Heart of palm is a white vegetable that comes from the core of certain kinds of palm trees. Also called palm hearts, palm cabbage, palmito, chonta, and swamp cabbage, heart of palm is grown in humid and tropical areas like Costa Rica and the Amazon.
Heart of palm is rarely eaten fresh. Even in countries where it's cultivated, the vegetable is usually boiled and processed before consumed due to the fact that it's extremely perishable. Heart of palm is typically exported internationally in pickled form and comes in jars or cans.
Because hearts of palm contain 17 different amino acids, they make for a rich source of protein. They're also low in fats and sugars and high in fiber, and contain a number of healthy vitamins and minerals.
This unique and unassuming vegetable provides some serious health benefits, such as:
Repairing Body Tissue
Amino acids and proteins make the building blocks of life and they're necessary for many bodily functions. Thankfully, heart of palm contains all nine essential amino acids, which are those that can't be made in your body and therefore must come from the foods you eat. They are:
One important function of these amino acids is repairing damaged tissue.
Maintaining Heart Health
Out of all of the vitamins and minerals packed into heart of palm, potassium is the most prevalent. Potassium plays an important role in keeping your heart healthy.
Aside from helping trigger your heart to release blood to the rest of your body, potassium can help manage high blood pressure by lessening the harmful effects of sodium and easing the tension in your blood vessel walls. Other sources of potassium include potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, and fresh fruits.
Reducing Morning Sickness
More than half of women experience nausea and vomiting during the first few months of their pregnancy. One of the nutrients in heart of palm helps lessen the effects of morning sickness: pyridoxine, which is also called vitamin B6. This vitamin is most effective for treating morning sickness when it is paired with doxylamine (an antihistamine).
Hearts of palm are nutritious in numerous ways. For one thing, they are an excellent source of protein, which is uncommon in vegetables. They are also packed with a long list of healthy vitamins and minerals. One such vitamin is vitamin B6, which is required for proper growth and development of your brain, nerves, skin, and many other body parts. Eating one serving (100 grams) of raw heart of palm will cover 62% of your recommended daily value of this heart-healthy vitamin.
Other nutrients found in heart of palm include:
Nutrients per Serving
The nutritional information for heart of palm depends on whether it is canned or fresh. One ½ cup serving of canned palm hearts contains:
Things to Watch Out For
Heart of palm is typically sold canned. Although canned vegetables are convenient because they have a far longer shelf life than fresh veggies, they usually contain a high amount of sodium. One ½ cup serving of canned palm hearts contains 113 milligrams of sodium, which may not seem like a lot, but covers 13% of your daily value of sodium.
Because too much sodium in your diet can lead to issues like hypertension (high blood pressure), you should be sure to read the label if you consume canned heart of palm. If your portion comes close to meeting your daily recommended intake of sodium, you should either consume a smaller portion or adjust your diet accordingly for the rest of the day to ensure you don’t go over your daily value.
How to Prepare Hearts of Palm
If you're lucky enough to find young and fresh hearts of palm, you should be sure to seal them and pop them in your refrigerator immediately. If you buy canned hearts of palm, be sure to store the containers in a cool dry place.
Fresh hearts of palm are an excellent addition to salads. You can also toss in drained and chopped hearts of palm from the can, but they'll likely contain some added sodium. You can also try sautéing hearts of palm and adding them into your omelets or casseroles.
Because they're high in fiber, rich in protein, and have a mild flavor, palm hearts make for a great meat substitute in vegan or vegetarian diets. Ditch the seafood and use palm hearts instead of in dishes like vegan crab cakes and ceviche.