Oil palm is one of the most beneficial cultivation products that could be found in Malaysia and other palm oil producing countries. Without noticing much, oil palm actually do play important roles in our lives. The palm oil industry produces edible oil from oil palm fruits. The oil is a good choice for cooking as it maintains its properties even under high temperatures during cooking. This enhances the taste of food while the creaminess and smoothness of the oil makes an excellent cooking ingredient.
Other than edible oil, palm oil is also used in daily personal care items such as bathing soaps, detergents and many other cleaning and beauty products.
Deforestation takes place at high rates for the plantation of oil palm trees. In order to create lands for the cultivation of oil palm, many acres of land are cleared daily around the country. At first, this leads to air pollution and animals lose their habitats. However, as the oil palm trees grow larger, the balance of the ecosystem can be returned. Animals take shelter in the plantations while the carbon cycle is balanced by the growing oil palm trees.
Other than that, millions of job opportunities are created by the oil palm industry. In Malaysia, it is estimated that around a total of one million jobs originate from this industry. These jobs include smallholder farmers, fruits pickers, tree planters, large companies, the import and export companies and various other jobs.
The oil palm tree has many usages. It provides benefits from edible oils to biofuels and biochars while also being a food source for livestock. Therefore, almost all the parts of the fruits can be used to produce a useful product. Since the fruits of an oil palm tree can be used for both food and fuel, there is a debate of food vs fuel on whether to use the fruits more as a food source or as fuel.
Palm oil is a rich source of edible oils. Palm oil is a healthy and versatile substitute for traditional oils. The cholesterol-reducing property of palm oil is one of the most important points that make this oil so famous and widely used. Other than that, palm oil contains antioxidants, vitamin E, and carotenoids which help reduce the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
Other than being used for edible oil production, oil palm is also a good feedstock for biomass, biogas, and biodiesel production. A large amount of the oil palm fruits go to the production of these fuels. The main parts of the oil palm that are used for fuel production are the oil palm fruits, kernels, and shells. High-quality palm oil can be produced from these parts of the plant.
Since the parts used for both fuel and edible oil production are the same, the food vs fuel debate is present. Therefore, as both industries are equally important for the Malaysian economy, a proper balance should be reached in order to produce enough feedstock for the production for both food and fuel respectively.
Palm oil has been gathering a bad rep for itself in recent decades. There are those who argue that this oil is high in saturated fats, which is dangerous to cardiovascular health or the health of blood vessels and your heart.
Apart from the effects on health, palm oil’s impact on the environment has also been called into question. However, scientific evidence has shown that palm oil is actually beneficial when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
Palm oil is rich in Vitamin E and Tocotrienols. Both these nutrients are strong antioxidants which are really useful in preventing diseases. Here’s a full explanation of how palm oil is beneficial:
- Prevents cancer
When taken according to recommended levels, palm oil provides your body with enough antioxidants to help prevent cancer. Antioxidants in palm oil neutralize toxins known as free radicals in your body.
Free radicals are able to cause your cells to mutate and turn cancerous. They can enter your body through polluted water and air, but antioxidants are there to stop them in their tracks.
- Good for your eyesight
Palm oil has beta-carotene, a type of nutrient usually found in orange, red and yellow coloured fruits and vegetables. There’s a type of palm oil that’s red in colour due to different processing steps that have more beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is a precursor of Vitamin A, which is important for maintaining good eyesight. Palm oil has been used to treat Vitamin A deficiency to a successful degree, especially
- Anti-ageing effects
The anti-ageing effects of palm oil come from its high level of antioxidants. Apart from preventing cancer, antioxidants also prevent the premature ageing of cells. This will help your skin stay youthful for as long as possible.
Too much free-radicals in your body can cause the skin to look wrinkled and saggy, which is why having adequate antioxidants is crucial.
- A good balance of lipids
The main cause of heart disease is a type of cholesterol called LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and trans-fat. Palm oil is completely free of trans-fat and is an affordable alternative for those in the food production industry who need trans-fat-free oil. Palm oil is actually better for your blood vessels and heart health compared to cooking with butter.
Palm oil has a balance of LDL and good cholesterol known as HDL (high-density lipoprotein) as well as LDL. When taken in moderate amounts according to the food pyramid, palm oil is able to give your body the balance of lipids it needs to function.
- High in Omega-3 fatty acids
The omega-3 fatty acid is important as a component to ensure that your joints are smooth and functions at its best. This nutrient is useful for those who are senior in age and suffer from joint pain and arthritis as it helps to lubricate joints.
Apart from that, Omega-3 is also helpful in slowing and preventing the effects of Alzheimer’s. This is because it helps to maintain the health of brain nerve endings and connections.
The only caution that experts mention about palm oil is that it should not be consumed in excess amounts by people with cholesterol problems. However, if taken in healthy amounts this oil is not only harmless, it’s beneficial.
Credit: Nirapai BoonPheng @ Shutterstock for the features image of the palm oil