July 22, 2013 by Dr. Sana Keller
Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil derived from the palm fruit from the African oil palm trees mostly from Indonesia and Malaysia. It is found in a majority of packaged (processed) foods such as cake mixes, crackers, cookies, doughnuts, frozen meals, infant formula, ice cream, canned soups, and margarine, as well as cosmetics, body products and cleaning agents. It is often hidden under the name of ‘vegetable oil’, along with many other names. Palm oil has several exceptional healing benefits, including high levels of vitamin E & K, beta carotene, CoQ10 and more.
–>Why has it become such a common ingredient today? A major reason was the recent focus on reducing trans fats in processed foods.
–>What is the result of this increase in palm oil production? Major deforestation due to huge rainforests being converted to oil palm plantations, disrupting the ecosystem and causing near extinction of certain animals including rare birds, pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, and the Sumatran orangutans. Attempts in ‘sustainable production’ have NOT been effective, as forests continue to be cleared for further palm oil plantations.
Quick Tips to Avoid Palm Oil:
- Avoid packaged/processed foods made by large companies (think General Mills, Nestle, Kraft…) since most contain palm oil (possibly under a different name)
- Avoid ‘grocery store brand’ baked sweets (cupcakes, doughnuts, cakes, cookies…)
- Avoid products made in Asia that contain vegetable oil since it is most likely palm oil
- Avoid foods/products with anything ‘palm’ listed in ingredients, such as palm kernel, palm oil kernel, palm fruit oil, palmitate, cetyl palmitate, hydrated palm glycerides, palmitic acid…NOTE: These ingredients can be found on labels of organic products as well.
There are many options that provide the healthful benefits of palm oil. How can we continue to use a product that is not sustainable with respect to wildlife and the ecosystem? We have the power to make better choices. Thanks for staying aware!
Photo credits: ran.org & green-mom.com