Palm oil. You might not be familiar with it, but your body certainly is. Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet, it is loaded into everything from confectionery to cosmetics. Palm oil production is under increasing scrutiny of late, and critique that has been welcomed by environmental advocacy groups.
Palm oil plantations are almost synonymous with ecological disaster. Each year thousands of acres of valuable rainforest are cleared to make way for palm trees. This process destroys vital habitats and is leading the extinction of critically endangered species like the Sumatran orangutan and tiger. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest exporter of palm oil, with almost 85% of the market share between the two countries. Mass palm oil production in these areas also raises many human rights concerns, as numerous plantations have been linked to widespread child labour practices, with one plantation in the Indonesian island of Sumatra employing children as young as seven years of age for hard labour.
Why should you monitor your intake of palm oil? A high intake of palm oil also carries associated health risks, it is laden in saturated fat and cholesterol, major contributors to heart disease. In May 2016 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), reported that palm oil generated more of a potentially carcinogenic contaminant than other vegetable oils, when refined at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius. The EU Authority stated further study was necessary to assess the oil’s true level of risk.
If you’re looking to cut down on your own consumption of palm oil, there’s plenty of healthier alternatives to your favourite snacks.
Sugar is the main ingredient in Nutella, with palm oil coming in a close second.
Palm oil contained in Nutella is certified sustainable palm oil.
Per 100g contains 56.8g of sugar, 31.6g of fat and 6g protein.
Wyldsson Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread
This Nutella alternative contains no palm oil or refined sugars. Made from roasted hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, dates and organic cocoa, it contains twice the protein and half the sugar of your standard spread.
Per 100g contains 23.8g of sugar, 40g fat and 12.3g of protein.
Ciara Landy | Food & Lifestyle Editor