Heart of Palm Nutritional Value and Benefits

05 May, 2021
Have you ever heard about the health benefits of eating the heart of palm? It's a source of important nutrients that can optimize body functioning. Continue reading to find out some ideas on how to include this vegetable in your diet.

The heart of palm is a tender, versatile, healthy, and basically delicious leaf in gourmet cuisine. This vegetable comes from various palm trees that grow in South America. People there export them to different parts of the world and they certainly enrich the gastronomy of other countries. For example, this ingredient is a favorite among French chefs.

After a long harvest, farmers remove the bark and fibrous layers surrounding a group of unopened unripe leaves or the heart of the palm tree. The texture and flavor are mild and are quite common in many European dishes.

According to the magazine Agronomía Mesoamericana, the worldwide trend in its consumption is growing and so producers market it in its preserved form. The Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade reports that France is the main importer worldwide, followed by the USA and Argentina.

The nutritional value of heart of palm

vinegar made from coconut sap

Let’s review the most important macro and micronutrients of preserved heart of palm. These products usually also contain water, salt, and citric acid.

Macronutrients

The heart of palm is low in calories and has zero fat and high water content. In addition, they’re high in fiber among the non-digestible carbohydrates, which makes them ideal for weight loss diets.

According to the food composition table, every 100 grams of tender hearts of palm contain the following:

  • Calories: 36
  • Proteins: 4%
  • Fat: 0.06 %
  • Total carbohydrates: 3.6%
  • Fiber: 3.57%
  • Water: 91%

Minerals

The same food table presents the percentages of the daily recommendations that hearts of palm cover in terms of minerals, expressed as DV:

  • Copper: 70% of the DV
  • Potassium: 38% of the DV
  • Zinc: 36% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the DV
  • Sodium: 357 milligrams per 100 grams of hearts of palm

The most significant mineral in this vegetable is copper, which reaches 70% of the suggested daily intake. Potassium and zinc are in good proportion, with more than 30% of the recommended intake. The high sodium content is due to the salt used for preservation.

According to the International Institute of Plant Nutrition, the vitamin content of hearts of palm is affected by the heat it receives during processing.

Benefits of the heart of palm in the diet

The nutritional profile of the heart of palm makes it great against diseases, let’s take a look at its benefits.

Ideal for weight loss

A woman with belly fat.

Some experts relate total caloric intake to weight control. The minimal amount of fat and energy that hearts of palm provide make them perfect for low-calorie diets. One serving provides only 36 calories. This is why it’s an excellent substitute for high-calorie vegetables, such as cereals, tubers, and roots in general.

In addition, there’s evidence that the dietary fiber and water in this vegetable are sating and have a positive effect on low energy intake. According to the food pyramid, almost 100% of the carbohydrate present in hearts of palm is fiber and 90% is water. That is to say, it fills you by increasing the volume.

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Sources of essential nutrients

The heart of palm contains a group of minerals of importance for the functioning of the body, such as copper, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus.

For example, the U.S. National Library of Medicine proclaims that copper helps in the absorption of iron and in the formation of red blood cells. In addition, blood vessels, bones, nerves, and the immune system are kept healthy by copper.

Some studies also point out that deficiency of this mineral can lead to ischemic heart disease.

A scientific review points out that zinc isn’t only related to cell division, wound healing, and immune function. Its deficiency can also affect growth and development during pregnancy and infancy, as well as increase the risk of infections (diarrhea and pneumonia).

The journal Advances in Nutrition reports on the importance of phosphorus since it promotes strong teeth and bones and participates in the production of proteins that repair tissues.

Also, the journal Hypertension associates potassium with the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure. The heart of palm hearts has a high concentration of this mineral.

Antioxidant capacity

Pharmaceutical experts in Brazil found a high amount of polyphenols in palm hearts, with excellent antioxidant activity. Some sources describe that antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that produce oxidative damage at the cellular level.

Heim and other researchers point out that the antioxidant capacity of polyphenols can be used as a therapeutic and preventive nutritional strategy against aging and certain diseases. The journal Alimentación, Nutrición y Salud reiterates the positive effect of polyphenols on cardiovascular disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, and diabetes.

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Ways to eat heart of palm

You can find heart of palm in their traditional form, packed or fresh. It’s common to add them to salads, in seafood, sauces, grilled, seasoned as an appetizer, or you can even eat them directly from the package.

People use them as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian diets. Be careful though, they only resemble the texture and aren’t a protein-laden dish. They can be part of fish sticks, vegan carnitas, calamari, and taco fillings.

Three simple recipes

  • Heart of palm dip. Firstly, chop the hearts of palm finely and add some garlic and lemon zest. Mix everything with olive oil and add pepper to taste.
  • Heart of palm with avocado. Combine medium-sized chopped hearts of palm with avocado and add a side of mayonnaise dressing for this delicious salad.
  • Vegan crab with hearts of palm. Shred the hearts of palm until it resembles fresh crab meat. Then, season with vegan mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. It’s as simple as it is delicious.

The versatility of the heart of palm

In short, hearts of palm are simple tasty vegetables loaded with minerals and antioxidants that bring many health benefits. In addition, they’re ideal for weight loss. As the caloric intake is low and the fiber value high, they’re quite satisfying.

Finally, every kitchen should have a jar or a can of this versatile ingredient and take advantage of its texture to use them as substitutes for fish and seafood.

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