The growing demand for palm oil is leading many animals to extinction. When it comes to cooking oils, palm oil is considered the most controversial option, both for health and environmental reasons. Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the cultivated fruit of the African palm. Trees, which were once only found in Africa, are now grown in Asia, North America and South America, coinciding with the growing demand for this versatile oil.
The oil is often found in products such as bread, ice cream, candy and other processed foods, as it does not contain trans fats, as well as in some cosmetics such as makeup and soap. However, there is a debate about whether palm oil consumption is associated with health risks or benefits, despite being free of trans fats.
Is Palm Oil Bad for You?
Palm oil has high saturated fat content, which can be detrimental to cardiovascular health. However, one study found that, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, “palm oil does not have an incremental risk of cardiovascular disease.” Vegetable oil is also a great source of tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E, an ” antioxidant that protects cells and can reduce the risk of certain health problems such as heart disease and cancer, ” according to Livestrong ( source ). Despite the benefits, other cooking oils, such as olive oil, are recommended.
Is Palm Oil Bad for the Environment?
“The main problem with palm oil is its extremely harmful impact on the planet”.
To produce palm oil, the fruit is collected from trees, which can live an average of 28 to 30 years. However, once the trees grow too tall, making access to the fruit difficult, they are cut down to accommodate new trees, which contributes to the deforestation of the rainforest. To keep up with the incredibly high demand for cheap production oil, hectares of rainforest are being cleared, leading to the loss of animal habitat for endangered species. In the last 16 years, the search for palm oil has led to the death of some 100,000 orangutans, according to research (source). Other animals such as elephants, rhinos and tigers are also in danger. The conversion of the rainforest into plantations also contributes to climate change, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), as the process releases large amounts of carbon emissions into the air.
Is There Any Way to Avoid the Use of Harmful Palm Oil?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to avoid the use of palm oil products, since its use is very common throughout the world. To lessen the impact, looking for products that only contain sustainable palm oil is a good start. If you’re not sure if a company uses palm oil as an ingredient, WWF has a company and brand rating tool that shows if they are using sustainable palm oil.