Heart of palm has been a staple in my diet all my life, since like many Latinx people my family ate it often. But I had never even considered where it came from, so I researched this specific type of food and discovered that it’s one of the healthiest plants you can eat.

What is heart of palm?

Technically called Palmitos, heart of palm is actually the heart of some type of palm trees, and while most people call it hearts of palm, that’s because you usually eat more than one stalk (think carrot vs carrots). Palmitos don’t have a very distinct flavor and like jackfruit or tofu it takes on the flavors it’s seasoned in.

Heart of palm is packed with nutrients and low in calories, while delivering a hefty dose of protein, fiber and nutrients that can lower blood sugar and even help fight cancer cells in the body. Here are the many health benefits of eating heart of palm.

7 Benefits of Hearts of Palm

1. They lower blood sugar

The palm heart is a food that helps lower blood sugar, which is key for healthy metabolism, and can help regulate insulin (meaning pre-diabetics and diabetics should eat more of it). It contains antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid which helps regulate blood sugar and lipids, which helps regulate your weight and also lowers your risk of obesity, and diabetes. It also helps you metabolize fat in your diet, which can lower risk of  heart disease.

2. High in protein

Hearts of palm are low in calories and high in protein, containing 17 amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids that can’t be made by the body and have to be obtained through diet.( Those are histidine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, threonine, valine, and tryptophan.)

Because of this, says Clara Lawson, a registered dietitian nutritionist at USA Hemp in Portland, OR, hearts of palm makes a great post-workout snack or meal. ”Hearts of palm help with repairing the damaged tissues of your body,” says Lawson.

3. Rich in fiber

Lawson says this makes the heart of palm a great option for folks trying to lose weight. “The powerful duo of dietary fiber and plant-based protein in heart of palm keeps you feeling full which promotes weight loss. The best thing about plant-based fiber is that you can eat a lot and still lose weight. Fiber is also highly beneficial for your digestive health. It’s a prebiotic that promotes the growth of good bacteria in your gut,” she says.

4. High in nutrients

According to Lawson, the heart of palm contains many essential nutrients and minerals.

  • Folate contributes to healthy fetus development.
  • Iron is necessary for physical growth, neurological development, and cellular function.
  • Zinc boosts immunity.
  • Copper improves energy production.
  • Phosphorus is key for maintenance of normal pH.
  • Magnesium contributes to the structural development of bone.
  • Potassium serves as an electrolyte and helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Beta Carotene supports healthy eye function.
  • Vitamin K is an anticalcification, anticancer, bone-forming and insulin-sensitizing molecule.
  • Vitamin A is essential for preserving eyesight.

5. High in antioxidants

Hearts of palm contain anti-cancer properties with antioxidants including chlorogenic acid with anti-carcinogenic properties. Antioxidants potentially prevent and repair damages caused by oxidative stress.

6. Rich in vitamin B

Additionally, vitamins are found in the vegetable. “It can also give you quality sleep since it contains vitamin B, which is linked with the healthy functioning of the brain and regulating normal sleep patterns. By managing your anxiety and depression, the heart of palm leads you to restful sleep,” Lawson says.

7. Good source of folate

Pregnant people benefit from eating the heart of palm as it contributes to the healthy development of the fetus. “Adding the heart of palm to the diet is greatly recommended because 100 g of it offers 400 mg of folic acid, which is an important nutrient required for the healthy development of the fetus. Folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects related to the baby’s brain and spinal cord,” she says.

How to Cook With Heart of Palm

Heart of palm is naturally low-fat, low-sugar, low-sodium, and low-calorie, but depending on the preparation, feels satiating.  Here are three ways to use it in a recipe:

  • Instead of tuna: Heart of palm is an excellent fish protein-dense replacement—food process it with a bit of seaweed and vegan mayo for vegan tuna sandwiches
  • Instead of scallops: Chop into one-inch pieces, season and saute  for vegan scallops;
  • Instead of lobster: To make a vegan lobster roll, mix chunks with old bay seasoning.
  • Buy pasta made from it: There are even linguine noodles made from the heart of palm that are vegan and gluten-free