Palm oil

The palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that we get from the pulp of the fruit of palm trees.

It's produced in tropical areas, typically in Malaysia and Indonesia, and it's exported all around the world. It's a very common ingredient in many food products that we consume daily. 

This oil contains a lot of palmitic acid, which is a saturated fat. 
Our body needs different kinds of fats: normally the ones that are liquid in room temperature are unsaturated fats, which are the ones that we might consume preferably (olive oil, blue fish, nuts, some seeds...). The healthiest fat balance combines less saturated and more unsaturated fats, but by no means you should totally exclude the ones that are not as healthy. 
Saturated fats have typically been related to heart diseases and other illnesses. Heads up palm oil will always be associated to cardiovascular diseases - typically atheroma plates. But the truth is that palm oil is just one more saturated fat, as many other fats that are customary in out culture: butter, chocolate, and even coconut oil (which I personally find quite interesting because there's a popular believe that coconut oil is healthy, and it's no more than an other vegetable saturated oil).

Palm oil is a very stable fat, which means unlike other fats, it's not prone to oxidise. This is one of the most desired qualities that the food industry looks for when developing a product, as well as other qualities. Let's say that palm oil has lots of technological features that makes the production process and the resulting product more stable and worthwhile. Plus it's cheaper than other fats in the food market.
For example, Nutella's formula needs an oil that allows you to keep it in room temperature without dividing into to phases. If Nutella was made out of an other saturated fat instead of palm oil, you'd have to keep it in the fridge in other for it to not divide into to different mixtures: the chocolate spread and the fat oil. Yet the thin layer of clear liquid you sometimes find on Nutella is a tiny bit of the fat that has been laid off, but it's nothing compared to the amount of fat included in the  chocolate spread.

I've done a little research online finding out some defamations that people or the media have made up against palm oil. 
There's people who say that what makes palm oil so bad are the organic solvents that they use to maximise the efficiency of the extraction process (in other words, the products that they use to get the highest amount of palm oil from every seed). I have to say that in other procedures to get vegetable oils out of seeds (sunflower oil...), they use similar solvents and no one does a big deal. Nowadays the food technology levels we've reached guarantee that the food in your fridge will be the best quality you can ever imagine and by no mean it'll be toxic or dangerous for your health (by the solvents and additives the industry uses or whatever).
I've also seen some comments about 'tropical pathogens' carried by this product to our country. Again, there are lots of quality controls and proper control of hygiene that would never ever let any kind of pathogen be in the global market.
Last but no least, my favourite: Palm oil can kill your baby. First of all, breast milk has all the components that your baby needs to survive and develop during his very first weeks living in this world. Of course, fats are included in mom's breast milk. Try to guess one kind of fat included in the composition... Palmitic acid! Yet mom's breast milk is the most organic and indisputably natural nutritional source for babies! In order to copy the breast milk, artificial breast milk includes palmitic acid in its formula. Considering that the price you pay for this product is quite high due to its high technologic features, I think that the fact that the industry includes palmitic acid it's not because it's cheaper that other fats - which are also included in the product - but because of being actually necessary. 
Each one of us can draw our own conclusions about why would the media plot that much against this product. My personal opinion is that it's a cheap foreign product that, according to the FAO forecasts, its global demand will be doubled by 2020, and tripled by 2050. So palm oil it's expected to provide the global food industry at least until 2050. This would mean that local or national similar products would not be necessary in 40 years more or less. It's not the first time we see this behaviour of the media agains a food poduct (in the recent history I can relate this case to the occidental rejection to Panga - or catfish).

There are no good or bad foods. Yet there are some foods that might be better or worse for your body, but you can eat anything - edible, of course - as soon as it is consumed in a reasonable quantity. A bad diet it's not due to a certain product, but to the quantity of the product you eat. And the consequences on your body will be accentuated or reduced according to your physical activity. 

Be consistent when thinking what to eat: would you be able to eat a toast with butter on it? Yes. So you can either eat a toast with a reasonable amount of Nutella (considering that hardly a half of this chocolate spread is fat). But would you be able to eat a spoonful of butter? I would answer 'no'. So be logic.

You'll never die because of eating palm oil, and you'll never be healthy as a result of boycotting foods that contain palm oil. 



Rachel Ritlop said...

This is so interesting! Such great info here girl! I never realized that coconut oil wasn't really any healthier than any other oil. said...

I love learning new things every day! This wonderfully researched post is one of my favorite reads all week. And it's so true about the media - they will often attack a food one day and then it's back on the good list a few years later. When I was growing up coconut oil was a huge no-no, completely unhealthy and full of dangerous fats. My mother taught me to read labels, and if a product was made with coconut oil - we wouldn't buy it. And now we praise the wonders of coconut oil. (Thank goodness, because I love everything coconut!) It's a bit strange, but the more things change the more they stay the same.

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