Dying for a Cookie: Seemingly Harmless Foods That Aren't

Michael Pollan's first food rule is simple: Eat Food, which he considers to be a different thing than what he calls edible foodlike substances, or "highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted."

1. Palm Oil

Many of those substances are bad for our health, bad for our planet and show up in really surprising places. One of the most blatant examples is palm oil, which is now found in just about everything; almost every product that screams "TRANSFAT FREE!" got that way by substituting palm oil for hydrogenated vegetable oil. the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute warns:

Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol the most. Over time, this extra cholesterol can clog your arteries. You are then at risk for having a heart attack or stroke... A high content of saturated fat can be found in some foods that come from plants such as: palm kernel oil, palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter.

Palm Oil Plantations Store Even Less Carbon Than We Thought, New Study Shows


But a real problem, along with habitat destruction, is that the palm oil plantations store far less carbon than genuine forest, which means they were probably better left intact than converted to agriculture.

More in TreeHugger

Only One-Sixth of European Retailers Showing Sustainable Palm Oil Progress


There is some sustainably produced palm oil, enough to supply one-third of Europe's demand. (The issue is barely on the radar in America) but companies do not appear to be living up to their commitments because it costs about 35% more than the regular rainforest-destroying stuff.

More in TreeHugger

Get Palm Oil Out of Your Breakfast Cereal: Contact General Mills Today


Care2 was running a petition to get palm oil out of General Mills products, claiming "Palm oil is a common ingredient in General Mills brands and products, from Betty Crocker and Pillsbury to Nature Valley Granola Bars and Yogurt Burst Cheerios"

More in Planet Green

Rainforest Destroying Palm Oil Hiding in Far More Products Than Previously Thought


In the UK about 40% of manufactured food contains palm oil.

It's in the top three loaves - Warburtons, Hovis, and Kingsmill - and the bestselling margarines Flora and Clover. It's in Special K, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Mr Kipling Cakes, McVitie's Digestives and Goodfella's pizza. It's in KitKat, Galaxy, Dairy Milk and Wrigley's chewing gum. It's in Persil washing powder, Comfort fabric softener and Dove soap. It's also in plenty of famous brands that aren't in the top 100, such as Milkybar, Jordan's Country Crisp and Utterly Butterly. And it's almost certainly in thousands of supermarket own brands. Yet none of these manufacturers can prove their supply is "sustainable".


More in TreeHugger

Everything connects: How getting rid of trans-fats kills orangutans


Almost all cheap ramen noodles, staple of students and treehuggers, are full of it.

More in TreeHugger

More Seemingly Harmless Foods that Aren't

Tags: Bisphenol A | Michael Pollan