Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world and an important source of fats in our diet. Palm oil is an ingredient in various butters, cookies and ice cream, but also in non-food products such as lipstick and soap. Today, palm oil is found in about 55% of all composite products from the supermarket. Of all vegetable oils consumed in the world, 32% is palm oil. Palm oil provides energy, and in foodstuffs, palm oil also plays an essential role in flavor and structure.
The consumption of palm oil is increasing dramatically all over the world. On the one hand, it is seen as healthy, on the other hand, excessive consumption of palm oil poses a risk to the heart and blood vessels. There are also concerns about the environment, because of its ever-increasing production, it is a very environmentally unfriendly process.
Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the palm fruit. This tropical fruit is red due to the high content of beta-carotene. Its size is comparable to that of an olive. Palm fruits grow in bunches that can weigh up to 25 kg. Each palm fruit contains about 30 to 35% oil. The pulp contains many antioxidants and the same number of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids, palm oil and palm kernel oil differ considerably in fatty acid composition, but come from the same plant.
The oil palm is an efficient oil crop and has the highest yield per hectare compared to other oils. When the palm trees are three to four years old, the fruits are harvested every month. The oil palm can sustain this high production level for another eight to ten years, after which the yield decreases. There can be about 150 palm trees on 1 hectare. Because the palm trees permanently cover the soil, farmlands used for palm oil are also protected against soil erosion, making it even more attractive to produce palm oil.
Palm oil is naturally a mix of orange and red in color. Palm oil is an important ingredient in many edibles and affects the nutritional values, taste, texture and mouthfeel of many products we use every day. In foodstuffs, palm oil is almost always combined with other oils and fats. Together they determine the fatty acid composition and functionality of the end product. However, that does not alter the fact that too much palm oil consumption can result from ingesting too many unsaturated fats, which is unhealth.