Healthy Food Guide (Australia)


- 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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