In a way, palm oil is the “other tropical oil”, after coconut oil. While coconut oil has become extremely popular in recent years, a lot of people still don’t know about palm oil.
The Fat Profile
Like coconut oil, palm oil contains mostly saturated fats, followed by monounsaturated fats and only a small amount of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). This is great news because saturated and monounsaturated fats are much more stable than PUFAs, which means they are less likely to oxidize when exposed to heat and light. This makes palm oil an excellent cooking oil, and indeed, outside of the U.S., it’s one of the most widely-used oils to cook with.
Different Versions of Palm Oil
Palm oil comes in a few different varieties, namely palm oil, palm kernel oil, and red palm oil. Palm oil is just a refined version of red palm oil. As long as that refining process doesn’t involve hydrogenating the oil, it’s perfectly safe to consume, but red palm oil is probably still the better option. Red palm oil still has all of the nutrients (such as vitamins A and E, and CoQ10) and antioxidants. This doesn’t make palm oil a bad choice, it just makes red palm oil a better choice.
Palm Kernel Oil
Whereas palm oil and red palm oil are both made from the flesh of the palm fruit, palm kernel oil comes from the seed of that same fruit. Palm kernel oil tends to be higher in saturated fat and lower in PUFAs than other forms palm oil, so while the conventional health-conscious shoppers are avoiding it, we can take advantage of what they’re missing out on.
Mark Sisson addressed the the differences between the various palm oils in this post.