A recent report about palm oil, an ingredient in Nutella, is causing a collective freak out. We spoke to a nutrition expert for the truth.
At the moment, the internet is collectively freaking out about Nutella. Why, you ask? Because Nutella contains palm oil, a controversial refined vegetable oil that has been getting a lot of attention lately—and not in a good way.
Last May, the European Food Safety Authority released a report stating that palm oil was found to contain high levels of glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), which may be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. GE, along with other substances that the report deems as potentially harmful, are produced during the oil refining process because of exposure to extreme heat. As we already know, refined foods aren't usually the healthiest options out there, but the production of possible cancer-causing substances is especially concerning. (Related: 6 "Healthy" Ingredients You Should Never Eat)
Recently, the company that manufactures Nutella, Ferrero, defended their use of palm oil. "Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward," a company representative told Reuters.
Should you worry? "The risk of potential health complications due to contaminants found in palm oil is extremely low," says Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University. "The science is very new and emerging, which is why none of the authoritative scientific bodies (like the FDA) have recommended against consuming palm oil at this time.”
Plus, Ferrero claims they don't heat the oil high enough to produce these carcinogenic substances anyway. Phew. (But BTW, you can still make your own hazelnut spread if you prefer.)
Keep in mind that palm oil is high in saturated fat, though, so it's best to consume in moderation. Other foods that commonly contain palm oil are peanut butter, ice cream, and packaged bread. "The nutrition science community agrees that saturated fat should be consumed in moderation and limited to less than 10 percent of calories per day," says Wallace.
So maybe don't eat an entire jar at once, but don't stress about a little Nutella crepe every now and then. “Palm oil is definitely not at the top of the list for things to cut back on,” says Wallace. “Overconsumption, not exercising, and resulting obesity have a much stronger and proven link to adverse health outcomes than palm oil,” says Wallace.