Are Oreos Vegan?
According to the Oreos website, no.
While the biscuits do not contain ingredients derived from animals, there is a potential for cross contamination (of milk) because of the manufacturing methods used.
So Not Vegan, But Healthy?
I think we can all agree that there is no nutrition in these biscuits.
The above is taken from the Oreos website. The biscuits are high in calories, high in fat (half in the form of saturated fats) and low in protein. They also contain large amounts of sugar. For example, a single Oreo biscuit contains 4.1 grams of sugar. Meaning there is a teaspoon of sugar in every 4 Oreos biscuits.
The biscuits also contain very low levels of fibre (great for protecting against certain digestive and bowel cancers) and no vitamins or minerals which are essential for optimal health.
Oreos and Palm Oil
Are Oreos vegan? That is a slightly contentious question. Some vegans would argue yes, as the biscuits don’t directly contain animal products. Others would argue no because of the of cross contamination.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
For me, the ingredient that absolutely makes Oreos non-vegan is palm oil.
But what is palm oil and why is it not vegan?
What is Palm Oil?
- Palm oil comes from palm fruit, which are grown on palm trees. So essentially, palm oil is a type of vegetable oil.
- It is grown in South America, North America, Asia, and Africa.
- Although grown throughout the world, palm oil is predominantly made in Malaysia and Indonesia (where 85% of all palm oil is made).
- The problem with palm oil harvesting today, is that most of the time it is produced in non-sustainable ways.
Palm Oil Environmental Impacts
- Palm Oil deforestation dramatically impacts delicate ecosystems.
- It is generally acknowledged by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, that the unsustainable palm oil industry is the main reason why 1/3rd of all mammal species in Indonesia are critically endangered.
- The species impacted most by the palm oil production is the Orangutan. In the last quarter of a century, over 90% of their habitat has been destroyed. As a result, the species is now endangered.
- But the Orangutan is only one of thousands of species that have been severely impacted through the production of palm oil.
- Palm oil production in Indonesia is the main reason that the continent is now in the top 3 greenhouse emitters in the world.
Palm Oil & The Animals
- As stated above, it’s not only the Orangutan that has been severely impacted by palm oil production. There are well over a quarter of a million species found in Indonesian rainforests that have been maimed, killed or lost their homes due to palm oil production.
- This displacement of species has directly pushed the animals into the hands of smugglers and poachers. The smuggling industry is now booming.
- The mass deforestation in Indonesia is now not only an environmental catastrophe, but also a wildlife catastrophe.
- It is estimated that over 50,000 Orangutans have died in Indonesia because of palm oil harvesting and production.
- Tigers, rhinos, elephants, monkeys and many large cat species are also facing extinction.
Palm Oil & The Locals
- Many business leaders and government officials (in Indonesia) view palm oil production as a positive. Some of the poorest regions have seen greater development than at any time in history.
- But while some areas have been developed and some people have been employed, many groups of people have been used and abused by the palm oil industry.
- The region has some of the worst human rights and child labour records in the world.
- Children have been forced into working long hours for little or no pay.
- Because plantations are now the only form of work in many regions, many locals are finding they have no choice but to work in the palm oil industries. This has enabled businesses to lower wages which has forced many families into severe poverty.
I Thought Oreos Were Using Sustainable Palm Oil?
A few years back Oreos joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) after growing pressure from some of its customers.
RSPO was formed in 2004 to promote the use of sustainable palm oil through credible global standards.
The goal was to produce palm oil that was sustainable, had a minimal environmental footprint, that protected workers’ rights and had animal rights at its heart.
So what’s the problem?
- RSPO certification allows companies to clear any forest space that isn’t deemed to have a “high conservation value (HCV)”. Therefore, large scale deforestation continues in certain areas.
- The RSPO bans companies from creating fires to clear land. This enforcement hasn’t worked. The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have released numerous maps and satellite images detailing how hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are still being burned down every year.
- The RSPO seems powerless (or not willing) to act on such blatant breaches.
- “Dirty Palm Oil” is still being traded by RSPO members because of traceability issues.
- Therefore, consumers are still buying products (such as oreos) because they believe that the palm oil is sustainable, when in reality, the RSPO’s main supply chain systems do not lead to “clean palm oil”.
For further information on the subject of “sustainable” palm oil, read this report, by Greenpeace.
Conclusion – Are Oreos Vegan?
For me its a no.
Even if I could look past the cross-contamination potential, I certainly can’t turn a blind eye to the palm oil element.
Is Bread Vegan?
The simple answer is yes. Most breads are vegan friendly. Always check those labels though.
Well-made bread (not the processed kinds found in supermarkets), is traditionally made with a few simple ingredients. Yeast, water, a very small amount of sugar, a healthy fat and flour.
Vegan Yes – But Healthy?
