Fats have been a key part of the human diet for countless generations. They are a critical nutrient, and it's recommended that you get between 20 and 35 percent of your daily calories from fats. In our attempts to understand how fats affect nutrition, some misconceptions have come about. In particular, saturated fats have sometimes been criticized as being "unhealthy". However, research has shown that this is not necessarily the case because not all foods containing saturated fats are nutritionally the same.
Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature and occur naturally in foods like meats and dairy products, and in baked or fried foods, which also contain dietary cholesterol. Saturated fats are different from unsaturated fats, which tend to be liquid at room temperature. Foods containing unsaturated fats include canola oil and olive oil.
Saturated fats and trans fats, a special type of unsaturated fats, and are so-called "bad fats" because they can raise cholesterol levels in your blood and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Other unsaturated fats, namely monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, can help lower blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of developing heart disease. These "better" fats are found in nuts, seafood, and a variety of vegetable oils including canola, olive, peanut, sunflower, and palm oils.
Additionally, each type of food has its own "fat profile". Many contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats, and these fats can themselves be comprised of different fatty acids.
For that reason, it is not correct to simply lump all foods with saturated fats together. They're not all alike, and some are simply better for your health than others. Many focus on how eating saturated fats affects LDL (or "bad") cholesterol levels in the body. And while some saturated fats can make LDL levels worse, others have no such negative effect on them. Palm oil is one such food. In fact, in one study, those using palm oil actually saw an 11% increase in "good" cholesterol levels.
Palm oil contains about 40% saturated fat and 60% unsaturated fat, and it is used the world over for cooking and baking. Palm oil comes from the reddish fruit pulp of the oil palm tree, and is quite different from other oils that are considered alternatives to it. You might be surprised to hear that palm oil has 45 percent less saturated fat than coconut oil, 17 percent less than cocoa butter, and even has 7 percent less saturated fat than dairy butter. Indeed, the European Food Information Council has confirmed that there is no nutritional need to switch from palm oil to an alternative.
Palm oil can be a good source of the fats your body needs as part of a balanced, varied diet. As with all foods, moderation is the key to health.