The oil palm, Elaeis guineensis, is the source of palm oil – the ‘tropical golden oil’. Malaysia is the world’s largest exporter of this golden oil. Palm oil is a versatile oil with a wide range of uses in food and nonfood areas. Triglycerides constitute the major component of crude palm oil, with smaller proportions of diglycerides and monoglycerides. The oil also contains other minor constituents, such as free fatty acids and phytonutrients. This composition determines the oil’s physical, chemical and physiological characteristics. In food application, palm oil not only imparts functional properties as a heating medium (as in frying of foods) and in having spreadabilty (as in formulations for solid fat products like margarines and shortenings), but is also a good source of phytonutrients. The phytonutrients constitute only about 1% of the weight of crude palm oil. The prevalent phytonutrients found in palm oil are vitamin E, carotenes, phytosterols, squalene, co-enzyme Q10, polyphenols, and phospholipids.
Keywords: MPOB PUBLICATIONS, HEALTH, PALM OIL, PHYTONUTRIENTS