Palm oil is a key ingredient in many African dishes and it is not uncommon to have at least an inch of it sitting on top of traditional stews and soups. I can’t lie, my favourite dishes, such as red red or palm nut soup, are nothing without palm oil but after observing the gluttonous quantity that is used in our traditional Ghanaian food, I just had to do some research into its nutritional facts.
Well, I’m sure a lot of you are aware that palm oil isn’t exactly the healthiest oil there is and with the excessive amount that is used in Ghanaian foods, it’s not surprising that cardiovascular diseases are so common amongst our people. It’s not strange to see our uncles or grandparents suffering from such diseases in their 70s, 60s and even 50s!
Our population is extremely indulgent when it comes to food, particularly at celebrations and funerals where the buffet tables are lined with at least 10 different dishes. Yes, palm oil is a staple in Ghanaian foods but when you read some of the facts I discovered below, you will definitely think twice about using it in your food. It’s honestly sad that so many Ghanaians are not educated on the disturbing facts of palm oil but this doesn’t have to be the case. That’s why I did my research and put together this post to inform the public about the negative nutritional effects of palm oil. Share this with your aunties and your parents because the information in this post needs to be common knowledge.
FACT 1:- ONE TABLESPOON OF PALM OIL CONTAINS 55% OF YOUR RECOMMENDED DAILY SATURATED FAT INTAKE! 😱
When I read this I was honestly lost for words. How could this oil that has been used in so many meals since my childhood be this bad for you? In Ghana, our stews and soups are basically deep fried in this oil and I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of saturated fat in an average Ghanaian portion, considering the fact that there are probably at least 7 tablespoons of palm oil in one! Saturated fats are the most dangerous fats you could put into your body. They cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries and commonly lead to heart stroke and heart disease. It’s no wonder why our West African populations are dying so young! In fact, the life expectancy of Ghana (based on World Bank figures in 2012) is only 60.92 years old when the rest of world is cruising till their 80’s. I’m certain that our high saturated fat intakes are contributing to this low statistic.
FACT 2:- ONE TABLESPOON OF PALM OIL CONTAINS 120 CALORIES!
If you don’t know what 120 calories looks like, it is roughly one and a half chocolate digestives, 4 squares of chocolate and 2/3 of a bag of crisps! This is honestly quite shocking considering the fact that some people eat palm oil as if it is a stew in itself. I cannot even begin to imagine how many calories of palm oil I have consumed in my lifetime. This calorie figure does not even include the different meats and other ingredients that are added to our soups and stews which in turn increase the calories in our meals. It is fair to say that one portion of palm nut soup with fufu can easily contain over 1000 calories, half of a woman’s daily calorie intake for a day and the equivalent of 5 Big Mac burgers, 3 medium McDonald’s fries or 2 and a half litres of coke! Would you consume any of these in one go? I don’t think so.
FACT 3:- PALM OIL LEADS TO WEIGHT GAIN
So naturally, considering the amount of calories and saturated fats in palm oil, weight gain is the product of a high intake of palm oil. Palm oil is difficult to digest and because it has been heavily refined from its original form, the palm nut, it is stripped of most of its nutrients making it extremely unhealthy. It’s not unusual for African men when they reach their 50s to have that infamous pot belly and for African women at that age to be almost twice the size they were when they were in their 20s. I’m not saying that palm oil is the only reason for such weight gain, but it is a contributing factor. The mindless addition of this oil into our foods overtime has a very detrimental effect on our health and is leading our African populations to die younger than they should.
So after reading these facts, I’m sure you are just as shocked as I am. Here are some tips to help you reduce and even remove palm oil from your diet.
- Use healthier oils that contain good fats (monounsaturated fats) such as coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, groundnut oil and sesame oil for frying. Olive oil should be used for drizzling only as it loses its nutritional benefits when it reaches high temperatures.
- Indulge in palm oil only once a month. I, certainly, cannot cut out palm nut soup from my diet completely but having it once in a while is better for your health.
- When cooking with palm oil, avoid leaving that 1 inch layer on the top of the stew by using a maximum of 4 tablespoons for a portion for a family of 5.
- Subscribe to my blog because I make healthier versions of your favourite Ghanaian foods!
I hope this post was informative to say the least and I hope you incorporate some of these changes into your life. Your health is one of the most important things you have and in my opinion, it is worth breaking tradition and making adjustments for the sake of a longer life.
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