Palm Oil: Avoid Products with the Controversial Fat

The food industry often uses palm oil as a cheap fat in many finished products. According to the WWF, forests are being cleared for the production of palm oil, and orangutans and tigers are being driven out of their habitat. In addition, experts believe that palm oil may be involved in the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Market author Uwe Leiterer is therefore starting another self-experiment: After giving up sugar, meat, and plastic, Leiterer is now trying to avoid buying products with palm oil. His children gave the impetus – for the sake of the rainforest, the orangutans, and their own health. Uwe Leiterer will report on his experiences every week in a blog.

Many products contain palm oil

Palm oil tastes similar to butter and gives food a spreadable, creamy texture. Fat is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature. Palm oil is commonly used in these products:

  • butter and margarine
  • chocolate and pralines
  • Cookies
  • spreads
  • chocolate creams
  • baby food
  • ready meals
  • packet soups

Cosmetic articles can contain so-called surfactants and emulsifiers that are made from palm oil components.

Why palm oil can make you sick

Palm oil is not the highest quality vegetable fat: it is relatively high in (unhealthy) saturated fat and low in (healthy) unsaturated fat.

Palm oil is also suspected of being involved in the development of diseases:

  • When palm oil is heated to high temperatures, so-called fatty acid esters such as glycidyl and 3-MCPD can form which, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, are carcinogenic. In animal experiments, the substance triggers tumors from a certain dosage.
  • According to medical experts, the relatively high content of saturated fatty acids in palm oil can lead to a deterioration in blood lipids. This increases the risk of vascular calcification and diabetes.

Vegetable oils with a high content of unsaturated fatty acids, such as walnut oil or linseed oil, are considered better for your health.

This is how consumers can avoid palm oil

Those who – like Uwe Leiterer – want to do without palm oil can initially use the list of ingredients in the food as a guide. There it is listed either literally as “palm oil” or “palm oil” or as “vegetable fat (oil palm)”. For some ready-to-eat foods, there are alternatives without palm oil.

In his experiment, Uwe Leiterer will first try to find all palm oil products in the household and replace them with palm oil-free alternatives.

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