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High Demand for Palm Oil Endangers Orangutans

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.




About Green Mom

Fredrica Syren, the author and founder of Green-Mom.com, was born in Sweden. Her mother was a classically trained chef who introduced her to many eclectic flavors and skills at a young age. Her mom’s passion for the outdoors and gardening planted the seed for her own love of nature and healthy eating. She received a degree in journalism and has worked as a print, Internet and broadcasting journalist for many years with big businesses within Europe and the United States. After her mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she with pre-cancer, Fredrica changed her career to become a full time yoga teacher and activist. A longtime world traveler, foodie and career woman, she was exposed to many facets of life, but nothing inspired her more than becoming a mom. After her first-born, Fredrica began a food blog focusing on local, seasonal, organic & vegetarian dishes. Years of food blogging developed into the cookbook Yummy in My Tummy, Healthy Cooking for the Whole Family. Upon the arrival of her second child, Fredrica founded Green-Mom.com. Her vision was to establish a site providing insight about gardening, home and personal care, baby & child, and of course food & nutrition. Green-Mom.com hosts many talented writers shedding light on ways to incorporate eco-friendly and nutritious practices for busy families. She is an advocate for organic, local and sustainable businesses. Fredrica hopes to inspire social change through her lifestyle, passion and business. Fredrica lives with her husband James Harker-Syren and their three children in San Diego, CA.

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  1. I am really confused about what I can use and eat without using palm oil.

    • Hi Sue,
      I know it is super hard to know and so frustrating. The key is to read labels and ask questions. You want to find sustainable grown palm oil that is not treating the rain forrest.
      According to http://www.davidsuzuki.org here are some tips on how to to avoid unsustainable palm oil:
      -Shop from companies listed in the RSPO’s database of sustainable-palm supporters;
      -Look for the RSPO trademark on products;
      -Ask retailers to offer more certified sustainable palm oil products;
      -Ask manufacturers to use certified sustainable palm oil;
      -Visit the World Wildlife Federation to learn about other ways to get involved.
      -Finding certified sustainable palm oil may be simpler than you think. A couple of big players in Canada and around the world have set the ambitious goal of -using only RSPO certified palm oil in their products by 2015.

      Consumers can also find plenty of food and personal-care products that use alternative oils. Read the labels and make your own informed choice!

      Good luck!

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