Palm olein is the liquid component of palm oil obtained when the oil is separated by a process called fractionation, which came into wide use in the 1970s in Malaysia to export cooking oil to other countries, according to The Cambridge World History of Food. The solid component obtained is called palm stearin. Palm olein and palm oil are used as ingredients in many foods, and are often confused with palm kernel oil, which is known to raise cholesterol levels.
Palm olein consists of about 55 percent unsaturated fat, which is mostly monounsaturated. A monounsaturated oil has one double bond in its fatty acid chain. Monounsaturated fats have been found to be better for heart health than saturated fats, according to the American Heart Association.
Palm Olein vs Palm Kernel Oil
While palm olein consists mostly of unsaturated fat, palm kernel oil has about 82 percent saturated fat and is solid at room temperature. The saturated fats in palm olein, palmitic and stearic acid, may not significantly affect cholesterol levels. The saturated fats in palm kernel oil do raise cholesterol, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.
No Trans Fats
Palm olein can be used as a liquid cooking oil. It has virtually no trans fats, which are made by adding hydrogen to many polyunsaturated oils to make them semisolid. Trans fats have negative impacts on heart health. Palm olein can be made more solid by adding palm stearin, the other fraction of palm oil. The addition of hydrogen is unnecessary.
References and ResourcesAmerican Palm Oil Council: Frequently Asked Questions
Malaysian Palm Oil Council: About Palm Oil
Cambridge University Press: The Cambridge World History of Food
American Heart Association: Know Your Fats