat contains an average glycidol value of 3,955 μg/kg (in comparison,sunflower oil has 269 μg/kg, rapeseed oil 166 μg/kg and olive oil 15 μg/kg). According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer ( IARC ) and the World Health Organization ( WHO ), glycidol has mutagenic and carcinogenic properties. The IARC classified 3-MCPD as genotoxic. 7

In addition to the high percentage of saturated fatty acids, the LA-ALA ratio is also unfavorable: it is 46:1 for palm oil. You can find out more about this problem in the ingredient olive oil and in the box link above.

Occurrence - Origin:

The origin of the oil palm ( Elaeis guineensis ) lies in the Gulf of Guinea, where the wild relative Elaeis ubanghensis , which has spiny leaves, still grows today. The African oil palm has been known in Europe since 1466. 8

Cultivation - Harvest:

The most important countries for growing oil palms are the rainforest regions in Indonesia and Malaysia. Since 1990, the area under cultivation in Malaysia has increased sixfold. Rainforest has to be cleared to make way for cultivation, which not only puts a strain on the soil but also deprives the local animals of their habitat. But even more rainforest is cut down for the same amount of coconut oil, because the industry has sold it to consumers as "good oil", even though it contains 82 to 92% saturated fatty acids - instead of the 49% of palm oil.

The palms reach a height of up to 30 meters. The stone fruits are 3-6 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. The fruits take about 5-9 months to ripen. One month before ripening, oil droplets and carotenoids form in the pulp. The very perishable fruits must be processed immediately after harvest. The fruit clusters are treated with steam to destroy a fat-splitting enzyme. The fruits are then squeezed and the stone kernels separated.

The orange-colored flesh of the fruit provides the crude palm oil (CPO Crude Palm Oil). The orange-yellow to brown-red color is removed by refining. Fresh, raw palm oil has a sweet violet smell, while older oil can smell rather unpleasant due to fermentation caused by microorganisms. The melting point of palm fat is around 27-42 °C. 9

The yield varies greatly; oil palms occasionally produce fruit clusters weighing up to 50 kg. African Dura palms bear around 18 kg of fruit, while East Asian Deli palms produce around 25 kg of yield per palm.

Impact on nature and the environment:

The ecological and social problems that palm oil cultivation brings with it should not be underestimated. The increasing demand for palm oil as a raw product for biofuels, candles and detergents, for example, is partly responsible for the increased deforestation of the rainforests. Certification systems are being used to encourage sustainable palm oil cultivation methods. However, the cosmetics and food industries are exempt from this. Incorrect deforestation methods place unnecessary strain on the climate: there are frequent reports of targeted arson attacks that are intended to speed up deforestation. This causes over 3,000 tonnes of methane to escape every year. 10,11

In addition to the loss of natural forests and peat bogs, palm oil production also results in an enormous loss of biodiversity: animals such as orangutans lose their habitat, which significantly reduces their species population. 12

Another social problem associated with palm oil cultivation is forced and child labor. 13 indigenous populations are driven out of the rainforests. And the use of the herbicide paraquat leads to extreme poisoning among thousands of workers every year. This herbicide is banned in the EU, Switzerland and some other countries for health reasons.

Unfortunately, oil palms have a very high yield. With 3.3 tons of crude oil per hectare per year, palm oil cultivation is very productive. Due to the similar properties and areas of application, palm oil could only be replaced by coconut oil. However, land use would then increase fivefold and greenhouse gas emissions by around 308 million tons.

However, around 50% of the palm oil used in Germany could be saved if it were no longer used as a raw material for biodiesel. Palm oil is not the only reason for this to be cheaper, but also the particle and nitrogen oxide emissions are significantly lower than with diesel fuel. However, it could be replaced by oils from national agriculture. 13 Local alternatives would be biofuels made from rapeseed and sunflower oil, for example. 12

Organic palm oil is also not really more sustainable in terms of cultivation and production. Very little organic palm oil is cultivated in African cooperatives, the vast majority comes from large plantations. The organic share of the world market is less than 1%. 2

Risk of confusion:

Palm oil must be distinguished from palm kernel oil. Palm kernel oil is made from the kernels of oil fruits. Mostly from the species Elaeis oleifera , the American oil palm. This oil palm is found mainly in South and Central America, from Honduras to northern Brazil. The oil is pressed from its dried, ground kernels. This tropical oil also has a very high proportion (up to 55%) of saturated fatty acids (lauric acid). 15 Palm kernel oil has a melting range of 23-30 °C. The color of the crude oil is light to orange-yellow; after refining it appears almost white to slightly yellowish. Due to the cooling effect at elevated body temperature, it is used in cocoa glazes, ice cream confectionery and ice cream coatings. It is also used in margarine production, in the cosmetics and cleaning industry and in the aluminum industry. 9

General information:

The oil palm ( Elaeis guineensis ) originally comes from Africa and belongs to the palm family ( Arecaceae ). Large plantations were established around 1900. From this point onwards, industrial processing of the oil was possible. Today, the economically most important palm species is also cultivated in tropical America and especially in Southeast Asia, for which huge areas of primeval forest are cleared.

In English, palm oil is called palm oil and palm kernel oil is found as palm kernel oil.

Other uses:

In addition to being used as food and biofuel, palm oil is used to produce lauric acid, which is a basic ingredient for various surfactants. These are detergents for conventional and ecological cleaning agents. All detergents contain 3-30% surfactants, which are made either from petroleum or palm kernel oil. However, this does not have to be declared on detergents and cleaning agents. Palm kernel oil is almost indispensable in cleaning agents, as European oils are not technically well suited for surfactant production. There are only a few cleaning agents and washing agents based on European oils. 16

The cosmetics industry uses palm oil in skin creams, soaps, body lotions and shampoos. 17

Literature - Sources: