Palm oil, coconut oil and palm kernel oil are edible plant oils derived from the fruits of palm trees. Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis; palm kernel oil is derived from the kernel (seed) of the oil palm and coconut oil is derived from the kernel of the coconut (Cocos nucifera). Palm oil is naturally reddish in color because it contains a high amount of beta-carotene.
Palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil are three of the few highly saturated vegetable fats. Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperatures. Palm oil contains several saturated and unsaturated fats in the forms of glyceryl laurate (0.1%, saturated), myristate (1%, saturated), palmitate (44%, saturated), stearate (5%, saturated), oleate (39%, monounsaturated), linoleate (10%, polyunsaturated), and linolenate (0.3%, polyunsaturated). Palm kernel oil and coconut oil are more highly saturated than palm oil. Like all vegetable oils, palm oil does not contain cholesterol (found in unrefined animal fats), although saturated fat intake increases both LDL and HDL cholesterol.
Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its increasing use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its lower cost and the high oxidative stability (saturation) of the refined product when used for frying.
The use of palm oil in food products is often the focus of environmental activist groups, due to it being documented as a cause of substantial and often irreversible damage to the natural environment.