By Fredrica Syren
Palm oil is an edible and incredibly versatile vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the African oil palm tree. It is found in all kinds of processed foods, from instant noodles to ice cream, and in other items such as cosmetics, but palm oil comes with a heavy price. Today rain forests are being cleared at the rate of 300 football fields per hour to make way for oil palm plantations. The rapidly expanding palm oil trade is not only causing the destruction of Indonesian jungles, it is also threatening the existence of orangutans.
Orangutans are native to Borneo and Sumatra, and live in areas of fertile lowland soils close to rivers that are favored for establishing oil palm plantations. Orangutans are unable to survive long term in oil palm plantations, as they lose their major food sources and some die from the poison used to combat rats. Scientists estimate that fewer than 60,000 orangutans remain in the wild on Borneo and Sumatra.
Although the Indonesian government has said it is committed to protecting orangutans, critics wonder why palm oil plantations are being allowed to expand into their natural habitat, the tropical rain forests.
The sad fact is that palm oil is one of the worst oils you can put into your body since it’s very high in saturated fat, therefore a serious health risk. Due to its high saturated fat content, palm oil promotes heart disease, increases cholesterol levels, raises blood pressure and is a contributing factor to obesity. Much better alternatives to palm oil are canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and coconut oil. Unfortunately, palm oil is much cheaper to produce, so a lot of companies are reluctant to switch to a healthier, better alternative.
In addition to this, it’s hard to figure out which products contain palm oil because most countries don’t have laws requiring the labeling of “palm oil” in food, so palm oil is often hidden under the name of “vegetable oil” or the 170+ other names.
Below are links to other synonyms that palm oil is being labeled as, and how to avoid buying palm oil.