It wasn’t that long ago that the American Heart Association (AHA) deemed coconut oil as unhealthy, and we were were thrilled when health and wellness leaders stepped up to the plate and vehemently disagreed with these findings (thank you!), but unfortunately, coconut is now front and center of a new controversy – nut allergens.
Fact: Coconut is NOT a Nut
Coconut is classified as a fruit, not a botanical nut. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun classifying coconut as a tree nut based on the fact that coconut has the word “nut” in it. While it is true individuals can be allergic to coconut itself, most people who have a tree nut allergy can safely consume coconut. To make matters worse, companies are beginning to claim other foods, like palm oil, are healthier to consume. Here’s why you should steer clear of palm oil.
Palm oil is derived from the fruit of palm trees and is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet. Much of the global supply is grown in Southeast countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, but the production of palm oil is wreaking havoc on the environment. Thousands of acres of forests are cleared to make room for palm plantations, which is simultaneously killing hundreds of animals like tigers and orangutans.
In the past ten years alone, the orangutan population has decreased by 50% as a result of habitat loss from forest clearing and there only remains 6,300 Sumatran orangutans left on the planet. These beautiful creatures are on the brink of extinction all in the name of palm oil. Not only does the environment and its animals suffer, but the native peoples living in these regions are being forced to leave their homes so palm plantations can be built. Most of these native peoples don’t even receive any form of repayment for their lands.
Palm Oil and Palm Oil Products
Palm oil is used to produce a large amount of consumer goods including lipstick, shampoo, soap and laundry detergent. (Shocking, right?) It’s not only consumer goods though. Ever since 2008, when the U.S. enacted mandatory laws labeling trans fat within food products, palm oil has showed up in multiple foods including packaged breads, margarine, chocolate, cookies and ice cream. Advertised as a “healthy alternative,” palm oil is actually very high in saturated fat. Just one tablespoon of palm oil alone accounts for 55% of the daily recommendation of saturated fat and now with the FDA’s mandate of banning all trans fats entirely by 2018, the demand for palm oil is most likely to increase.
How can you help?! There are plenty of ways!
- Increase Awareness
Increase your awareness and share your knowledge with others. Educating yourself, as well as others within the consumer population can help shoppers make more informed decisions.
- Avoid Palm Oil
Be on the lookout for products that use palm oil, but claim to be “sustainable.” Even palm oil products that claim to be sustainable should be avoided due to some skepticism of their farming methods. If the demand for a sustainable product increases then so does the demand for the unsustainable. Sadly, it’s a vicious cycle. Any consumer request for palm oil, whether sustainable or not, increases the demand for a product that involves deforestation, animal deaths and human rights abuse.
- Use Different Oils
Avoid consumer products that use palm oil in the production of their products and use palm oil substitutes instead like avocado oil, olive oil or coconut oil. Although coconut oil is considered a saturated fat, just like palm oil, there is a major difference between the two.
Palm oil is >40% palmitic acid, while coconut is >40% lauric acid. Lauric acid is a medium chain triglyceride, while palmitic acid is a long chain. This probably sounds confusing, so to break it down into something more digestible (pun intended), let’s take a look at how these both work in the human body.
The shorter the fatty acid chain, the more efficiently the fat is utilized within our system and is less likely to bind to our arteries. Medium chains, like the ones found in coconut oil, race through our system and get to where they need to be quickly. Think of coconut oil like a racing car cruising straight to the checkered flag finish with no stops along the way. On the other hand, long chains (like the ones found in palm oil), take their time moving through our system. They are slow, inefficient and can get stuck along the way, which can later cause issues for us and our health such as heart disease. (Yikes!)
Remember, not all things that are deemed “bad” are actually bad for you (we are looking at you coconut), while on the other hand, some items that are supposedly “better for you” are actually bad for you, not to mention bad for the environment and its animals (cough palm oil cough). Every purchase you make as a consumer is essentially a vote. By choosing, and simultaneously investing in environmentally friendly options, like coconut oil, you’re voting to end the production of foods, like palm oil, which have negative consequences on our health, the environment and the planet as a whole. The next time you see palm oil as an ingredient, put the product down and slowly back away.
We are an open book and believe in complete transparency, which is why we are proud to share that all of our Chixi products are and always will be, palm oil free.