What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is derived from the palm fruit grown on the African oil palm tree.
It is used for cooking and in a wide variety of household products including confectionary, ice cream, ready meals, tooth paste, cleaning products, baked goods and make-up. Food manufacturers love this edible saturated oil as it increases the shelf life of products as it can be kept at room temperature for many months without becoming rancid. In addition to its versatility, the high oil yield of the trees makes it cheap to produce which has encouraged wider cultivation but at what cost?
Effects of Mass Production
The palm oil industry mass production is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes, species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.
Effects on Health
Because of the mass production and refining process of palm oil, it makes it very difficult for us to digest. In “Cooking for Healthy Healing,” author Linda Page, Ph.D., a naturopathic practitioner, acknowledges some of the health benefits of palm oil but notes that it is very difficult to get palm oil that hasn’t been heavily refined. Sadly, the refining process depletes many of the nutrients that occur naturally in the oil and also makes the oil much more difficult to digest.
We would recommend avoiding palm oil entirely, check the back of food packets to ensure it’s not included in the ingredients list. There are so many alternatives that are both ethically and nutritionally better, including cold press rapeseed, coconut and olive oil.