Palm kernel is among the tropical fruits that is attracting much attention both within and outside the African continent. Although it is a popular fruit especially on the African continent due to its cooking oil, yet many people pay less attention in understanding what this fruit is all about.
Although most people pay minimal attention to palm kernel fruit, yet researchers reveal that this distinctive fruit and its products are of immense benefits to the human race.
Having mentioned the above, let’s then gracefully ride through the journey of unravelling some hidden facts about this historical tree; just get your seat belt fastened!
Palm kernel is the edible seed of the oil palm tree and the fruit is commonly known for its usefulness in producing two types of oil; palm kernel oil from the kernels and palm oil from the fleshy parts of the fruit. Palm kernel is originally from Africa especially Nigeria, Guinea, Angola and the Gambia before spreading to other parts of the world such as Central America, Madagascar, Pacific Oceans, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indian Islands, Sumatra and the West Indies. Ideally, a matured palm kernel tree grows up to 20 m tall and is usually single-stemmed.
The palm kernel tree is characterised by a stout trunk that grows up to 75 cm in diameter with an external root system. Normally, the palm tree grows approximately 30-100 leaves or palm fronds, which are spirally arranged at the top of the tree. Their leaflets are arranged on either side of the stem, especially in pairs that are opposite to each other and the leaves tend to grow between 3-5 m long. The palm kernel flowers are usually densely clustered with small flowers that have three sepals and three petals.
Healthier species of palm kernel fruit is the Elaeis guineensis popularly known as akwu ojukwu by the Ibos. Traditionalists believe that this species is very sacred because of its tendency to cure certain diseases as well as neutralise poisons and charms. Moreover, researchers agree that it is capable of curing certain illnesses and its oil is highly medicinal. Other palm kernel species that produce palm oil include Elaeis oleifera and Attalea maripa. The palm tree can reproduce for approximately 25-35 years and live up to 200 years. The fruits take approximately 5-6 months to mature from the onset of pollination to maturity.
A normal palm kernel produces approximately 30 leaves annually and each fruit comprises of a pericarp, which is an oily, fleshy outer layer of the fruit, with a single seed (palm kernel), which is also used for producing palm kernel oil. The tree undergoes pollination and afterwards the female inflorescences transform into big kernel bunches bearing approximately 150-500 fruits. A palm kernel tree can produce between 2 to 7 bunches of kernels in a year. Palm kernels are characteristically fibrous in texture, reddish in colour with an oval shape and they grow up to 2-5 cm long and do grow in big bunches. They are the primary source of palm oil and are rich in saturated vegetable fats.
Until 1934, Nigeria has the world's largest palm kernel and palm oil industry while in 2011, was recorded the third-largest producer in both large and small scale. The demand for palm oil is rapidly growing since the 1990s and it is currently among the world’s leading vegetable oils. The palm kernel has a thin epicarp with an oily and fleshy mesocarp and a thick endocarp, which contains an oily endosperm.
The palm kernel bunches are usually harvested 3 to 4 years after cultivation. The bunches are usually harvested by cutting them off from the tree when the fruits are ripe. After processing the oil, the pulp is produced into palm kernel cake, which is used as a high-protein feed for feeding chicken, sheep, cattle and for generating light as local lanterns. Palm oil production is expected to increase tremendously by the year 2020 as the world's population increases.
Palm kernel oil is produced from the palm nuts while the red palm oil is usually semi-solid at room temperature and more saturated than palm oil. Palm kernel oil is usually stable at high cooking temperatures and the oil can be preserved longer than other vegetable oils.
PALM OIL FACTS
1. Palm oil production has received wide recognition especially in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.
2. Palm oil is produced from palm fruit, which is one of the fatty fruits in the world.
3. Approximately 50 percent of palm oil is saturated making it easier on arteries.
4. The reddish colour of palm oil suggests that it contains a reasonable quantity of carotenoids.
5. Palm oil is an excellent source of oleic and palmitic acid and it is usually extracted from the fleshy mesocarp.
6. Studies reveal that it is the second most consumed vegetable oil in the whole world.
PALM KERNEL OIL FACTS
- Palm kernel oil is normally extracted from the palm kernel seeds.
- Palm kernel oil is an excellent source of lauric acid, oleic acid and myristic acid.
- Palm kernel oil contains approximately 80% saturated fat, which makes it less easy on the arteries.
- Palm kernel oil is a yellowish or dark-brown oil extracted from the kernel of palm nuts of palm tree (Elaeis guineensis).
- Palm kernel oil is used in soap manufacturing industries, oil processing industries, food processing industries, cosmetics industries and pharmaceutical industries.
- It can also serve as a lubricant for machinery.
- It is a rich source of fat.
- Palm kernel meal, which is produced during palm kernel oil extraction process is a protein feed used for feeding animals.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF PALM OIL
- Palm oil contains antioxidants, phytosterols, flavonoids tocopherols, glycolipids, carotenes, beta-carotene, phenolic acids, tocotrienols and CoQ10, which are highly beneficial to human health.
- Although palm oil contains a fatty acid, it does not contribute to atherosclerosis or arterial thrombosis development.
- Palm oil contains approximately 50% MCFA’s, which is the fat our body can easily burn for energy. This percentage is quite low comparable to other oil like coconut oil etc.
- To a larger extent, researchers believe that palm oil is suitable for treating diseases such as blood clotting, vitamin A deficiency and cognitive impairment.
BENEFITS OF PALM KERNELS
- Palm oil is used for culinary purposes.
- Palm kernel undergoes the process of saponification to generate fatty acids and glycerin as a by-product.
- Due to the presence of lauric and myristic fatty acids in palm kernel oil, it can thus be used for producing detergents, soaps and washing powders. Lauric acid helps soap to lather so easily.
- Palm oil can be used as a lubricant for machines and equipment.
CONS OF PALM KERNEL OILPalm kernel oil is a high source of lauric acid. Although it does not contain trans fatty acids or cholesterol, yet it has been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your health care provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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