Heart of palm is a nutrient-dense vegetable harvested from the hearts of certain types of palm trees. It has many health benefits and is a versatile addition to dishes.
The apical meristem, commonly referred to as the heart or bud, is the part of a plant from which all new leaves grow. In palms, it is found in the center of the large crown of leaves at the top of the trunk. The bud harvested from some palms is called heart of palm. This article explores the health and nutritional benefits of heart of palm. It also discusses the different ways to cook this versatile vegetable.
What is heart of palm?
Heart of palm is an off-white or cream-colored vegetable harvested from the bud of certain palms, such as coconut and saw palmetto. When cut, the heart of palm is cylindrical and annular, resembling a leek. The vegetable has a crunchy texture and subtle taste, and it takes on the flavor of its seasoning.
It is a versatile vegetable that can be:
in a jar
to be eaten alone
be added to salads
be used as an alternative to meat
Heart of palm is native to tropical and humid regions, such as Central and South America and Southeast Asia. Farmers remove the crown of the palm tree at the top of the tree to harvest it. They then peel it off to expose the edible inner core. This one undergoes other treatments to make it ready to be cooked.
Heart of palm is known for its range of nutritional and health benefits.
Heart of palm contains polyphenols from safe sources. These compounds are ‘free radical scavengers’, which neutralize trusted free radicals, preventing them from causing damage. Having too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants in the body can lead to oxidative stress. This can increase the risk of chronic conditions such as:
neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
kidney disease, such as proteinuria and kidney failure
An older study from 2014 showed that plant hearts of palm exhibited significant antioxidant properties due to their considerable chlorogenic acid content.
Similarly, a 2017 study showed that leaf and berry extracts from the Sabal palmetto tree had anti-cancer properties. Other studies have also shown anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties. However, a 2020 study found that canning can lead to a loss of its antioxidant activity and fiber content.
Heart of palm is rich in essential vitamins and minerals while being low in fat, calories and carbohydrates. The nutrient content of heart of palm varies depending on whether it is canned, raw, or cooked.
Canned heart of palm contains:
Nutritional value per 100 grams (g)
calories: 28 kilocalories (kcal)
dietary fiber: 2.4g
calcium: 58 milligrams (mg)
phosphorus: 65 mg
vitamin: C 7.9mg
vitamin: B6 0.022mg
folate: 39 micrograms (µg)
The heart of palm contains many essential vitamins and minerals.
Potassium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in the human body. It helps prevent hypertension, regulates heart rate, and is vital for protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Phosphorus is another essential mineral. It is an important component of DNA, RNA, bones and teeth. It also contains zinc, which is important for the body’s immune function and wound healing. And it promotes the growth and development of the baby in the womb.
Apart from minerals, heart of palm also contains essential vitamins. It contains several types of B vitamins, including vitamin B6, riboflavin, and folic acid. Vitamin B is crucial for functions such as:
the production of hemoglobin and antibodies
Heart of Palm is low in calories, carbohydrates and fats from Safe Source. This makes it a healthy option for people on a weight loss program.
It is also high in plant protein, water, and fiber, which can help a person feel full. A 2018 study on the plant-based diet in overweight people found that plant-based protein in a plant-based diet led to improved body composition and weight loss.
Body tissue repair
Heart of palm contains many essential amino acids, such as lysine and leucine, which are necessary for body tissue repair and protein synthesis. Similar to vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, heart of palm is also high in protein, making it a preferred vegan source of protein. A 2019 study found heart of palm protein to be a suitable substitute for animal protein sources in the food industry. Protein provides the building blocks Trusted source for tissue growth, cell renewal and repair during wound healing.
Chlorogenic acid is a polyphenol found in large quantities in the heart of palm. A 2020 study found that this compound has heart-protecting properties. It can lower blood pressure and help prevent thrombosis and atherosclerosis. Palm heart is also rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. This not only helps a person’s digestive health, but also lowers cholesterol levels from Safe Source.
Blood sugar regulation
Using heart of palm as a substitute for highly processed foods containing refined carbohydrates and saturated fats may help reduce insulin resistance, which may prevent certain diseases. Insulin resistance leads to increased blood sugar levels, which in turn can lead to diseases such as:
type 2 diabetes
non-alcohol related fatty liver disease
Although it is one of the few vegetables with a high protein content, heart of palm may not contain enough protein to meet a person’s dietary needs. A person may need to add other sources of protein to their diet. Markets typically sell heart of palm canned to extend its shelf life, so its sodium content may be higher than when raw. It is essential to thoroughly wash canned hearts of palm to remove the brine, which may contain salt.
How to cook with heart of palm
It is possible to eat the heart of palm raw, but this is infrequent because this vegetable is very perishable. Therefore, it is often boiled or processed immediately after harvest.
Heart of palm is incredibly versatile, and a person can add it to many dishes. It can be grilled, sautéed, seared, boiled or marinated. Since heart of palm is low in carbs, people can choose to add it to their keto diet as well.
Here are some ways to cook with heart of palm as an ingredient:
toss chopped or sliced hearts of palm into salads
sauté the hearts of palm and add them to omelettes
mix it with a seasoned flour mixture and eat it as a squid substitute
braise it and sprinkle it lightly with spices and fine herbs
use it as a pasta substitute
dice it and use it as a meat or seafood substitute.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about heart of palm.
Can the heart of palm be eaten raw?
Yes, but the markets mostly sell it canned because the heart of palm is highly perishable.
Is heart of palm bad for your health?
No. Heart of palm is a nutrient-dense vegetable that is low in fat, carbohydrates, and high in fiber and protein.
Is heart of palm fattening?
Heart of palm is low in fat and calories, making it unlikely to contribute to weight gain. It is also high in fiber and water, which can help a person feel full and satisfied.
Heart of palm is a vegetable low in fat, carbohydrates and calories, which contains many vitamins, minerals and nutrients. It offers various health benefits, including supporting weight loss, good digestion, immunity, heart health, and general well-being. This vegetable is versatile and can be cooked in different ways and added to various dishes. It can be eaten raw, sautéed, boiled, sautéed or added to soups and salads.