One of the reasons Oriwa Naturals started making products is… Palm Oil. As a lover of animals, I wanted to use products that were sustainable and natural, but just about every favourite skincare product I was using had the dreaded Palm Oil on the label. So I started making my own, substituting the Palm Oil with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Let’s talk about Palm Oil and why it’s so bad. I hope that after reading this blog, you’ll take more care in reading what’s in your food and skincare products and will make the choice to avoid Palm Oil when you shop.
Palm Oil is the single ingredient that is in many of your favourite foods (over 50% of them) and in many cosmetics. It’s not only wiping out rainforests all around the world from Asia, to the Phillipines, Central America and the Amazon in Brazil. This deforestation is wiping out endangered animals – such as the Orangutan and the Jaguar. It’s also destroying the livelihood of indigenous tribes making their lives harder and more dangerous.
Palm Oil is the world’s most common vegetable oil made from the pulp of the fruit found in oil palms. It’s not new – like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it’s been around since ancient times. Archaelogists found residue in a tomb dated back to 3000BC and has been used as a cooking oil in West and Central Africa for centuries.
In the late 19th and early 20th century it was intruduced in Asia where it grew especially well in rainforest areas. It’s easy to understand it’s popularity – it’s cheap and easy to grow and it withstands extreme heat and resists oxidation much better than other vegetable oil as it has more saturated fats. It also contains no trans fats, which makes it healthier in terms of cholesterol and heart disease, but the fact it's high in saturated fats cancels out the health benefits.
So Palm Oil is bad. Bad for the environment and bad for our health. There are plenty of other better oils to choose from and if we want to look after our planet and our bodies then we need to know how to avoid Palm Oil.
In 2015 Indonesian farmers slashed and burned the rainforests to make way to plant Palm Oil plantations. This was a disaster. The fires burned out of control and long after the fires were extinguished the peat and other organic materials on the rainforest floor kept burning. The result was a toxic cloud that enveloped southeast Asia for nearly two months, affecting the lives of millions and killing 10 people in Indonesia. An estimated 3.5m hectares of rainforest was destroyed.
This was also a disaster for the endangered Orangutan and threatened a third of the worlds wild orangutans, pushing them into starvation mode.
Long term health effect and impact on global warming has been severe. Yet the world remains silent about this catastrophe. Major corporations have done little or nothing to halt the environmental destruction. In 2004 the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil was established with the aim of promoting certified sustainable palm oil. It was too little too late, not enough checks have been done, too many corners cut, and all it’s done is added incorrect positivity to a product that is far from it.
It’s now happening in the Brazilian amazon. In 2020, more than 2500 major fires burned across the Brazilian Amazon between late May and early November. Although the majority of the 2020 fires burned on cleared lands, a startling new trend emerged—more than 41% of major fires occurred in standing Amazon rainforest.
Fires do not occur naturally in the Amazon rainforest. Specific conditions are necessary for fires to burn in a standing forest, namely a dry year alongside lots of ignition sources on neighbouring lands. These sources, almost exclusively caused by humans, can arise from runaway agricultural fires, or from blazes set intentionally to clear land following deforestation, much of it illegal. An estimated 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of the Brazilian Amazon’s standing rainforest burned last year, an area roughly the size of the country of Wales in the U.K.
Looking ahead to the remainder of 2021, it is expected that we will see patterns similar to last year in the Brazilian Amazon, with fires burning in recently deforested areas early in the season (June through August) and a possible shift to fires raging in standing forests as the dry season intensifies.
Unlike Extra Virgin Olive Oil (which is really healthy) processed Palm Oil is very high in saturated fats and calories and the health risks include organ toxicity, increased risk of heart disease, and it’s linked to insulin resistance and obesity.
50% of all packaged products contain palm oil
Over half the products in your local supermarket include Palm Oil. Snacks, cookies, candy bars, potato chips and bread (allows loaves to remain soft on supermarket shelves for longer). Instant noodles, ice-cream, chocolate, detergents, pizza dough, margarine, just about every processed, packaged product. Which is why you should eat fresh. Eliminating processed food with Palm Oil will not only help the environment, but will also better your health.
It’s also found in beauty products such as lipsticks, shampoo and soap.
To avoid buying products with Palm Oil, you need to learn what it might look like on the labels. These can be deceptive. The EU made Palm Oil labelling compulsory, but elsewhere it can hide behind a variety of different names. They include…
INGREDIENTS: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol
CONTAINS: Palm oil
It’s also often listed just as a ‘vegetable oil’ which can appeal to vegetarians and other health conscious types – but it’s far from that.
So next time you do your shopping, flick your eyes over the packaging and look at the labels carefully. Look after our rainforests. If we stop buying the products with Palm Oil in, then we can make a dent in the number of plantations being planted by the method of slashing and burning rainforests around the world. Plus, not only will the environment be healthier, so will our bodies