Thursday, January 29, 2009

More On Palm Oil

I received a rather lengthy and well informed comment on my recent Smart Balance post, so I thought I'd give it a little more exposure. This thread really encapsulates what many of us are trying to figure out in a post-modern food world: what the f*ck should we eat?

There are several points here that I really enjoy. One is the lesser of evils approach when it comes to the environmental impact of food production. Perfection is great, but elusive. I also like the idea of replacing an animal fat with real food, like macadamia oil, instead a food product (like Smart Balance). Our ancestors didn't need text-heavy plastic tubs to tell them what to eat, so why should we?

Thanks to Adam for sending this in:

1) Oil palms yield more oil per acre than any other oil plant. Greater productivity = greater environmental efficiency = more land left untouched by modern agriculture.

2) Oil palms aren't an annual crop, like soy, canola (rapeseed), etc., so less violence is done to the land with the constant tearing-up of the soil to plant and yearly re-plant. Less aggressive (chemical) fertilization is used and less pesticide since it's a tree crop growing in its natural habitat.

3) Yes, oil palm plantations take habitat away from orangutans and the like (although a lot more wildlife can survive in a tree plantation than a monocultured field full of annuals). But let's not throw that stone in our glass house. Until we tear up our wheat fields to let the bison back in, let's not get on our high horse about a poor, poor country trying to make some money off their own agriculture. Almost all large-scale agriculture is inherently, ecologically violent. Oil palm plantations much less so that the alternatives.

4) On a nutritional basis, a distinction ought to be made between palm kernel and palm fruit oil. The kernel oil ain't great for you -- but it's not nearly bad as you've been told. The palm fruit oil -- brilliant red -- is actually one of our healthiest, most heat-stable fats. Like other fruit oils (olive, avocado), it's very rich in antioxidants, and can stand up to long storage and high-heat cooking without a whole lot of lipid peroxidation.

5) CSPI are a bunch of scare-mongers. That "Dying for a Cookie" ad they ran full-page in the NYT was kind of bullshit. I wrote them to tell them as much. They wrote me back to (mostly) agree with me -- or at least, to agree with my individual points, not the final assessment...

6) Finally, if you want vegan "vegan" butter for pancake frying, may I suggest straight-up red palm fruit oil, avocado oil, or macadamia oil.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with Palm Kernel Oil and/or coconut oil...

www.westonaprice.org

tells the whole story.

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