They’re the most tender, versatile, healthy, and exquisite leaves in gourmet cuisine. Hearts of palm are vegetables that are obtained from different varieties of palm trees common in South America. From this place, they’ve traveled to different parts of the world to enrich gastronomy. In fact, they’re one of the favorite treats in French cuisine.
After a long harvest, the bark and fibrous layers surrounding a cluster of unopened immature leaves or the bud of the palm tree are removed. They have such a smooth texture and flavor that they rank like the stars of many French dishes.
According to a research in Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, the global trend in their consumption is increasing. In fact, they’re often marketed in the form of canned food. The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) indicates that worldwide, France is the main importer, followed by the United States and Argentina.
The nutritional value of heart of palm
Let’s take a look at the most important macro and micronutrient values of canned hearts of palm, whose additional ingredients are water, salt, and citric acid.
Due to their zero fat value and high-water content, hearts of palm are low in calories. In addition, they also have fiber within their indigestible carbohydrates, which makes them ideal for diets aimed at losing weight.
According to the food composition table, 100 grams of palm hearts contain:
- Calories: 36
- Proteins: 3.6%
- Total carbohydrates: 3.6%
- Fiber: 3.6%
The same food table shows us the percentages of the daily recommendations that palm hearts manage to cover for some 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 palm heart
The most prominent mineral is copper, which reaches 70% of what the body needs for one day. Potassium and zinc are also in good proportion, with more than 30% of what is recommended. Meanwhile, the high sodium content is due to the salt used for their preservation.
According to the International Food Research Journal, the vitamin content of hearts of palm is affected by the heat the plant receives during processing.
Heart of Palm Benefits and Uses
The nutritional profile of hearts of palm makes them a favorite food to prevent some diseases. Let’s take a look at their benefits.
1. Hearts of palm are ideal for weight loss
Some experts link total caloric intake with weight control. The minimal amount of fat and energy that palm hearts provide make it a perfect food to be included in low-calorie diets.
One serving is just 36 calories. That’s why it’s an excellent substitute for very caloric vegetables, such as cereals, tubers, and roots in general.
On the other hand, there is evidence that dietary fiber and water in food have a positive effect on satiety and low energy intake. According to the food table, almost 100% of the carbohydrate in palm hearts is fiber and 90% is water. Thus, it’s a food that can really help keep you feeling full.
2. Hearts of palm are great sources of essential nutrients
Palm hearts contain a group of minerals that are important for the body’s proper functioning, such as copper, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus.
For example, the United States National Library of Medicine published a study that found that copper helps in the absorption of iron and the formation of red blood cells. In addition, blood vessels, bones, nerves, and the immune system are all kept healthy thanks to copper.
Some studies also point out that a deficiency of this mineral can lead to ischemic heart disease.
In fact, a scientific review indicates that zinc is not only related to cell division, but also wound healing and immune functioning. Its deficiency can also affect growth and development during pregnancy and childhood, in addition to increasing the risk of infections (diarrhea and pneumonia).
Meanwhile, phosphorus is also extremely important for the body. This is because it promotes strong teeth and bones and participates in the production of proteins that repair tissues.
Finally, the journal Hypertension associates potassium with the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure. Palm hearts have a high concentration of this mineral.
3. They have a good antioxidant capacity
According to experts from Food Research International palm hearts have high amount of polyphenols, with good antioxidant activity. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative damage at the cellular level.
Some researchers highlight that the antioxidant capacity of polyphenols can be used as a therapeutic and preventive nutritional strategy for aging, as well as for certain diseases. The Frontiers in Nutrition magazine reiterates the positive effect of polyphenols on cardiovascular disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, and diabetes.
How can you eat palm hearts?
You can find them in their traditional form, packaged or fresh. It’s common to prepare them in salads and cold dishes, such as ceviche or accompanying seafood in a vinaigrette, in sauces, grilled, seasoned, as an aperitif. You can even eat it directly from the jar!
In the vegan and vegetarian diet, they use this vegetable as a substitute for meat, fish, or seafood. However, be very careful: it only resembles the texture, as it’s not a protein-laden dish. It can be part of fish sticks, vegan carnitas, squid, and taco fillings.
Here we leave you three simple recipes:
- Palm heart dip: Chop the palm hearts finely. Then, add a little garlic and lemon zest. Mix everything with olive oil and add pepper to your liking.
- Avocado palm hearts: For this delicious salad, you need medium-sized palm hearts. Chop them. Then, combine them with avocado and serve them with a rich mayonnaise dressing.
- Vegan Crab with palm hearts: Shred the palm hearts until they resemble fresh crab meat. Season with vegan mayo and Dijon mustard. It’s as simple as it is delicious!
The versatility of hearts of palm
Palm hearts are vegetables with a simple taste, but loaded with minerals and antioxidants with health benefits. In addition, they’re ideal for losing weight, since their caloric intake is low and the fiber value is high, producing satiety.
They’re very versatile in the kitchen. Plus, thanks to their texture, you can use them as substitutes for fish and shellfish.