Edible oil was back on the agenda on January 17 this year ahead of an EU vote envisaging more ambitious climate goals. Being one of the cheapest oils worldwide, most biofuels used across Europe contain the controversial ingredient, palm oil.
Palm oil has come under fire over destruction of forests, to the extent that the EU is expected to ban the addition of palm oil in motor fuels over the next 3 years. Malaysian farmers over the past couple of weeks, took to the streets of Kuala Lampur against a push by the EU to limit oil imports.
Palm oil, however, is more than just that. The nub lies in the fact that the oil is found in several everyday consumer products such as groceries and baked goods.
What do nutritionists say?
Information revolving round palm oil seems to be unsatisfying. Some say palm oil provides health benefits, others believe it poses risks to heart health.
“The British Dietetic Association says consumers should avoid saturated fats”, claims Maria Schembri, a registered dietician and nutritionist. Palm oil is one such fat.
Which products use palm oil?
“Confectionary items and pastry are among the main food items which contain palm oil”, Schembri said. She furthered by saying that “It’s used widely in food manufacture because it’s one of the cheapest fats available.”
What are the dangers?
Not all consumers are fazed by the fact that “saturated fats have been implicated in increasing the cholesterol levels, causing overweight and obesity.”
People should tread on eggshells when it comes to handling their diet. Given that palm oil contains saturated fats, it tends to “increase the risk of heart problems including heart attack and stroke.”
Are palm oil free products healthier?
“It depends what the person is after”, Schembri said. “If the person is after losing weight, substituting palm oil with olive oil, for instance, will not help in cutting down the weight because both contain the same amount of calories.” Ideally, one should consider changing track as “heart-wise such substitution could prove superior”, Ms. Schembri added.