Palm Oil truly is the elusive food: It’s added to nearly anything (both food and non-food products), even though most don’t know that it exists. Usually buried somewhere in a long list of nutritional information, it has been increasingly making an appearance everywhere across the food industry, and for some, that amounts to a need for growing concern.

Why is it so Bad? Many point to concerns over the oil's high saturated fat content, the methods by which it is grown, and the long-term effects that this now-booming industry will have in the future.

It's Bad for Health

Palm oil has been linked to Heart Disease and high cholesterol levels among those who consume a lot of it. In fact, one study suggested that its consumption led to similar health outcomes as that of consuming trans fats, which have been banned from snack foods by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Even though Americans are increasingly inundated with “don’t eat this” and “don’t eat that” narratives, the problem with palm oil is that it can be disguised as ‘healthy’ and present itself in many different foods – including trendy health foods like nut butter. When something so unhealthy is masked as healthy, public awareness is direly needed. Otherwise, consumers may misunderstand the products’ general health, as well as the need to control portions.

It's Bad for the Environment

Due to its popularity and increasingly inexpensive presence in products worldwide, activists suggest that this oil is one of the leading causes of deforestation, the extinction of several species – including orangutans – and the root cause of human rights violations across the world. With so many strikes against it, some wonder whether palm oil should remain in the game or not – at least until industry laws and regulations can catch up.

How to avoid it in foods

Avoiding palm oil – which is a recommendation for consumers from many agencies and activists – can be done using the following techniques:

  1. Check nutrition information thoroughly
  2. Use apps and other online resources to check the sources and sustainability of products and brands
  3. Try to buy foods with organic palm oil, if the oil can’t be avoided altogether

While some companies that utilize palm oil in products are becoming more responsible for their production and use of the elusive oil, long-lasting health and environmental effects remain to be seen if more drastic measures aren’t taken soon.