January 22, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Palm Fruit Oil/Vegan Baking

What's your take on palm fruit oil in general, and spreads like Earth Balance in particular?

I'm interested in trying vegan baking, but I want to keep my saturated fat intake low.

The Earth Balance Web site makes palm fruit oil sound like health food, but I'm

What do you think?

-- Lisa (last name withheld)

Phoenix, AZ

Although palm fruit oil is a healthier choice than palm kernel oil (I am amazed at how often people interchange the two!), I wouldn't classify it as a health food.

Whereas 85 percent of palm kernel oil's are saturated, palm fruit oil's fat content is divided 50/50 between saturated fats and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Additionally, palm fruit oil provides higher levels of vitamin E than palm kernel oil. This is significant since one of vitamin E's roles consists of inhibiting LDL cholesterol oxidation (believed to be a considerable risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.)

Even though palm fruit oil is one of the healthier trans-fat-free vegan alternatives for baking, you can still take further steps to decrease the amount of saturated fat in your recipes.

One of the best things you can do is substitute some of Earth Balance called for in a recipe with applesauce.

Applesauce makes for a perfect fat substitute since it cuts calories while providing a good deal of moistness (low-fat baking that simply cuts fat without using a suitable replacement tends to be dry and dense.)

Luckily, you don't need to do any math in your head -- it is a 1:1 swap!

If, for instance, your recipe calls for one cup of Earth Balance, I would recommend using half a cup of Earth Balance and a half cup of applesauce (even a 60/40 ratio would be fine.)

Have fun with your vegan creations!

PS: In the accompanying image, the palm kernel is the white center; the surrounding orange-colored fleshy part is the actual palm fruit.

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