Ingredient of the month: Red Palm Oil
What is it?
Red palm oil is the second most-consumed vegetable oil in the world and has been used for cooking in Asia and Africa for generations.
Where does it come from?
Red palm oil comes from the African oil palm tree Elaeis guineensis, native to tropical Africa, from Sierra Leone in the west through the Democratic Republic of Congo in eastern West Africa. It has been used there for more than 5,000 years.
When was it discovered?
European explorers discovered the palm in the late 1400s, and distributed it throughout the world. In the early 1800s, the oil was prized for making soaps, candles, margarine and industrial oils.
The oil palm didn?t become an industry of its own in the Americas until the 1960s. It was introduced to Southeast Asia in the early 1900s, and Malaysia is now the world leader in exports.
How is it beneficial?
Red palm oil is a rich source of phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene and other carotenoids. It is rich in vitamin E tocotrienols, a powerful form of vitamin E that acts as a super-antioxidant. Studies have found such health benefits as: a reduction in arteriosclerosis and blood cholesterol; a reduction in blood clotting; inhibition of breast cancer cell growth; and a 45 per cent enhancement of the efficiency of breast cancer drugs, such as Tamoxifen.
What can be done with it?
Trans-fat free, the oil can be used in baking, shortenings and deep frying, and has a substantial shelf life with a high melting point. With more than 250 million children under age 5 at risk for vitamin A deficiency, the primary cause of avoidable blindness, the oil could provide an easy and inexpensive way of supplementing vitamin A into the diet.