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Palm oil vs Vegetable oil - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on December 04, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Palm oil
vs
Vegetable oil

Summary

In summary, vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature, while palm oil is semi-solid.

Palm oil is significantly higher in saturated fats, compared to vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is three times richer in vitamin K.

Due to being richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids, vegetable oil may be the healthier choice.

Despite the superior yielding qualities of palm oil, its uncontrolled and unethical production has worsened environmental issues, such as deforestation and climate change.

Introduction

There are dozens of cooking oils to choose from in the culinary world, each with its unique physicochemical and nutritional properties. So which one is the correct choice?

In this article, we have chosen to discuss the main differences and similarities between two of the most popular cooking oils - palm oil and vegetable oil.

The specific types of vegetable oil talked about in this article are a corn, peanut, and olive oil mixture, as well as sunflower oil.

Classification and Varieties

Vegetable oils are the fats extracted from fruits, usually their seeds. 

Technically, palm oil can also be classified as vegetable oil. However, the term “vegetable oil” is often used to describe oils that are liquid at room temperature. Palm oil, on the other hand, is semi-solid at room temperature.

There are dozens of varieties of vegetable oils, some of the most popular ones being sunflower, olive, peanut, safflower, rapeseed, corn, and cottonseed oils.

Edible oils can be divided into two groups - cooking oils and tropical oils. Cooking oils include vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, and olive oils. Palm oil is considered to be a tropical oil, along with coconut oil.

Palm oil can come in three different types, depending on which part of the palm fruit it is exctrated from. What we call palm oil is extracted from the palm fruit. Palm kernel oil is the oil produced from palm seed or stone. The palm kernel oil can be further processed to achieve fractionated palm kernel oil.

Appearance

Natural palm oil can have a red hue due to its level of the beta-carotene pigment. However, palm oil loses beta-carotene after the refining process and becomes translucidity yellow like vegetable oils.

As mentioned above, palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature, while vegetable oil is liquid.

Taste and Use

Edible oils are versatile and can be used as an ingredient in most culinary dishes. Both vegetable and palm oils can be used in cooking to add texture, flavor, and calories.

In addition to being used in the kitchen, palm oil is also used in the production of numerous cosmetics and hygiene products, as well as biofuel.

Of the vegetable oils, olive oil is also widely used in the production of cosmetics, while sunflower oil can be used to make biofuel.

Due to its solid texture, palm oil is sometimes used to substitute for butter in baking.

Nutrition

The nutritional information below is provided for palm oil and a mixture of corn, peanut, and olive oils.

Macronutrients and Calories

Vegetable and palm oil both consist of nearly 100% fats, containing only small amounts of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins.

One average serving size of oil is one tablespoon, equal to 13.6g.

Calories

Cooking oils are incredibly high in calories, as they consist entirely of fats. A 100g serving of both palm and vegetable oils contains 884 calories.

However, one average serving size of these oils provides 120 calories.

Fats

Even though the macronutrient compositions of these two oils are very similar, the same cannot be said about their fat compositions. The more saturated fats oils contain, the more solid their texture is at room temperature (1). 

The main fat type found in palm oil is saturated fat, followed by monounsaturated fat. The fat in palm oil consists of 51% saturated fats, 39% monounsaturated fats, and only 10% polyunsaturated fats.

On the other hand, vegetable oil mainly consists of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The fat found in vegetable oil comprises 50% monounsaturated fat, 35% polyunsaturated fats, and only 15% saturated fat.

Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats has been studied to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (2). Based on this, we can say that the fat composition of vegetable oil is preferable to palm oil’s fat content.

Like all plant-based products, vegetable and palm oils do not contain cholesterol.

The predominant saturated fat found in both of these oils is palmitic acid, followed by stearic and myristic acid. Unlike vegetable oil, palm oil also contains lauric acid.

The polyunsaturated fat content in palm and vegetable oils consists of omega-6 fatty acids.

Vitamins

Edible oils are not very rich in vitamins. Vegetable and palm oils contain only two fat-soluble vitamins - vitamin E and vitamin K.

Vegetable oil is almost three times richer in vitamin K.

