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Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - NEWS - Karissa Woolfe Healthy Food Guide Ac­cred­ited Prac­tis­ing Di­eti­tian

QI keep hear­ing bad things about palm oil, and have no­ticed it as an in­gre­di­ent in many foods. Is it some­thing I need to worry about? Julie S, via email

You’re right, it’s es­ti­mated that half the pack­aged items in su­per­mar­kets con­tain palm oil, which in­cludes treats like choco­late, bis­cuits, ice cream and bak­ery items, as well as clean­ing and beauty prod­ucts.

Palm oil is a veg­etable fat pro­duced from the African oil palm tree’s fruit. It’s very high in sat­u­rated fat, the type which can raise your ‘bad’ LDL choles­terol and worsen in­sulin re­sis­tance, a pre­cur­sor to type 2 di­a­betes. This ex­plains in part why the cur­rent di­etary guide­lines rec­om­mend you limit your in­take of treat foods.

While pay­ing at­ten­tion to the nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion panel can help you iden­tify foods high in sat­u­rated fat, it’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous when prod­ucts con­tain palm oil: many man­u­fac­tur­ers of­ten list it sim­ply as ‘veg­etable oil’ or ‘veg­etable fat’. So you don’t get palmed off, other names to look for are: palm kern oil, ‘pal­mate’, ‘palmi­tate’, and emul­si­fiers 422, 430–436, 465–467, 470–478, 481–83, 493–495 and 570. Driven by the grow­ing health and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns around Aus­tralia about un­clear la­belling, it’s about to be­come eas­ier to spot palm oil-free prod­ucts in this coun­try. The Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion has ap­proved the Palm Oil Free Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Trade­mark, as part of the In­ter­na­tional Palm Oil Free Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Pro­gramme — so ex­pect to see the new logo pop­ping up soon.

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