Is palm oil OK in food products?

kpurvis@charlotteobserver.comOctober 15, 2013 

Q: I have noticed that palm oil and palm kernel oil have crept back into some brands of margarine or vegetable oil spreads. Has palm oil been redeemed? Wasn’t it once condemned for being bad for your arteries?

A: Nutrition news is always evolving. Despite some very high-profile claims, the dietary recommendations on both palm oil and palm kernel are very mixed.

Both are free of transfats, so food manufacturers are using them to make transfat-free versions of products. That’s probably why you’re seeing more of them. However, they also are very high in saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol. Most health sources, including the Mayo Clinic, still suggest limiting saturated fats from all sources.

The other issue with palm oil is environmental. Because it is cheap to make and in such high demand in the global market, palm oil production is associated with deforestation and exploitative labor practices in the countries where it is made. There are deforestation-free versions of palm oil. It’s worth checking labels carefully for those.

Email questions about cooking and food to Kathleen Purvis at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

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