Back in January, on a Sunday night, my husband and I were relaxing before the start of a new week and the Chris Packham program, In Search of The Lost Girl, came on BBC 2. Now, to be honest, this wasn’t a program we would have chosen to watch; it just came on after the program we were watching had finished. Luckily for us, we started watching it and were consumed by the extent of devastation to the Sumatra Rainforest that had been caused to make way for Palm Oil plantations. On the one hand we could see that from a economy viewpoint Sumatra needs to sell Palm Oil, however, we could not reconcile this with the cost of losing the Rainforest. At the end of the program, Chris Packham mentioned could we live without Palm Oil and it got me thinking; Could we?
If you take out of the equation, Palm Oil in make up and beauty/cleaning products and looked at it from a purely food and nutrition viewpoint, could living without palm oil be done? Nutritionally, Palm Oil contains saturated fat and it contains as much saturated fat as butter. Palm Oil is a vegetable Oil and is generally liquid at room temperature, and is considered unhealthy and generally bad news for your arteries and heart and overall health, if you had too much. So, firstly, cutting back on it at the very least, is advisable.
If you go around the Supermarket, below is a list of general products that contain Palm Oil or one of its derivatives, as the food industry only has to volunteer the information that palm oil is used. They may only say vegetable fat, as Palm Oil is technically a vegetable fat:
Frozen Pizza / Pizza Dough
Spreads such as Nut butters and chocolate spread
Pre packed bread
Here is how Palm Oil can appear on the ingredients list:
Vegetable Oil, Palm, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol
It isn’t all bad news, you don’t have to start thinking, how do I make chocolate spread and what about my baked beans, I can’t live without my margarine or biscuits!. Generally, baked beans don’t contain palm oil, I get the low sugar and salt Sainsbury own brand and that is Palm Oil free.
There are brands out there that are Palm Oil free, Meridan do a range of nut butters that are Palm Oil free and as for Chocolate spread and bread? Well, keep reading; here are my tips and recipes:
Make your own bread and Pizza dough. Apart from being better for you, once you get into it is very therapeutic to make your own. Plus, make your own pizza with the family and the kids get to choose their own toppings. Homemade Pizza also tastes much nicer!
Make your own nut butters and chocolate spreads. It is surprisingly easier than you expect. Chocolate spread is effectively cocoa powder, coconut oil or vegetable oil such as sunflower or rapeseed oil, roasted hazelnuts. That is it. Commercial suppliers also add sugar in. You don’t need to. I have made chocolate spread at home with cashew nuts as I had run out of hazelnuts and it worked! All you do is roast your hazelnuts or cashews in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 C / 160 Fan and then chuck them in the blender with the other ingredients and whizz it up.
Ice Cream. Remember those bananas going brown in the corner of the fruit bowl. Peel them and put them in a freezer bag and place them in the freezer in packs of three. For a quick ice cream, get out your blender and the frozen bananas and get creating. Try banana and chocolate or banana and strawberries. You could do a bounty inspired ice cream with chocolate and dessicated coconut. Whizz them all up in the blender, place in a freezable container and put back in the freezer. For added sweetness add in some honey. You don’t have to have bananas. Get the packs of frozen fruit, strawberries, blueberries etc. Whizz these up with some honey and place in a container and freeze. Hey presto homemade sorbet.
Get baking with the kids and experiment with different biscuits, homemade muffins. Baking will be messy and you may well find it stressful as the kids start trying redecorate the kitchen with flour, but you can create your own biscuits that are healthy and tasty. Try replacing the sugar with grated carrots or dates soaked water.
Margarine. This is more difficult, however, there are some margarine products that state on the label that whilst their product contains palm oil, it comes from a sustainable source.
If you end up having one of those days, then more and more companies are now using sustainable palm oil. They will put this on their label.
So, can we live without Palm Oil. Maybe we can’t entirely, but we can be more savvy about it and also read the label carefully. With careful planning and a bit more experimenting in the kitchen may be we can reduce the Palm Oil intake, at least in the short term.
Homemde Pizza (the dough can also be used to make your own bread)
450 g Strong White Bread Flour or Italian 00 Pasta Flour
300 ml water
10g fast acting yeast
25ml Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt
Splash Olive Oil
2 x 400g tin tomatoes
1 onion finely chopped
1 tsp mixed herbs
Any of your choice
Plus handful of mozzarella or Ricotta
Makes 2 x 30 cm pizzas
Place the flour in a bowl fitted with a dough hook. Put the salt one side of the bowl.
Add the yeast to the other side of the bowl. Mix at a slow speed until you achieve a dough texture.
Add the oil and water knead slowly for a further 5 – 10 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, you can use your hands. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes.
Cover and let it prove for 1 hour.
Shape your pizzas and get creating!
Add the oil to a saucepan and add the onions and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes.
Add the tins of tomatoes and herbs and let it simmer for 15 minutes
Once ready, put on top of your shaped Pizza dough. If there is any left over, you can freeze this and use next time.
Add your choice of toppings and finish off with the cheese
Bake in the oven at 220 C / 200 fan / 425 F / Gas 7 for 20 minutes or until nice and golden and bubbling on top.
To make your own bread, skip the sauce and topping part. Once your bread has proven for 1 hour, knead again for a couple of minutes. Shape and then place on a baking tray or place in a 2lb greased loaf tin. Leave to prove again for 30 minutes and then bake in the oven as above. The bread is ready once it sounds hollow when you tap the underneath part.
If you want any more information, please get in contact with Ridgeway Nutrition.