Separating nutrition fact from fiction is a tough job. Thanks, WholeFoods Magazine, for inviting Nutrition Myth Buster Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS to write this fact-based article about palm oil. Their conclusion: palm oil is unfairly maligned. Bowden followed the science — citing study after study — to explain why palm oil is actually a healthy cooking oil choice. He also detailed Malaysian policies that protect animals and the rainforests.

WholeFoods Magazine is a news resource for the natural food and products industry, providing businesses with the latest information in health and nutrition. The article points out that palm oil isn’t the first mischaracterized food: Remember when coffee was considered a health hazard and canola oil a health food? 

Bowden debunked two bad raps often associated with palm oil: 

Myth No. 1: Saturated fat is bad 

Bowden wrote that “study, after study, after study, after study” disproves the hypothesis that eating a lot of saturated fat gives you heart disease. From the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “There is no (good) evidence that … arbitrary upper limits on saturated fat consumption in the United States will prevent cardiovascular disease or reduce mortality.”

Bowden explained: “There are saturated fats that are fairly neutral in terms of their effect on health, and there are saturated fats that are actually good for you.” Palm oil is a rich red because it’s loaded with vitamin E tocotrienols and vitamin A carotenoids. Bowden noted a study that shows tocotrienols protect the brain after a stroke. Palm oil’s powerful antioxidants are also heart-healthy and cholesterol neutral.

Myth No. 2: Palm oil production harms the environment

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Bowden calls this “boneheaded nonsense” and points out that even the World Wildlife Federation has spoken out in favor of certified sustainable palm oil. 

Globally, progress has been made to ensure animals and their habitats are protected during palm oil production. Bowden highlighted the tough protections in place in Ecuador and Malaysia. “Malaysia in particular has been remarkably pro-environment, protecting at least half of the nation’s land as forest cover,” he wrote.  

Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification addresses the environmental, social and economic aspects of palm oil production. Thanks to this nationally mandated program Malaysia can meet the world’s palm oil needs while protecting forests and wildlife.

Bowden explained why consumers should support sustainable production, not boycott palm oil. “A whopping 35% of the entire world’s supply of “vegetable oil” comes from palm. It’s an incredibly efficient crop, meaning that producing the same amount of another oil — like soybean oil, for example — would require anywhere between 4 and 10 times the amount of land, which would just create a whole new set of problems.”

Next time you see a label that states “absolutely no palm oil,” you’ll know that’s not something to be proud of thanks to Bowden’s myth-busting. Choosing Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil is a healthier choice and one that supports the environment.  

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