Demystifying the Delicious: Coconut vs. Palm Oil
Coconut oil is nothing new, many people have been using it for skin care, hair care, and cooking for quite some time, but recently coconut oil has seen a renaissance, showing up in more and more stores and at the top of many conversations. But what is the big deal with coconut oil? As it turns out there is a great deal of goodness that goes along with this coconut byproduct. Not only is it what makes the inside of Alter Eco chocolate truffles so smooth and creamy, but it’s also a sustainable alternative to palm kernel oil, containing health promoting properties, and versatility in the kitchen.
Palm oil in its purest form is not detrimental to health, but the way it is produced and harvested is detrimental to the environment and the local economies it envelops. Its popularity has increased due to the fact that it is a high yielding crop, is versatile and has low production cost. Today Indonesia is the number one producer and exporter of palm oil in the world and it is wreaking havoc on their land and the larger environment. The World Wildlife Fund has reported that an area approximately the size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to create more space for palm oil production. But at what price? According to the World Bank, Indonesia is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter globally due to the fact that it has the highest rate of deforestation in the world. The high rate of deforestation is jeopardizing the lives of animal species that are vital to the ecosystem, such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinoceros, sun bears, and pygmy elephants.
As a result of its low cost and high demand, palm oil has become pervasive in all kinds of products including shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, packaged foods and cosmetics. Unfortunately, palm oil is rarely clearly labeled on an ingredients list, so avoiding it at the grocery store can be difficult. In fact, there are more than 170 different names that manufacturers use on their packaging to avoid saying the words “palm oil”. Taking a look at your shower products, almost anything that foams contains sodium laureth sulfate, which is often derived from palm oil. And it can often be hidden under the generic term, “vegetable oil”. According to USDA data the US alone has doubled the amount of palm oil it has imported between 2005 and 2012. The average Western citizen consumes over 22 pounds of palm oil annually.
As a renewable resource, coconut oil has become a much more sustainable alternative to palm oil. Coconut trees can grow in almost any soil, even in sandy coastal soils, and can bear fruit for more than sixty years, allowing farming families to sustain their crop through 3 generations. Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) on India’s Malabar Coast has been sustainably harvesting coconut since 2005. This farmer-owned co-op practices jaiva krishi, a sustainable farming method that mimics virgin rainforest, where many crops grow harmoniously together, and many animal species — including wild elephants — roam safely.
Fair Trade Alliance Kerala is the source of the pure, organic coconut oil found in Alter Eco’s chocolate truffles. Once the coconuts have been harvested, split, the meat dried, ground, and pressed this lauric-acid rich oil is the perfect complement to antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. Deep dark smooth chocolate surrounds these sumptuous bite-sized delights. And pure coconut oil, combined with milk and cacao creates the silky-smooth, melty filling. But beyond making our truffles delectable coconut oil is great to use in your own kitchen (if you aren’t already). There are two types of coconut oil you will find in the store: virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil has a stronger coconut aroma and imparts a more noticeable coconut flavor in cooking, whereas refined coconut oil is better for cooking at higher temperatures and has a less pronounced coconut flavor. Whether sautéing vegetables or baking, coconut oil is a great ingredient to have on hand in the kitchen and try in a variety of ways. Or you could always just eat a truffle.