Palm oil is one hundred percent fat, and half of it is saturated fat. It is the most used vegetable oil in the world today. Palm oil is added to margarine, coffee creamers, protein and diet bars, cereals, chocolate, and baked goods. One teaspoon has 114 calories, 14 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. While palm oil also has respectable amounts of vitamins A and K, both can be found in other fruits and vegetables that do not contain the fat in palm oil.
Palm Oil is derived from the pulp of the fruit of palm trees – palm trees that are known as Oil Palms. These trees produce bunches of fruits. Each fruit contains a kernel covered in a hard shell. The oil is extracted from the fruit and the kernel. Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Over the past two decades, demand for palm oil has increased in part because of commercial applications. And, these Palm trees are cheaper to grow than other oils they require little to no fertilizer and tend to be pesticide-free. Vast palm oil plantations have been created to meet this demand.
However, Palm oil plantations are a contributing factor to the deforestation of the “Lungs of our planet,” the rainforests. The forests are home to millions of trees that recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen, 10m species of animals, plants, and numerous yet-to-be-discovered medical cures. The Palm oil plantations are driving deforestation, which is impactful because cleared land releases carbon dioxide and methane gas; accelerating global warming. Currently, Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest producers of palm oil, with the expectation that as demand grows from India and China, countries in Africa and South America will also accelerate deforestation to establish these plantations. The significant loss of the natural habitat to thousands of plants, insects, and the three surviving species of orangutans is profoundly concerning. Several organizations, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, work with plantation owners and farmers to create sustainable answers. While there is such a thing as sustainable palm oil, it is a fraction of the substance that is produced annually. In 2013, 596 tons of palm oil was produced. Only 98 tons of it was certified sustainable. Much more needs to be done to prevent additional deforestation of our rainforests and the loss of natural habitats. One answer is to reduce the consumption of palm oil by reading labels and refusing to buy goods and foods that contain them.