When it comes to healthy fat sources, palm oil may not be the ideal replacement for dangerous trans fats.
Though Americans successfully eliminated most trans fats from the marketplace in 2006, recent studies are now showing that the trend of replacing these fats with palm oil may not have been the healthiest solution.
Palm oil has the same saturated fat content as butter does, making it a less healthy replacement than canola or soybean oil. In one study, participants who were put on a palm oil-rich diet for five weeks saw their bad LDL cholesterol rise in a pattern similar to people on a diet high in trans fats.
Further, environmentalists claim that palm oil production may cause global warming. In order to make palm oil, companies destroy rain forests “at record-breaking rates” in tropical Indonesia. This destroys animal habitats and promotes a rapid increase in the greenhouse effect.
Rolf Skar, a senior forest campaigner with Greenpeace, states that as much as 80 percent of the land clearing in Indonesia is illegal, thus eliciting “shady production facilities rife with human rights abuses.”
In short, producing palm oil threatens our health, the environment, humanitarian standards, and animal rights. Yet, according to USDA data the U.S. has more than doubled its imports of palm oil in the last eight years. Most of this palm oil ends up in snack foods like cookies and microwave popcorn, either on its own or in a mixture also containing soybean and cottonseed oil.
Check the nutrition labels of your favorite foods and try to pick ones that use a combination of healthier fat sources rather than ones that rely on partially hydrogenated oils. Nutritionists point out that palm oil should not be condemned outright. Rather, people should remain aware of their saturated fat intake towards a healthier diet.