Palm oil is an edible vegetable fat extracted from the fruit of the oil palm tree. The oil extracted from the fleshy, red part of the fruit is also known as crude palm oil. The oil extracted from the seed or stone of the oil palm fruit is known as palm kernel oil. The oil palm tree is indigenous to Africa, but it is also grown in Southeast Asian regions.
Palm oil also fulfils the world's 40% need for vegetable oil. It is also widely known for its different uses and benefits. It is rich in vitamin E and vitamin A, and other antioxidants.
This is why it is also the centre of research of different medical studies. In these studies, its medical benefits are being evaluated and concluded.
What Is Palm Oil Used For?
We will now look at the uses of palm oil, spread across different industries and sectors.
Palm oil is an essential ingredient in processed foods. It is used in manufacturing margarine, spreads, ice creams, and non-dairy creamers. Specific experts estimate that over 55% of processed foods available in stores contain palm oil. The main reason behind this is palm oil's availability and low price point. As well as its ability to mix with other mediums and still remain easily spreadable.
As it is a natural preservative, it is added to food items like cereals and energy bars to help enhance their shelf life. Last but not least, palm oil is also the oil of choice when it comes to commercial frying and is used in cooking as vegetable oil.
Palm oil is widely used in the cosmetics industry due to its moisturizing properties. It is also incorporated into different cosmetic products because of its texturizing ability and antimicrobial quality.
Derivatives of palm oils such as other fatty acids and glycerol are the most common ingredients for creating a foamy texture and balmy feeling in cosmetic products. It is also added to foundations and concealers to make them more fluid and spreadable.
Personal Grooming Products
As it has no scent, palm oil is the emulsifier of choice for facial creams and body lotions. Its addition to moisturizers gives them a skin-friendly feeling and helps in increasing their absorption rate. Due to the high vitamin E and vitamin A content in palm oil, it is also added to moisturizers for skincare benefits.
Palm oil’s ability to get rid of accumulated debris and dirt in hair roots and scalp makes it an ingredient of choice in shampoos. As oil helps pull and remove grime, it is also a preferred ingredient in shampoos and bar soaps. Palm oil can also be found in different kinds of toothpaste and hair creams.
Use in Biofuel
Certain ingredients from palm oil are extracted and processed for their consumption as a biofuel. In the European Union, palm oil is the ultimate source of biofuel and is incorporated in biodiesel production. Palm oil is the preferred raw material for biofuel production in other regions as well.
Palm oil is also used when it comes to animal feed production. When palm oil is processed (to become a part of biofuel), the remains left behind form over 20% of commercially produced chicken feed. Not only that, but the leftovers of oil palm fruit, after oil extraction, are also used to make poultry feed. Certain researches have pointed towards the use of palm oil as the preferred fat content for cat and dog food as well.
The use of palm oil for industrial cleaning is a common practice. Huge vats and boilers in different processing facilities are cleaned using palm oil-based mixtures and cleaning solutions. The reason for incorporating palm oil into cleaning supplies is its ability to pull out dirty oil and residue. Its antibacterial nature is also one of the reasons behind its use in food-grade factories for cleaning.
For over three decades, research has highlighted the positive role of palm oil in the pharmaceutical industry. Certain constituents of palm oil, mainly vitamins, are used to produce medicines and health supplements. Carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin E, and triglycerides are the most sought-after ingredients present in palm oil used in the pharma sector.
Palm oil also plays a role in lipid-based formulations and how they can deliver specific drugs within the human body.
Palm oil is not just ordinary vegetable oil. It has varied uses across different sectors that touch our lives every day. Our diets, hygiene, and even our health in some instances are impacted by palm oil or palm oil-containing products. This, of course, further highlights the importance of palm oil. But what remains the primary concern throughout the world is sustainable farming of oil palm trees.
Due to the versatility of palm oil and its derivatives, sometimes forests are being cut down to put in an oil palm tree plantation. It is eminent to ensure that the palm oil-containing products in your use contain sustainably produced palm oil. Therefore, you need to check whether the palm oil in a product is sustainably sourced or not. You can do this by verifying that the manufacturer is part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) like Baraka or is at least following their production standards.