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Last week, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on trans fat, which is used to extend shelf life and improve taste or texture in processed foods. This could be good news for the health of many Americans because trans fat has been shown to raise bad cholesterol and contribute to heart disease. But the use of palm oil — which fuels deforestation, animal extinction and human rights violations — is likely to rise. Plus, although experts have varying opinions, palm oil is not the healthiest option.
In 2006, the FDA began requiring trans fat to be listed on nutrition labels and some cities, including New York City, banned it. Many food manufacturers and restaurants have already stopped using trans fat. According to the FDA, the average daily intake of trans fat by Americans was one gram in 2012, which dropped from almost five grams in 2003.
Another oil that could see more use in U.S. foods is canola oil, which according to Harvard, is a healthier option. Harvard says vegetable oils that are naturally liquid at room temperature (think olive and canola oil) are better choices for the heart.
Also, one study showed that bad cholesterol levels of people rose on diets rich in palm oil — which also happens when diets are high in partially hydrogenated oils (which contain trans fat).
Learn more about palm oil
Sustainable palm oil?
Sustainable palm oil is possible, but most companies aren’t choosing this option. However, you can by:
Supporting the Rainforest Action Network campaign to fight unsustainable palm oil
Visiting the World Wildlife Foundation Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard (the most current one, as of publication of this story, is the 2011 edition)
And, to make the healthiest choices, it’s best to stick to whole foods and to stay away from processed and fast foods as much as possible.
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