I’ve heard that I shouldn’t buy products that contain palm oil, but I don’t know why.

Palm oil can be used for cooking but is also contained in a vast number of food products, cleaning products, candles, beauty products and cosmetics. The oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm, a tree that grows in the humid tropics of West Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia.

To make way for booming palm oil plantations, rainforests are being cleared and burnt, contributing to global warming and destroying the habitat of many wild animals. Especially concerning is the impact on endangered species such as Bornean orangutans, which are facing extinction due to this habitat loss.

Aside from the environmental impact, palm oil is extremely high in saturated fat — over 1.5 times the content of butter — and may increase cholesterol. While it does appear to have a few health benefits, you can reap similar advantages from other foods.

We recommend using alternative oils for cooking. If any of your usual products feature palm oil in their ingredients list, you may choose to switch brands or to contact the company to check whether their palm oil used is produced in a sustainable manner.