My palm oil journey all started with a simple jar of peanut butter. I’d been happily serving a newer all-natural brand to my family, until I realized one of the ingredients was palm oil. That’s the secret to those new natural lines labeled “no need to stir”. Reading labels is perhaps the most important task when supermarket shopping these days. While manufacturers have responded to consumer concerns about the use of high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, there’s a new ingredient in the hot seat: palm oil. So, what is it all about and is this yet another ingredient we should add to our “do not buy” list?
The main case against palm oil is due to its sustainability and the destruction to the rainforest and orangutan habitats. Consumers are taking to the streets again and companies are listening, but change is slow moving. Issues of sustainability and ethical harvesting of palm oil are not new. Back in 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was created recognizing the need to create better industry standards for production. The problem is the demand for palm oil has increased with lightening speed.
Sustainability isn’t the only concern surrounding palm oil. The removal of partially hydrogenated oils from many products required a new ingredient to take its place. Palm oil is that ingredient, and while it is a “natural” product, it is still a saturated fat.
What exactly does that mean for your baby? Well, children under the age of two need certain fats for brain and growth development—that’s why whole milk is recommended until age two. Making healthy food choices available for your children as they grow will lead to them making their own healthy choices into adulthood. Knowing what I now do about palm oil, it just doesn’t make the cut on my list of healthy ingredients. And as for my peanut butter dilemma, that solved itself pretty easily by roasting some peanuts and making a smooth puree out of them in my food processor.