Everyone likes to make sure they’re cooking is healthy. We now have all the information we need to understand what is good for us and what is not. Fat is not good in excess, and we need to involve vegetables in our cooking that have plenty of nutrients, protein and more. The days of cooking with lard or butter when frying are long gone. Today’s cook will use shortening.
What is shortening, and why are we talking about palm shortening especially? Well, to be honest, lard is shortening, as shortening is simply fat. However, some forms of shortening are healthier than others. Palm shortening is among the most popular of all, so let’s talk about what’s good about it, and what’s not so good.
What is Palm Shortening?
Palm shortening is one of many types of fruit or vegetable shortening. Palm shortening is made by processing both the fruit and the kernel of the palm tree. It is produced mainly in Malaysia and Indonesia, and is among the most widely used cooking oils in the world. Palm shortening has an entirely neutral flavor – although I can be found with flavoring added – hence its popularity.
Is palm shortening healthy? The simple answer is yes. The fat content may be full, yet it is a vegetable fat that, during processing, has had much of the unsaturated fat removed. This gives it a solid yet malleable form with very little water content and long shelf life.
So, why is there controversy about palm shortening? In Malaysia and Indonesia there are simply massive palm plantations where the plants are grown, and the harvesting takes place. There is great concern that, to extend these plantations, great areas of tropical forest are being destroyed. This is happening across the world for various reasons, and many thousands of species of animals are losing their natural habitat.
There is also a problem of child labor, with small children working alongside their parents on the plantations. These problems have led to many people moving away from palm shortening to the available substitutes for palm shortening which we will look at next.
Alternatives to Palm Shortening
The act of destroying tropical forests is having a massive effect on the world as we know it, and this problem is not just related to palm harvesting. There are many other industries that contribute, but it’s the manufacture of palm shortening that concerns us here. There is no doubt that all vegetable shortening is healthier than butter or lard – which are two of the main alternatives – but there are more that are far more ecologically friendly types of shortening.
Coconut oil is a viable alternative to palm shortening. Made from the dried nut of the coconut tree and harvested in an eco-friendly manner, it is also considered a weight loss aid. However, what coconut oil will do is add its distinctive flavour to the food you are cooking. This is not acceptable for some people who prefer to use olive oil. Olive oil comes highly recommended for cooking and is also a healthy substance, harvested from the fruit of the olive tree. So, should you use palm shortening?
The concerns surrounding palm shortening and how it is manufactured and harvested are very real, yet it is a great product for cooking and a healthy one to. We do recommend that, should you wish to do your bit for the planet while cooking, you move away from palm shortening and perhaps use either coconut or olive oil as an alternative. We hope this article has helped you find the best solution, so enjoy your healthy cooking.