Experiencing Palm Oil
Whether or not palm oil is as good as other oils was put to test at a European Palm Oil conference held in Brussels. The conference aim was to share science based information in the debate on the nutritional properties and sustainability of palm oil.
The gathering brought together, buyers, sellers, suppliers, manufactures, NGOs and policymakers who all shared their views on palm oil.
Overall, there was a large chorus of support for the use of palm oil. After all, palm oil is a key ingredient for many food products including margarine, shortening and baked goods and food technology experts have long been aware of palm oil’s ability to enhance the quality of products. This is due to amongst others, its good functional qualities that gives the products in which it is used a longer shelf life.
For large scale manufacturing, palm oil and palm olein are particularly good for frying . As it also contains natural antioxidants , it can withstand frying conditions very well.
According to Mr Berger, a UK based food technologist, to perform, a shortening must be soft for mixing. A liquid oil would tend to stay in drops failing to protect the gluten effectively like palm oil does.
To ensure a better take home message and to have a real feel of how good palm products are, ‘experience centers’ were created for participants to demonstrate palm oil’s use in chocolate fillings, bakery dough, margarine and chocolate spreads. I liked the thought that the organizer referred to it as ‘experience centers’ as it truly was an experience to see how palm oil, in combination with other valuable ingredients leads to a good food product. Participants were not told what oils were used but this was only revealed at the end of the demonstration. This was to ensure there was no bias nor pre conceived thoughts on the ingredient.
Participants got to see how textures differ when using different oils and how this affects the mouth feel and quality of the end product. After all, in the food manufacturing sector these are important considerations when choosing an oil or fat.
The favourite amongst the participants was naturally the tasting session where they got to eat the cookies and chocolates. Plates went empty as each and everyone wanted to try the freshly baked items. These demonstrations were highly appreciated and many were amazed with the superior quality, texture and feel of the end product when palm oil was used. Overall, it was a thumbs up for palm oil!
As the world realized the dangers of trans fats, palm oil quickly emerged as the most popular replacement for partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as it provides an option of a trans free healthy oil . Trans fatty acids are the result of a chemical transformation which aims to harden a vegetable oil, using the process of partial hydrogenation, in order to use these oils in the food industry.
The hydrogenation process creates dangerous trans fatty acids which are regarded as detrimental to health.
Palm oil is naturally solid and naturally free of trans fatty acids. Its unique qualities (it withstands high temperatures, it does not go rancid) make it an excellent substitute for trans fatty acids, without the need for any chemical manipulation.
Palm oil’s natural composition means that it does not cause the negative health problems that are proven to come from trans fat consumption.
Many may not be aware but palm oil has helped to reduce health problems across the world by replacing dangerous trans fats. Therefore, palm oil is highly valued by the food industry for use in a wide range of products. This means that producers and businesses are in a position to reformulate food products and move away from using partially hydrogenated oils which contain trans fats.
In a nutshell, palm oil as part of a healthy balanced diet can be a healthy option for manufactures and for consumers. A good product is essentially a remarkable combination of many ingredients, this includes oils and fats which are necessary in the preparation of a variety of food. The key when consuming food is moderation.
Belvinder Sron is the Director or Branding and Promotions at MPOC. She also handles communications and issues management.