April 24, 2024

Heart of palm is a nutrient-dense vegetable harvested from the core of certain types of palm trees. It has plenty of health benefits and is a versatile addition to dishes.

The apical meristem, commonly called the heart or bud, is the part of a plant from which all new leaves grow. In palm trees, it is at the center of the big crown of leaves at the top of the trunk.

The bud harvested from certain palm trees is called the heart of palm.

This article explores the health and nutritional benefits of heart of palm. It also discusses different ways to cook this versatile vegetable.

Heart of palm is an off-white or cream-colored vegetable harvested from the bud of certain palm trees, such as coconut and palmetto. When cut into, heart of palm is cylindrical and ringlike, resembling a leek.

The vegetable has a crisp texture and subtle taste, and it takes on the flavor of its seasoning.

It is a versatile vegetable that can be:

  • jarred
  • canned
  • eaten on its own
  • added to salads
  • used as an alternative to meat

Heart of palm grows natively in tropical and humid areas, such as Central and South America and South Asia.

Farmers remove the palm crown at the top of the tree to harvest it. Then they debark it to expose the edible inner core. It undergoes further processes to make it ready for cooking.

Learn more about the 15 healthiest vegetables.

Other names

Heart of palm is also known by other names:

  • palm heart
  • palmetto
  • palmito
  • palm cabbage
  • chonta
  • swamp cabbage

Heart of palm is known for its range of nutritional and health benefits.

Antioxidants

Heart of palm contains polyphenols. These compounds are “free radical scavengers,” which neutralize 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 may increase the risk of chronic conditions such as:

Learn more about how free radicals affect the body here.

An older 2014 study showed that vegetable palm hearts showed significant antioxidant properties due to their considerable chlorogenic acid content.

Similarly, a 2017 study showed that the leaf and berry extracts of the Sabal palmetto tree have anti-cancer properties. Other studies also showed anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties.

However, a 2020 study found that canning may cause a loss in its antioxidant activity and fiber content.

Nutrient dense

Heart of palm is high in essential vitamins and minerals while low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates. The nutrient content of heart of palm varies depending on whether it is canned, raw, or cooked.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), canned heart of palm contains:

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 the heartbeat, and is vital for synthesizing protein and metabolizing carbohydrates.

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 supports a baby’s growth and development in the womb.

Aside from minerals, heart of palm also contains essential vitamins. It contains several types of vitamin B, including vitamin B6, riboflavin, and folate. Vitamin B is crucial for functions such as:

Weight loss

Heart of palm is low in calories, carbohydrates, and fats. This makes it a healthy option for people on weight loss programs.

It also has a high content of plant-based protein, water, and fiber, which can help a person feel full.

A 2018 study on plant-based dieting in overweight individuals found that plant protein in a plant-based diet led to improved body composition and weight loss.

Body tissue repair

Heart of palm contains numerous 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 that palm heart protein is a suitable substitute for animal protein sources in the food industry.

Protein provides the building blocks for tissue growth, cell renewal, and repair during wound healing.

Learn more about high protein foods for weight loss.

Heart health

Chlorogenic acid is a polyphenol found in significant amounts in heart of palm. A 2020 study found that this compound has heart-protective properties. It may lower blood pressure and help prevent thrombosis and atherosclerosis.

Heart of palm is also high in soluble and insoluble fiber. This not only helps a person’s digestive health but also lowers cholesterol levels.

Learn more about cholesterol levels by age.

Blood sugar regulation

Using heart of palm as a substitute for highly processed foods containing refined carbohydrates and saturated fats can help reduce insulin resistance, which may prevent certain conditions.

Insulin resistance leads to increased blood sugar levels, which in turn may lead to conditions such as:

While it is one of the few vegetables with high protein content, heart of palm may not have enough protein to meet a person’s dietary needs. A person may need to add other protein sources to their diet.

Markets typically sell heart of palm as a canned product to prolong its shelf life, so its sodium level may be higher than when it is raw. It is vital to wash canned hearts of palm thoroughly to remove the brine, which may contain salt.

Learn more about how to eat a balanced diet here.

A person can eat heart of palm raw, but this is uncommon because this vegetable is highly perishable. Therefore, it is often boiled or otherwise processed immediately after harvesting.

Heart of palm is incredibly versatile, and a person can add it to many dishes. A person can grill, saute, sear, boil, or pickle it. As heart of palm has a low carbohydrate content, people may also opt to add it to their keto diet.

Some ways to cook with the heart of palm as an ingredient include:

  • tossing chopped or sliced hearts of palm into salads
  • sauteing hearts of palm and adding them to casseroles or omelets
  • making a dip by combining finely chopped heart of palm with mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan cheese, mayo, sour cream, green onion
  • tossing it in a seasoned flour mixture and eating it as a calamari substitute
  • braising it and lightly sprinkling it with spices and herbs
  • using it as a pasta substitute
  • dicing it and using it as a substitute for meat or seafood

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about heart of palm.

Can you eat heart of palm raw?

Yes. However, markets mostly sell it canned because heart of palm is highly perishable.

Is heart of palm bad for you?

No. Heart of palm is a nutrient-dense vegetable that is low in fat, low in carbs, 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 content, which can help a person feel full and satiated.

Heart of palm is a low fat, low carb, and low calorie vegetable packed with numerous vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It offers various health benefits, including promoting weight loss, good digestion, immunity, heart health, and overall well-being.

This vegetable is versatile and can be cooked in different ways and added to various dishes. A person can consume it raw, stir-fried, boiled, sauteed, or added to soups and salads.

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