Heart of palm is exactly what it sounds like: It's the inner part of a palm tree bud. A nutritious vegetable with a soft texture and mild flavor, heart of palm is available canned at most supermarkets, making it a simple way to add flavor and nutrition to your meals.
If your diet is like most, it probably doesn't contain the 20 to 35 grams of fiber you need for good health. Not getting enough fiber prevents your digestive system from working properly, which can lead to constipation and hemorrhoids. When you do eat enough fiber, you might be lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber might also help prevent certain types of cancer. A 1-cup serving of heart of palm supplies you with 3.5 grams of fiber toward your daily goal.
Almost all of the iron in your body is present in your red blood cells. Iron helps your red blood cells form correctly so they can move oxygen to all the parts of your body. The essential mineral supports your immune system and can help prevent fatigue, too. Women under the age of 50 need 18 milligrams of iron a day, and then after age 50, they only need 8 milligrams. Men need 8 milligrams of iron no matter what their age. A 1-cup portion of heart of palm supplies a good dose toward these goals with 4.57 milligrams.
Heart of palm provides additional vitamins and minerals, though in less impressive doses than fiber and iron. One cup of heart of palm supplies 57 micrograms of folate toward your daily goal of 400 micrograms. Folate helps your body make energy from food and also reduces the risk of certain birth defects. You also get small amounts of potassium and vitamin C. One drawback to heart of palm is the amount of sodium it contains. Because the food is usually canned, it contains sodium to help preserve it and improve its flavor. One cup of heart of palm contains 622 milligrams of sodium. This is a significant amount toward your daily limit, especially if you're following the American Heart Association's recommendation of 1,500 milligrams of sodium or less per day.
Eating Hearts of Palm
To keep heart of palm as healthy as possible, look for reduced-sodium versions. Enjoy heart of palm on its own, or add it to a tossed green salad. Top a Caesar salad with heart of palm to add a boost of flavor and nutrition. Layer heart of palm into a lean turkey or chicken sandwich, or use it in place of lettuce on your favorite burger.
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.