General, Research, Technology

What is palm oil?

In many foods, you couldnotice the palm oil content. This component is extracted from the fruit of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), which grows on plantations in Africa, Latin America and Asia. In Russia, palm oil appeared only in the 1960s and since then it has been often used as a substitute for milk fat, as well as in the production of bakery products. It is also a component of biofuels and is found in some shampoos and cosmetics. In general, palm oil is an important component of many foods and there is a lot to tell about it. As part of this article, I propose to find out when people thought of extracting oil from the fruit of the oil palm and how it is produced in modern times. And, of course, we will learn about the benefits and harms of palm oil, because this question is clearly of interest to many people.

There are a lot of rumors around palm oil. Let's figure out what it is


  • 1 History of palm oil
  • 2 Maturation of oil trees
  • 3 Palm oil production
  • 4 Composition of palm oil
    • 4.1 The benefits of palm oil
    • 4.2 Harm of palm oil

Palm oil history

The first mention of palm oil dates back to XVcentury - records were made by Portuguese travelers who visited West Africa. This place is home to oil palms, from which the locals still extract palm oil using traditional methods. They use the resulting product raw, as an important ingredient in national dishes. Thousands of years ago, palm oil began to be shipped to Ancient Egypt, and in 1870 it arrived in Malaysia. In the 1960s, thanks to suppliers from Indonesia, oil appeared in Russia. Oil palms are loved by everyone because they are very hardy and produce a large harvest, from which you can get excellent vegetable oil.

Oil palm plantation

Ripening of oil trees

Most oil palm plantationslocated in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The trees reach maturity at 3 years old and bear fruit for 35 years. To make the planted seeds ripen faster, they are planted in greenhouses - this reduces the germination time to 100 days. The seedlings remain in containers for about 5 months until leaves appear. They then move to the nursery, where they stay for a year until about 15 leaves appear. After that, the seedlings are planted in open ground.

Picking oil palm fruits

Oil palms are very demandingenvironmental conditions trees. They love heat and require a lot of water, so the soil must be moisture permeable. Rodents often appear on plantations and spoil trees. To get rid of them, owls are allowed into the territory, which actively catch pests and protect plantations. The advantage of this way of protecting trees is that it does not harm the environment. Using chemicals could create more problems than it solved.

It is important to note, that forests are often cut down for the construction of oilseed plantations. This is a big problem, because by doing so people deprive animals of their natural habitat, which leads to their extinction.

Palm oil production

Thanks to modern equipment, the production of palm oil is almost automatic. The production technology can be divided into 8 stages:

  • getting fresh fruits, which, within 24 hours after collection, are sent to the plant for further processing;
  • sterilization, during which the fruits are cleaned of debris and insects. For sterilization, superheated steam is usually used, which, in addition, facilitates the release of oil from the fruit;
  • threshing, in which only ripe fruits stand out from the collected heap;
  • digestion, during which the fruits are heat treated. This is necessary in order for the oil to be released from plant cells more quickly and easily;
  • pressing, in which the fruits are under great pressure and release oil;
  • flushing, in which oil is mixed with pure waterand is freed from water-soluble impurities. After that, the mixture is sent to a centrifugal separator, where the water is separated from the oil. The result is crude palm oil, which can already be considered an independent product;
  • but there is still a stage refining, that is, cleaning from unnecessary impurities. For this, superheated steam is used, after which the oil is bleached and thermally processed under vacuum conditions;
  • fractionation Is often the last step in palm oil processing. During this process, the oil takes on a liquid or solid form.

As you can see, palm oil production iscomplex but automated process. After all these steps, it can be used in the manufacture of food products. In its pure form, palm oil has a red-orange color, and the smell and taste is the same as that of the fruit of the oil palm.

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Palm oil composition

Palm oil is 100% fat. The main fats are palmitic, oleic, linoleic and stearic acids. One tablespoon of real palm oil contains:

  • 114 calories;
  • 14 grams of fat;
  • 11% of the daily value for vitamin E, which is needed to protect cells, proteins and DNA.

Palm oil is found in large quantities insweets, cream, margarine, biscuits, canned food and baby food. According to WWF data for 2020, companies such as PepsiCo, Nestle, McDonalds and Colgate-Palmolive are actively buying palm oil. This means that it is also a component of sodas, fast food and personal care products. The great popularity of palm oil is due to its relative cheapness.

Palm oil is used almost everywhere

The benefits of palm oil

In the course of scientific research, scientists were able toprove that palm oil can bring great benefits to the human body. The substances it contains have a positive effect on the health of the brain. One day, scientists gathered a group of 120 people and divided them into two groups. The first received a placebo, and the second received palm oil components. Subsequently, it turned out that people from the second group were less likely to have brain lesions. Based on this, scientists concluded that palm oil protects against age-related memory impairment.

Palm oil has both benefits and harms

The harm of palm oil

But in the course of some studies, scientists cameto the conclusion that palm oil is still dangerous to the human body. Once they noticed that its use leads to an increase in cholesterol, which can lead to the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. Reheated palm oil is especially harmful because it causes deposits inside the arteries.

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In general, in short, palm oilgood for the brain and bad for the heart. But don't assume that palm oil is bad. When heated above 200 degrees, any fat becomes harmful. When using any product, it is important to observe the measure and then nothing bad should happen. Currently, the World Health Organization does not classify palm oil as a hazardous product. On the contrary, experts report that it is the richest plant source of vitamin A. This fact is worth paying attention to the vegans, whom I wrote about in this material.