Vegetable Oil vs. Palm Oil — Which One Is Healthier?
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 3 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.
Table of contents
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 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, soybean, 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 extracted 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.
Natural palm oil can have a red hue due to its level of beta-carotene pigment. However, palm oil loses beta-carotene after the refining process and becomes translucid 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.
The nutritional information below is provided for 100g of palm oil and vegetable oil, a mixture of corn, peanut, and olive oils.
Macronutrients and Calories
Vegetable oil and palm oil both consist of nearly 100% fats, containing only fat-soluble vitamins E and K and negligible amounts of minerals.
One average serving size of oil is one tablespoon, equal to 13.6g.
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.
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.
Fat Type Comparison
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.
Edible oils are not very rich in vitamins. Vegetable oil and palm oils contain only two fat-soluble vitamins - vitamin E and vitamin K.
Palm oil is slightly higher in vitamin E; however, 100g of vegetable oil and palm oil would cover nearly 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin E (2).
Vegetable oil is almost 3 times richer in vitamin K.
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.
The glycemic index values of palm and vegetable oils are considered to be 0, as both do not contain carbohydrates.
The insulin index of foods shows how much the given food increases blood insulin levels.
The insulin index of vegetable oil is calculated to be 3. In comparison, the insulin index of glucose is 100. Our “Glycemic Index vs. Insulin Index” provides detailed information about the two indices and compares them.
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.
Most vegetable oils are high in unsaturated or “good” fats and low in saturated or “bad” fats.
The American Health Association recommends replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, as they are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats lowers LDL or “bad” cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels, the main causes of atherosclerosis and heart disease (5).
High-fat diets may increase the risk of breast, colon, pancreas, and intestinal cancers. Polyunsaturated oils may also promote and stimulate cancer growth more effectively than saturated fats (6, 7).
To fully understand the correlation between cancer and fat consumption, additional research is necessary as genetics, drug intake, possible measurement errors, and other factors affect the research results (8).
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 endangers animals inhabiting those forests, such as the Orangutan, pygmy elephant, and Sumatran rhino (9).
The loss of forests, along with the conversion of peat soils rich in carbon, exacerbates climate change due to greenhouse gas formation.
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Sodium||Equal|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Lower in Glycemic Index||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet||Equal|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low Calories diet||Equal|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.
- Palm oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171015/nutrients
- 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.