Sustainable Delights: Embracing Palm-Oil Free Eating

Palm oil
Palm oil comes from palm trees native to West Africa that produce high-quality oil used primarily for cooking in developing countries. This high-yielding plant was introduced to Indonesia and Malaysia in the early 1990s. Today these South East Asian countries, renowned for their extraordinary plant and wildlife biodiversity, produce over 90% of the world’s total palm oil.

What is palm oil used in?

Palm oil is a very productive crop. It offers a far greater yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils.​​ While it is often used in small amounts, it can be found in food products, detergents, cosmetics and to a small extent, biofuel. More than half of all packaged products Americans consume contain palm oil—it’s found in lipstick, soaps, detergents and even ice cream.

What are the issues surrounding the use of palm oil?

1. Environmental Impact

Global production of and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly. Plantations are spreading across Asia, Africa and Latin America. But such expansion comes at the expense of tropical forests—which form critical habitats for many endangered species and a lifeline for some human communities.

2. Climate Change

The conversion of forests to palm oil plantations releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide, exacerbating global warming. Moreover, draining peatlands for cultivation emits vast quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. These factors make palm oil production a significant contributor to climate change, further compromising the health of our planet.

3. Human Rights Violations

The palm oil industry has been marred by reports of human rights abuses and labor exploitation. Workers on plantations often endure long hours, hazardous working conditions, and low wages. Child labor and forced labor have also been documented, highlighting the ethical concerns surrounding the industry.

Is palm oil bad for my health?

Palm oil has been associated with negative health effects due to its high saturated fat content. Consuming excessive amounts of saturated fats can contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, health experts recommend limiting the intake of palm oil and opting for healthier alternatives, such as olive oil or other unsaturated fats.

How can I identify palm oil in a product?

Read Labels and Familiarize Yourself with Alternate Names

In most countries, companies do not have to declare palm oil in ingredients. Instead, it is usually labeled as ‘vegetable oil’, making it indistinguishable from other plant oils. This means that we cannot identify if a product has palm oil or another vegetable oil. 

Palm oil can hide behind numerous names on ingredient lists, making it challenging to identify. Look out for terms like "vegetable oil," "palmate," "palmitate," and "sodium lauryl sulfate" which often indicate the presence of palm oil. Familiarize yourself with these alternate names to make informed choices.

How else can I avoid palm oil?

Choose Responsible Brands

Numerous companies have committed to using sustainable palm oil or completely eliminating it from their products. Look for certifications like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or seek out brands that explicitly state their commitment to ethical sourcing.

Support Palm Oil-Free Alternatives

As consumer demand for sustainable alternatives grows, an increasing number of products are entering the market as palm oil-free alternatives. From spreads and snacks to beauty and cleaning products, these alternatives offer environmentally friendly choices. You can find all these and more at!

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