This week, large ‘blobs’ of palm oil were washed up on our beaches after Storm Angus, so it’s very much on my mind!
This substance is harmful is to animals if eaten, obviously causing a problem to marine life, and apparently a vet in Newquay even had to save the lives of 5 dogs after they ingested some on the beach.
But this isn’t the only issue with palm oil. In case you weren’t aware, palm oil is a type of vegetable oil derived from palm fruit grown on oil palm trees, and it’s one of the most unsustainable industries in the world.
Causing mass deforestation around the world (specifically Africa, Asia, and America, but mostly Indonesia and Malaysia), palm oil growth is destructive to the environment and the habitats of many now-endangered species, as well as the homes of native communities.
Evidently this is because of huge demand; it’s in everything.
In fact, it’s near enough unavoidable. Most of the time, it’s a completely unnecessary ingredient, but it’s so hard to find alternatives to products that don’t contain it. But at least if we’re all made aware, we can try our hardest to avoid it…
Below are 10 things that contain palm oil that most of us probably buy without realising:
Most loaves of bread you buy at the supermarket will contain palm oil (or one of the many other names palm oil is referred to as – see the link at the bottom of this post!). Next time you go for your weekly shop, check the ingredients carefully, or even better – buy bread from the counter or a local baker and check what ingredients they use!
It makes sense that making crisps requires some kind of oil, but sadly most of them use palm oil. The packet will likely say ‘vegetable oil’ though, so be aware (this is another commonly used name for Palm Oil). The best thing is to look for crisps that expressly use an oil like olive, sunflower or coconut, or find savoury crunchy snacks that don’t contain any oil at all!
Margarine is a commonly used substitute for butter and dairy spreads, but even though you’re doing a good thing by avoiding the dairy industry, most of these products contain palm/vegetable oil. Try substituting margarine in recipes with coconut oil, olive oil, or even apple sauce for baking. (And if anyone ever finds a margarine that doesn’t contain palm oil, please let me know – because I can’t find one!)
4. Vegan cheese
Same as above, many of the dairy substitutes sadly seem to contain palm oil in some form. Keep an eye out on the ingredients and shop sustainably; many vegan cheeses come in plastic packaging and contain loads of random additives anyway, so maybe try making your own vegan cheese sauces and trying out recipes!
5. Soap & Skincare
Random isn’t it? Many supermarket soaps seem to contain palm oil for some reason, but good to buy from local artisans, or brands that use only natural ingredients who don’t test on animals, anyway.
6. Ice Cream
I have no idea why there needs to be palm oil in ice cream… weird! Not all brands do, so always check the label. I would say try making your own (vegan or not ), and props if you have time for this, but to me it seems like too much effort (but hey, I’m not a huge ice cream fan anyway!).
7. Pizza bases
Many supermarket oven pizzas or readymade pizza bases contain palm/vegetable oil in the base. I know, it made me sad too. But again, check the label because not all will – just something to be aware of!
8. Instant noodles
Noooo! A staple for all budgeters and quick-lunch-addicts alike, vegan or otherwise :( We all know they’re probably not great for our health anyway, but it is disappointing. And yes, this includes Supernoodles, Pot Noodles and Tesco Instant.
As with the soap mentioned above, it’s a great idea to try and support ethical/environmental brands when buying personal care/beauty products anyway. Places like Lush and the Body Shop are good places to start.
Palm oil in chocolate is a more rare occurrence, but still something to check on the ingredients labels. It can be easy to avoid, so why buy it by accident right?
I’m not writing this trying to make you feel bad or expecting you to never buy anything with palm oil in it. As I said, it’s near impossible, but if we all are made aware of this issue and try our best to cut down on our palm oil purchases and avoid it where we can, then maybe we can make a small difference.
Know of any great palm oil free alternatives for the above items? Comment below!
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