We often spot hearts of palm in the canned food aisle near the artichoke hearts or sundried tomatoes and arent quite sure what to make of them. But you wont want to skip this underrated yet delicious and nutrient-dense veggie.
The subtle-flavored vegetable comes from the palmetto (or palm) tree and the hearts are harvested while the palm is small. An entire trimmed heart of palm looks like a large off-white or cream-colored carrot and is composed of rings, similar to a leek.
Heart of palm provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals and a low calorie count. Its rich in fiber, iron, copper and manganese. However, because its primarily sold as a canned product, the sodium level can be higher than its fresh counterpart.
Heart of palms taste can be described as most similar to artichoke hearts or asparagus. The veggie is crunchy when you bite into it and takes on a creamy texture when you reach the center. It makes a delightful addition to salads.
One cup of heart of palm is equal to a single serving. One cup of canned heart of palm contains:
Benefits of Hearts of Palm
Fiber is important to many components of health, particularly when it comes to digestion. It moves slowly through the body undigested, adding bulk to stool and preventing issues like constipation. Fiber also acts as a prebiotic to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Your gut microbiome plays a central role in health and disease and has even been linked to obesity, immunity and mental health. (1)
Hearts of palm are an excellent source of fiber, packing 3.5 grams of fiber into each cup. That means that adding just a single cup of hearts of palm into your diet can knock out up to 14 percent of some people’s fiber needs for the whole day.
High in both protein and fiber yet low in calories, hearts of palm make a great addition to the diet if you’re looking to lose weigh fast. Some studies show that protein helps reduce levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, to ward off cravings and decrease appetite. (2) Meanwhile, fiber keeps you feeling full to promote satiety and reduce intake. (3)
Because of their unique taste and texture, hearts of palm are often used as a vegan meat alternative in many recipes. Try subbing them into your next salad or sandwich in place of meat to cut down on calories and fat and help keep your weight in check.
Osteoporosis is a common concern as you start to get older and begin to lose bone mass. In fact, approximately 1.5 million Americans experience fractures due to bone disease each year, and by 2020, it’s projected that one in two adults over 50 will have or be at risk for developing osteoporosis of the hip. (4)
Hearts of palm are loaded with manganese, a mineral that’s key to bone health. A deficiency in this crucial nutrient can lead to alterations in bone metabolism and a decrease in the synthesis of bone tissue. (5) According to an animal study out of Sookmyung Women’s University’s Department of Food and Nutrition in Seoul, South Korea, supplementation with manganese for 12 weeks was even able to increase bone formation and bone mineral density in rats. (6)
Maintaining high blood sugar for long periods of time can come with some serious side effects, including nerve damage, an increased risk of infections and even kidney damage.
Thanks to its content of both fiber and manganese, heart of palm can help you maintain normal blood sugar to sidestep negative symptoms. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream to prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. Manganese may also play a role in blood sugar control, with some animal studies suggesting that a deficiency in manganese could impair insulin secretion and carbohydrate metabolism. (7)
Anemia is a condition characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body, causing a long list of possible anemia symptoms like fatigue, light-headedness and brain fog. Although there are a number of factors that can contribute to anemia, one of the most common causes is a deficiency in certain nutrients like iron.
One cup of hearts of palm contains 25 percent of the iron you need in a day, which can help you easily meet your needs to prevent conditions like iron-deficiency anemia. Not only that, but it also contains a good chunk of vitamin C, helping enhance iron absorption even more.
Hearts of palm are rich in many important vitamins and minerals that are essential for keeping your immune system running smoothly. Vitamin C, zinc and manganese, in particular, are all vital for warding off infections and disease to promote better health.
For example, one review published in the Annals of Nutrition concluded that getting enough vitamin C and zinc can reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections, plus improve the outcomes for conditions like pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea. (8) Manganese, on the other hand, protects against oxidative stress and fights off free radicals that can contribute to chronic disease. (9)
How to Prepare Hearts of Palm
If youre 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 theyll likely contain some added sodium. You can also try sautéing hearts of palm and adding them into your omelets or casseroles.
Because theyre 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.
Hearts of Palm vs. Artichokes
Hearts of palm and artichokes are often compared for their similarities in taste and texture. However, these two nutritious veggies are actually completely unrelated and belong to entirely different species of plants.
The globe artichoke belongs to the Cynara cardunculus, or thistle, species. The plant grows up to two meters tall and is widely cultivated in the Mediterranean region in countries like Italy, Spain and France.
Much like hearts of palm, artichokes are revered for their impressive nutrient profile and potential health benefits. Consuming artichoke extract has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, maintain blood sugar and protect the liver in human and animal studies. (11)
Nutritionally, though, there are some notable differences between hearts of palm and artichokes as well. Gram for gram, artichokes contain nearly double the calories but are also higher in protein, dietary fiber, vitamin K and folate. Hearts of palm, on the other hand, are much higher in certain other nutrients like manganese and iron.
That being said, both can be nutritious additions to a well-balanced and healthy diet. Add hearts of palm to your salads and side dishes, and try artichoke in pastas, dips and casseroles to take advantage of the unique benefits of both of these veggies.
Are hearts of palm good for constipation?
Is heart of palm good for weight loss?