On the other hand, palm oil is slightly higher in vitamin E.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Vitamin K +162.5%
Equal in Vitamin E - 14.78
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 319% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 20%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 296% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 53%
Contains more Vitamin K +162.5%
Equal in Vitamin E - 14.78

Minerals

Oils are not particularly high in minerals either, containing only very low amounts of zinc and iron.

Vegetable oil contains slightly more iron and zinc, while palm oil is a little richer in choline.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index values of palm and vegetable oils are considered to be 0, as both do not contain carbohydrates.

Acidity

Sunflower oil is more alkaline than palm oil. The pH values of neat palm oil have been calculated to be 6.34, while the pH of sunflower oil was 7.38 (3).

However, after domestic use by frying, the pH values of these oils change, becoming more acidic. The pH value of palm oil decreases to 5.73 or 6.19, while the pH of sunflower oil becomes 5.34 (3).

The potential renal acid load values of palm and vegetable oils are 0.

Weight Loss & Diets

Palm and vegetable oils are equally high in calories due to fats. However, this does not exclude them from all weight-loss diets.

Research has shown no significant difference in weight loss results when comparing the use of palm oil with vegetable oils (4).

Palm and vegetable oils can fit well on low-carb, keto, and Atkins diets.

Due to a lower saturated fat level, vegetable oil is preferred over palm oil during DASH and Mediterranean diets.

Environmental Impact

Palm oil is one of the most efficient edible oils to produce due to its incredibly high yield per hectare of land.

However, despite this, palm oil production has had a significant negative impact on the environment. Palm oil production is one of the biggest causes of deforestation of biodiverse forests, which further endanger animals inhabiting those forests, such as the Orangutan, pygmy elephant, and Sumatran rhino (5).

The loss of forests, along with the conversion of peat soils rich in carbon, exacerbate climate change due to greenhouse gas formation.

Sources.

  1. https://www.ifst.org/resources/information-statements/oils-and-fats
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744652/
  3. https://academic.oup.com/ijlct/article/14/3/417/5527146
  4. https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=86339
  5. https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/8-things-know-about-palm-oil
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: December 04, 2021

Infographic

Palm oil vs Vegetable oil infographic
Infographic link

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Iron +1200%
Contains more Zinc +∞%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 0% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 0% 5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0%
Contains more Iron +1200%
Contains more Zinc +∞%

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Palm oil Vegetable oil
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in Sodium Equal
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Palm oil Vegetable oil Opinion
Net carbs 0g 0g
Protein 0g 0g
Fats 100g 100g
Carbs 0g 0g
Calories 884kcal 884kcal
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0g 0g
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 0mg 0mg
Iron 0.01mg 0.13mg Vegetable oil
Magnesium 0mg 0mg
Phosphorus 0mg 0mg
Potassium 0mg 0mg
Sodium 0mg 0mg
Zinc 0mg 0.02mg Vegetable oil
Copper 0mg 0mg
Vitamin A 0IU 0IU
Vitamin E 15.94mg 14.78mg Palm oil
Vitamin D IU 0IU Vegetable oil
Vitamin D µg 0µg Vegetable oil
Vitamin C 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B1 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B2 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B3 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B5 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B6 0mg 0mg
Folate 0µg 0µg
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 8µg 21µg Vegetable oil
Tryptophan 0mg mg Palm oil
Threonine 0mg mg Palm oil
Isoleucine 0mg mg Palm oil
Leucine 0mg mg Palm oil
Lysine 0mg mg Palm oil
Methionine 0mg mg Palm oil
Phenylalanine 0mg mg Palm oil
Valine 0mg mg Palm oil
Histidine 0mg mg Palm oil
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 49.3g 14.367g Vegetable oil
Monounsaturated Fat 37g 48.033g Vegetable oil
Polyunsaturated fat 9.3g 33.033g Vegetable oil

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Palm oil Vegetable oil
Low Fats diet Equal
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low Calories diet Equal
Low glycemic index diet Equal

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Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
28
Palm oil
29
Vegetable oil
Mineral Summary Score
0
Palm oil
1
Vegetable oil

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
0%
Palm oil
0%
Vegetable oil
Carbohydrates
0%
Palm oil
0%
Vegetable oil
Fats
462%
Palm oil
462%
Vegetable oil

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 34.933g)
Which food is cheaper?
Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is cheaper (difference - $0.7)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sodium (0 mg)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Palm oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171015/nutrients
  2. Vegetable oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167737/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.