Like most moms, you care about what you are feeding your children. You may also be concerned about what your shopping habits are teaching them, and what kind of environment you are leaving for them. If you heard about the palm oil debate during a trip to the playground or via a Facebook post, you may be wondering about the whole story. This popular cooking oil is applauded by some, yet frowned upon by others. Read on to learn what every mom needs to know about Malaysian palm oil.
1. Where palm oil used
Palm oil is the most widely used edible oil on the planet. It is estimated to be in about half of all packaged items such as breads, chocolate, peanut butter, lipsticks and crackers. Why is it so popular? Palm oil possesses the qualities manufacturers need: it’s resistant to spoilage, stable at high temperatures, provides a good and consistent texture, and retains the flavor of food. It also has health qualities that savvy consumers demand: it is non-GMO and naturally trans-fat free.
2. Palm oil and Malaysian wildlife
Some people argue that palm oil is harming wildlife. The Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund has been actively protecting orangutans, elephants, proboscis monkeys and their native habitats for years. They are the world’s leader in orangutan conservation, and recently helped build the world’s first pygmy elephant sanctuary. Malaysia is a friend to wildlife. The country has set aside 50 percent of its land as protected forest cover. The country was named one of Conservation International’s 17 Biodiversity Superstars.
3. Nutrition and palm oil
Palm oil is nature’s richest source of vitamin E tocotrienols. It’s good for the brain, the heart and the skin. It is cholesterol free and has a balanced fatty acid profile. It’s easily digestible and an excellent source of energy. It’s also heat stable, so it doesn’t degrade into dangerous compounds at common baking and frying temperatures as with other cooking oils. Palm oil is a wholesome oil that may be included in a healthy diet.
4. Palm oil and deforestation
Oil palm trees have a 25-year lifespan. Plus, Malaysia has had a zero-burning policy for nearly 20 years. It also takes substantially less land to produce the same amount of palm oil than other common cooking oils. A single hectare oil palm plantation yields 4.2 tons of palm oil per year. That same amount of land only yields 0.36 tons of soybean oil or 0.42 tons of canola oil. Raising livestock requires the most land usage.
5. Alternatives to palm oil
There are many advantages to Malaysian sustainable palm oil. The Guardian’s feature reports that oil palm plantations require fewer fertilizers, pesticides and energy than other edible oil crops. It also states, “As vegetable oils go, even Greenpeace accepts that palm oil is the ‘best solution’, but only when produced responsibly.” In the environmentally friendly country of Malaysia, their sustainable oil palm plantations are primed to meet our world’s growing need for this healthy oil.
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.