Many vegetables are picked at an early age to maximize the available nutrients and to make the plant easier to digest. Palm trees are one of these vegetables. Heart of palm is the inner stalk of a young palm tree. The stock is cut, and the woody green outer layer is stripped, leaving a white, edible cane.
If you visit Brazil (one of the biggest distributors of palm hearts), you may enjoy the crisp crunch of a fresh palm heart, but most people around the world have to settle with canned heart of palm. It’s still packed with nutrients, but canned palm hearts tend to be softer.
The most common use for palm hearts is to slice and dice them and add them to a salad. They have a mild taste comparable to artichoke hearts, and add a nice crispness to salads. However, it is the health benefits of palm hearts that make them such a great addition to a diet.
From a nutritional standpoint, the biggest benefit you’ll see from palm hearts is the high level of potassium. A 100g serving has 1,806mg of potassium. That’s 52% of your daily value.
Let’s take a second to compare that with a banana (traditionally considered a good source of potassium). The same serving size of a banana only has 10%, so if 10% is considered a good source, 52% is clearly a fantastic way to get more potassium in your life.
Heart of palm is also a good source of vitamin C and phosphorus, vitamin B6, zinc, and copper.
Potassium is necessary for survival, so it’s great that palm hearts are such readily available sources.
Potassium is a fundamental element for the pumps in your body that are responsible for energy getting into muscles and nerves. Proper digestion also requires potassium. Potassium deficiency can leave you weak along with more severe health concerns, including high blood pressure, fluid retention, cramping, and dizziness, so it’s important to get healthy amounts of this mineral on a regular basis.
Zinc is essential for muscle growth and repair, as it is needed for cell division and growth. It is also a natural testosterone augmenter, and is necessary for estrogen and progesterone production. On top of this, it helps fight inflammation and can reduce cold symptoms.
There are many health risks with inadequate zinc intake, including increased risk of infection and depression. In short, everyone needs zinc. A 100g serving of heart of palm has 25% of your daily zinc requirements.
Copper is a cofactor for the enzyme lysyl oxidase, which plays a supportive role in maintaining connective tissues. It’s needed for elastin and collagen production, especially as you age. Copper helps hold you together and keeps you looking and feeling younger.
Copper has a set upper limit, as it becomes toxic when consumed in high doses. That being said, heart of palm has 32% per 100g serving, so you’re not likely to overdose. However, you may not want to have heart of palm the same day that you have organ meats.
Several metabolic functions need vitamin B6. Your body uses it to metabolize glucose, amino acids, and lipids. It helps separate useful energy from waste, and is an important part of recovery, burning fat, and maintaining proper energy levels.
You get 41% of your daily value of vitamin B6 in a 100g serving.
There is a fair quantity of sugar on palm hearts, 17.2g per 100g serving. This means you need to be mindful about how much of this veggie you consume. Still, it is an excellent way to boost potassium and many other nutrients.