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How to Avoid Palm Oil

Did you know that this single ingredient contained in many of your favorite foods is wiping out rainforests all around the world, from the Philippines to the Brazilian Amazon? But it doesn't just stop there. Palm oil is killing endangered species - the orangutans in particular - and destroying the livelihood of indigenous tribes. To help you get a better understanding of the dangers of palm oil, as well as to look into some of the products we often consume, let's take a look why we should all avoid products that contain palm oil.
palm oil

In October, news of the fires in Indonesia to clear rainforest for palm oil plantations received international media coverage. Writer George Monbiot, in the Guardian, described it as "the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century." Unfortunately, this is not just a one-time thing. The slash and burn agricultural process occurs annually, and many times, these fires burn out of control. 

Palm oil is one of the most profitable crops that grow well in hot, humid climates. Slash and burn agriculture is the quickest way to clear the land, a method that appeals to corporations and impoverished small-scale farmers alike. An estimated 3.5 million hectares of rainforest in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea have already been lost to make way for palm oil plantations. The rainforest floor contains peat and other organic materials, so it often keeps burning, even after the fires have been extinguished.  

In 2015, the result of rainforest destruction was a toxic cloud that enveloped most of Southeast Asia for nearly two months, affecting the lives of millions and killing 10 people in Indonesia. Still, the world has remained largely silent about this catastrophe. The palm oil industry was to blame, and major corporations have done little or nothing to halt the environmental destruction. 

In 2004, the RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) was established with the aim of promoting 'certified sustainable' palm oil. Yet this initiative was too little too late due to its lax membership criteria and too few members thrown out for non-compliance. Naturally, it would be great to avoid buying products with palm oil in them. The EU made Palm Oil labeling compulsory in December 2014 - though labeling elsewhere still appears to be deceptive. The problem is that Palm Oil hides behind myriad different names. 

palm oil

Some of them contain “Palm,” including octyl palmitate, palmytil alcohol, palm kernel, Palm kernel oil, Palm fruit oil, Palm stearine, and many others. So if you see the word Palm in any form, it’s best to avoid it. Other known Palm Oil pseudonyms include cetyl alcohol, emulsifiers, glyceryl stearate, lauryl sulfate, sodium kernelate, and stearic acid (see the full list in the image above). The biggest problem is that Palm Oil is often listed as “Vegetable Oil,” deceptively appealing to vegetarians and other health-conscious types.

But, aside from the drastic harmful effects palm oil has on the environment, processed palm oil is also very high in saturated fats and calories. It also contains a certain degree of organ toxicity which could increase the risk of heart disease and is linked to insulin resistance and obesity.

It doesn't just stop there. 50% of all packaged products contain palm oil. It has been estimated that over half of the products in your local supermarket include palm oil. Snacks, cookies, candy bars, potato chips are all common examples. It can also be found in beauty products like lipsticks, shampoo, and soap and is found in several brands of packaged bread because it allows loaves to remain soft on supermarket shelves for longer. In addition, it is found in instant noodles, packaged ice cream, chocolate, detergents, pizza dough, margarine, and any processed, packaged items.

palm oil

Here’s a brief list of the many brands and products that include palm oil as an ingredient:

• Bagel Bites 
• Balance Bar
• Banquet
• Bertolli 
• Bird’s Eye
• Blue Bonnet Table Spreads 
• Boston Market 
• Butterball Turkey
• Cadbury
• Canada Dry 
• Cheez-Its
• Chef Boyardee 
• Classico 
• Clif Bar
• Country Crock
• Crunch N‘ Munch
• Dr. Pepper 
• Earth Balance
• Egg Beaters 
• Fleischmann‘s 
• French’s Mustard
• Girl Scout Cookies
• Gulden’s Mustard
• Harmony Premium Trail Mix
• Hawaiian Punch 
• Hebrew National 
• Heinz Baby Food 
• Heinz Ketchup 
• Hellmann's
• Hunt's 
• Jack Daniels 
• Jell-O No Bake Homestyle Cheese Cake Desert
• Jiffy Pop 
• Keebler
• Kelloggs
• Knorr
• Knott‘s Berry Farm 
• Kraft
• La Choy 
• Lea & Perrins 
• Libby‘s 
• Lipton
• Little Debbie Snacks
• Luna Bar
• Manwich 
• Marie Callender‘s Frozen Meals 
• McDonald's
• Mott’s 
• Mrs. Fields Cookies
• Nabisco
• Newmans Own Organics
• Nissin Noodles / Ramen
• Nutella 
• Ore Ida 
• Oreo
• Orville Redenbacher's
• PAM 
• Parkay
• Pepperidge Farm Cookies
• Peter Pan 
• Post Cereals
• Power Bar
• Quaker Oats
• Russell Stover Chocolates
• Schweppes
• South Beach Diet foods
• Soy Milk (various)
• Sun Ridge Farms
• Sweet’N Low
• Zone Perfect 

As you can see, the majority of these products are unhealthy and can be classified as junk food. Eliminating these products from your diet will not only benefit the environment in the long term but also your health. 

Avoiding products with palm oil

To start, study the labels and try to stop buying the aforementioned products. While you don't need to go cold turkey right away, if each of us consumed just half as much Palm Oil as we do now, the agricultural industry would get the message loud and clear. You can also replace store-bought snacks with homemade items. And when that's not possible, you can shop for better quality products from organic stores. Just be sure to check the ingredient list - as something labeled 'vegan' or 'organic' might still contain Palm Oil. 

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