Salutations my lovely readers! This post is brought to you by our lovely sponsors of a Snow Day! This is the fourth one this winter and I can’t complain…until it’s the end of June and I was wishing I was at the beach or anywhere rather than my office. But for now I’ll appreciate working in yoga pants on the comforts of my couch.
So what is this mystery ingredient I speak of? If the blog title didn’t give it away already, I’m talking about palm oil. If you look at the ingredient list to many ‘all natural’ peanut butters and other products labeled as “all natural”, you may come across palm oil more and more often. I’m here to tell you a little more about what it is and why this ‘all natural’ ingredient may not be a better choice after all.
What is it?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the palm tree fruit. There are two different kinds; palm fruit oil and palm kernel oil. Palm fruit oil comes from extracting the oil from (you guess it) the palm fruit, while palm kernel oil comes from the seed of the fruit. While they both contain saturated fat, palm kernel oil contains a much higher percentage.
Why is it used?
In light of the discovery of how awful trans fat is for the body, manufacturers had to come up with a way to remove all the trans fats (partially hydrogenated oil) from their products and replace it with something that would still keep their products shelf live. Many companies just add in saturated fats (fully hydrogenated oil), but in the case of organic or “all natural” products, these chemically altered oils wouldn’t do.
Palm oil is a natural derived oil that does not go under chemical alteration during the process so it would seem to be a perfect fit to use. It is added to many commercial peanut butters to reduce the amount of oil separation and increase the shelf life and taste of other products such as cookies, crackers, and cereals.
Is it bad for you?
Now I keep putting “all natural” in quotes because it really means absolutely nothing. I could slap an “all natural” label on a tub of lard and suddenly it would become a miracle health food. Many think that anything that is “all natural” automatically means that it is healthy, and that is what they want you to think. As soon as I see anything with that label, I immediately turn to the real facts to tell me if it is healthy or not. The ingredients list.
So if palm oil is all natural, it must be healthy right? Not exactly.
Like I said before, palm oil is high in saturated fat. The palm fruit oil is made up of about 50% saturated fat and palm kernel oil a whopping 80%. That’s almost all saturated fat! Let’s compare that to peanut oil, which is only about 18% saturated fat. 80% or 18%. I think I’ve made my point.
Palm oil is one of the most widely used vegetable oils in the world, but again that doesn’t exactly mean it is healthy. A study at Stanford University recorded that for every additional kilogram of palm oil used per capita annually increased the death from heart disease by 68 deaths per 100,000.
The Agricultural Research Service from the USDA conducted a study to look at the difference between trans fat, palm oil, and canola oil. Both the trans fat and palm oil increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in participants while canola had no effect on LDL levels.
Not only could palm oil be impacting your health, it could also be impacting the health of the environment. The harvesting of mass quantities of palm oil has lead to the destruction of rain forests pushing the animals out of their natural habitat.
The orangutan in particular is pushing closer towards extinction due to the destruction of rain forests from deforestation. How could you not love a face like this? I’m pretty sure he’s giving you the eye too.
So when it comes to the “all natural” label, don’t believe what you see on the front of the package. Always look at the ingredients list to know if it is truly healthy or not. A good rule of thumb is if you don’t know what an ingredient is or how to pronounce it, don’t buy it.
While palm oil is a natural vegetable oil, it is still very high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk to developing heart disease. Peanut oil is much lower in saturated fat and has more of the healthier fats that your body needs. Palm oil may have vitamins and minerals that are good for you such as Vitamin E and K, but these can be easily found in green leafy vegetables and fruits which are a much healthier option.
Make it a great day!
Have you ever heard of palm oil?
What’s your take on it?