A balanced view: Embracing mindfulness and sustainability in our dietary choices

A LOT of times, our relationship with our diet can be a bit complicated. Perhaps we stress-eat more than we’d care to admit.

Understandably so, most of what we consume today are products of nature and food science. However, it’s that mechanistic view of food that keeps so many of us confused about what to eat and vice versa.

By selecting foods thoughtfully, we start to broaden our understanding of what it means to be healthy and bring pleasure back to eating. This not only fuels our curiosity but also guides us on a path toward a healthier diet.

Often, discussions about a healthy diet are overly simplistic, targeting a broad audience and sometimes overlooking the greater benefits of plant-based resources like palm oil.

Due to its nutritional richness, palm oil has emerged as a ubiquitous component of our diets, found in everything from snacks to beauty products. Its potential benefits are noteworthy, particularly in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

Overall, palm oil can be part of a balanced and mindful diet that offers numerous important health benefits.

Clinical trials have revealed that palm oil naturally contains tocotrienols and carotenoids, which are recognised for their strong antioxidant properties and are crucial for maintaining health, especially when incorporated into a balanced diet.

Palm oil’s multiple nutritional value  

For example, red palm oil undergoes less processing than other variants and retains more nutrients and antioxidants, therefore contributing to heart health and increasing vitamin A levels.

Although palm oil contains both HDL and LDL cholesterol, it promotes a healthier balance in the body while reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, strokes and heart attacks.

Notably, in Malaysia where high cholesterol levels are prevalent, the inclusion of red palm oil could be particularly beneficial. Palm oil also boasts high carotenoid content, surpassing that of carrots and tomatoes which bolsters the immune system.

Rich in both saturated and unsaturated fats, palm oil is a potent source of vitamin E, including tocopherols and tocotrienols. A powerful antioxidant, this vitamin helps neutralise harmful oxygen molecules in the body, thus protecting against chronic diseases and slowing aging.

Beta-carotene, a key component of palm oil, enhances energy levels, regulates hormones and provides antioxidants to prevent oxidative damage.

Its abundance in palm oil is vital for improving vision and shielding the body from free radicals causing cellular damage and vision problems such as Macular Degeneration.

Open dialogue essential

Given that nearly 50% of Malaysians suffer from high cholesterol and the country faces a health crisis with 3.6 million people diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, the antioxidant properties of palm oil could be highly beneficial.

Palm oil’s rich vitamin E and beta-carotene content could play a crucial role in improving Malaysia’s overall health landscape4.

As the world recognises the urgency of sustainability, a significant shift is underway as environmental and social considerations become driving forces behind industry transformation.

Sustainable palm oil initiatives are increasing, focusing on responsible cultivation practices that minimise environmental harm while meeting global demand.

Source: Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC)

The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification guarantees responsible sourcing and procurement of palm oil in our daily consumables. As palm oil is a versatile ingredient found in almost half of all packaged products at the supermarket, the MSPO certification adheres to strict international standards to ensure its responsible use.

In light of conflicting perspectives on palm oil, I advocate for continued research and an open dialogue among health professionals, researchers and consumers.

Understanding palm oil’s role in our health, economy and environment requires a collective approach. And let’s not forget that palm oil is an economic flywheel that has been pivotal in propelling Malaysia’s prosperity engine, leading to considerable and sustained profitable growth.

I urge consumers to approach any dietary component with moderation and mindfulness. It’s also vital to support sustainable practices that benefit both personal health and the health of our planet.

Through the awareness and curiosity cultivated by mindfulness, we can collectively embark on a fruitful dietary path. – Feb 19, 2024


Dr Kumar Subaramaniam is a Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician and a Diplomate of IBLM (International Board of Lifestyle Medicine).

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE