Hearts of palm health benefits and nutrition

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Hearts of palm Quick Facts
Name: Hearts of palm
Colors Pristine ivory-white
Shapes 4 inches long, 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter
Flesh colors Velvety, tender
Calories 41 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Manganese (88.48%)
Iron (57.13%)
Sodium (41.47%)
Copper (21.56%)
Zinc (15.27%)
Heart of palm is a vegetable yield from inner core and growing bud of some palm trees, Acai palm, jucara and palmetto. Other palm species are multi-stemmed or clonal plants and moderate harvesting will not destroy entire clonal plant. Palm varieties are an alternative to wild heart of palm which is domesticated farm species. The main variety to be domesticated is Bactris gasipaes commonly known as peach palm in English. This variety is popular for canning. They are self-suckering and form multiple stems (upto 40) on one plant. The palms are selectively bred in order to exclude vicious thorns of its wild cousins. The harvesting process is considered to be labor intensive. While harvesting heart of palm, the tree is cut down and bark as well as fibers is discarded. The hearts of palm is light, mild and crunchy. It resembles white asparagus and could be baked, sautéed, blanched or marinated. It has abundant protein, fiber, iron, manganese and Vitamin C.

Hearts of palm is covered in a tough cylindrical and ivory husk. It has velvety and tender flesh possessing a delicate flavor. Individual hearts are about 4 inches in length and may be thin as pencil and are about 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter. In U.S, Costa Rica was considered to be the primary source of fresh palm hearts. In Hawaii, peach palms are cultivated and have limited distribution on mainland. The wild Sabal palmetto/ cabbage palm of Florida was the source of hearts of palm but is now preserved by conservation law.  

History

Hearts of palm is considered to be dietary staple for thousands of years in Central and South America. Native people used all parts of palm tree even before arrival of Christopher Columbus. They consumed hearts and nuts of the tree and uses the leaves and bark as material. In United States, sabal palm tree is found in southern coastal areas and is considered as the official state tree of both South Carolina and Florida. Due to the distinctive flavor, versatility and nutrient profile, hearts of palm has gained wide popularity. Literally, France is regarded as the largest importer of hearts of palm in the world which accounts for 76 percent of all imports in European Union and 27 percent of imports worldwide.

Health Benefits of Hearts of palm

Hearts of palm is soft and mild sweet offering various health benefits:

  1. Supports digestion

Fiber is regarded as the crucial mineral for supporting digestion. Food moves slowly through the body, adds bulk to the stool and prevents the chances of constipation. As a prebiotic, fiber promotes growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The gut microbiome has a crucial role in health and is associated to obesity, mental health and immunity. Hearts of palm has abundant amounts of fiber. Each cup offers 3.5 grams of fiber. Adding single cup of hearts of palm into diet could help to fulfill 14 percent of dietary requirements for the whole day.

  1. Maintain healthy weight

Hearts of palm is rich in fiber and Vitamin K which assist in losing weight. Study shows that protein helps to lower the levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone to lower appetite and ward off cravings. Fiber promotes satiety and lowers the intake. The unique taste and texture makes it a perfect alternative as vegan meat.

  1. Healthy bones

As people ages, osteoporosis is a common health problem experienced and also to lose bone mass. Approximately 1.5 million of Americans experience fractures due to bone ailments. Hearts of palm has ample manganese, a mineral crucial for maintaining bone health. Deficiency of this nutrient could result alterations in bone metabolism and decrease in synthesis of bone tissues. Animal study shows that manganese supplementation for 12 weeks helps to promote formation of bones and bone mineral density in rats.

  1. Balance blood sugar

High blood sugar for longer time periods causes serious side effects such as nerve damage, kidney damage and increase risk of infections. Fiber and manganese content helps to maintain normal blood sugar to avoid negative symptoms. Fiber reduces the sugar absorption in bloodstream which prevents spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. Animal studies show that deficiency of manganese in the body hinders insulin secretion and carbohydrate metabolism.

  1. Anemia prevention

Anemia is the health condition identified by lack of healthy red blood cells in the body that causes anemia symptoms such as light headedness, fatigue and brain fog. Various factors lead to anemia being iron deficiency one of the major reasons. A cup of hearts of palm offers 25 percent of the iron required in a day that helps to meet the requirements and prevent health conditions such as anemia. Besides iron, it encompasses Vitamin C which enhances iron absorption.

  1. Strengthen immunity

Hearts of palm has crucial vitamins and minerals required for proper functioning of immune system. Manganese, zinc and Vitamin C are helpful in warding off infections or diseases to enhance better health. A review concludes that adequate Vitamin C and zinc lowers symptoms and reduces duration of respiratory tract infections and improves conditions such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. On the other hand, manganese prevents oxidative stress and combats free radicals which could contribute chronic diseases.

  1. Healthy vision

With ample amounts of beta carotene, it helps to promote vision. It has various antioxidants that act as a defense mechanism for the body. Free radicals isolate cells and leads to vision damage.

  1. Cancer prevention

Tocopherols are a type of Vitamin A which is considered to be natural antioxidants. It acts as strong defense mechanisms that prevent free radicals from forming cancer cells. Free radicals convert health cells into cancerous cells. Due to this, heart of palm should be added to the diet.

  1. Improves energy levels

Loaded with beta carotene, it has immense health benefits. It balances hormones and improves the energy levels of the body.

  1. Carbohydrate source

Heart of palm has calories that come from carbohydrates. A serving size of one ounce offers 7 grams of carbohydrates with natural sugars and complex carbs. It ensures stable flow of energy. It is required to lower spikes in blood sugar levels.

Culinary uses

  • Serve it raw or cooked.
  • Add the sliced hearts of palm to grains, salads, fresh salsas and pastas.
  • Use the thin slices as pizza toppings.
  • Add it to chowders, stews, casseroles and quiche.
  • It pairs well with greens and seafood due to its mild flavor.

Precautions

  • People might experience allergic reactions after consuming hearts of palm.
  • If experienced allergic reactions such as itching, hives or swelling then discontinue to use and consul the doctor immediately.
  • Hearts of palm in canned form has high sodium content offering 622 milligrams of sodium in each cup. It is not helpful for people with high blood pressure or following low sodium diet.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_of_palm

https://draxe.com/hearts-of-palm/

https://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Fresh_Hearts_of_Palm_874.php

http://www.goodwholefood.com/heart-of-palm/

https://parentinghealthybabies.com/health-benefits-heart-palm-children/

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