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Virgin red palm oil, sourced from the fruit of the oil palm tree, is being hailed as a superfood that may help fight heart disease, prevent Alzheimer’s and promote fat loss. However, with a fat composition of 50% saturated, 40% monounsaturated and 10% polyunsaturated, the oil’s ability to promote good health is questionable. Limited quality studies have been done on red palm oil, with some promising findings on specific nutrients it contains.
The health benefits of red palm oil come from its red color as it is very high in the antioxidants beta-carotene and lycopene, as well as tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E that has shown to be cardio-protective. Whereas virgin red palm oil has a dark red color and strong flavor, refined red palm oil is white and neutral-flavored. The refining process also strips the oil of its beneficial antioxidants. Organic virgin red palm oil can be part of a clean-eating plan, but we recommend that you look for brands that produce the oil in a sustainable manner (such as Nutiva Organic Red Palm Oil) and that you limit your consumption to 1 to 2 tablespoons per day.
Registered dietitians Tiffani Bachus and Erin Macdonald are the co-founders and creators of URockGirl.com, a website dedicated to promoting wellness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.