Is bread vegan? Mainly, yes. Is it healthy? Not so much.
It has been known for a long time that refined grains (particularly in the form of white bread) aren’t particularly healthy, beneficial or nutritious for humans.
For the last 20 years doctors, dieticians and nutritionists have advised us to consume whole grains instead.
But are whole grains really any better for us and should bread ever be categorised as healthy?
The Gluten Controversy
Bread is largely made of wheat, and wheat is predominantly made of gluten, which is a type of protein that gives bread it’s stretchy/springy quality.
Over the last 15 years there has been mounting evidence that a growing proportion of the population is particularly sensitive to gluten.
It was generally thought that it was only those with Celiac Disease that experience an immune response to gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt). But there is now growing speculation that even those with gluten sensitivity experience a certain amount of immunological damage after consuming wheat products.
There have been a number of controlled trials (study, study) in the last decade that have demonstrated that gluten has the propensity to damage the digestive tract, even in those without Celiac disease. The immunological response can cause symptoms such as tiredness, pain, bloating and irregular bowel movements.
I always believe there is no smoke without fire. Most bread contains gluten and we know gluten has the propensity to trigger an immune response in certain individuals who have a susceptibility. So if you have unexplained symptoms of tiredness, digestive pains, bloating or even anxiety or depression, then seek medical advice. The only real way to establish whether you have a gluten sensitivity is to remove gluten from your diet for a period of 30 days and then reintroduce foods containing gluten to see if your body reacts (but this should be under the supervision of an experienced professional).
The Toxic Ingredients of Bread
The reality may be that Gluten is actually the lessor of two evils. The real dangers of bread may actually come from some of its unsavoury ingredients:
- Artificial Flavours & Colours: Obviously these vary in usage from country to country. Artificial flavours and colours are also normally derived from petroleum. And many of these additives have been linked to health issues in children such as allergies, asthma and hyperactivity.
- Preservatives: All foods are supposed to be eaten fresh, and bread is no exception. Steer clear of any breads that contain preservatives. A common one in a lot of countries is calcium propionate. Again, this has been linked to child health problems such as ADHD.
- Refined Sugars:This can be an ingredient that is incredibly difficult to spot, even in breads that are marketed as “low sugar” and “healthy”. Some common household breads contain as much as 2-3 grams of sugar per slice. The World Health Organisation advises that we should consume no more than 6 grams a day. There is also the contentious issue in some countries that the sugar used is derived from GMO sugar beets.
- Dough Conditioners: In traditional bread making techniques these would never have been used. They have literally been introduced so that manufacturers can speed up the manufacturing process and maximise profit. Many dough conditioners are derived from extracting fat from corn or soybean oil and then manipulating it with other ingredients. Some common examples (and also ones that have been banned) include: sodium stearoyl lactylate, monoglycerides, azodicarbonamide and DATEM.
- GMOs: Thankfully these haven’t made their way into the UK yet (but I am sure it’s only a matter of time). A lot of countries (especially the U.S.) use multiple GMO ingredients in the production of household breads. GMO soy flour, corn oil and soybean oil are all common. GMO use is clearly a contentious issue. The issue for me is that there have never been any long term tests on humans that assess the health impacts. And the argument that GMO’s are safer because no pesticides are used is incorrect. Some GMO’s are actually engineered by inserting toxic pesticides into the seed. This then causes the insects stomach to explode when trying to eat the crop.
Nutritional Profile of Bread
Bread is really just empty calories. It contains only low levels of vitamins and minerals. High levels of sugar. Low levels of protein. Often high amounts of unhealthy fats. High amounts of salt. And not much else.
But what about whole grain bread, I hear you cry? Well, it’s not much better I’m afraid.
While whole grains offer slightly more vitamins and minerals than processed grains, whole grain bread will contain higher levels of phytic acid, so it will potentially block any increased nutritional profile.
Is bread vegan? Is bread healthy? It can be. Why not try one of these healthy recipes?
Deliciously Ella: Date & Pecan Loaf
Plant Based Judy: Date & Pecan Loaf
Vegan Corner: Gluten Free Buns
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Are Skittles vegan? Technically yes (but always read labels as ingredients can change without warning).
So what’s the problem?
While skittles don’t contain animal products (and some would argue this constitutes vegan), some of its other ingredients directly harm and encroach upon animal habitats around the world (which is not vegan).
There is also our health to consider. Skittles contain very high levels of sugar. They also contain Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil and a fair few different food colourings, all of which are directly linked to a number of our leading diseases (which I detail below).
So in a bit more detail, let’s delve into why I’m not a big fan of Skittles. Either as a vegan. Or as someone who values their health.
Skittles Nutrition Profile
A regular pack of Skittles contains 250 calories. It also contains 56 grams of carbohydrates (46 of which are sugars) and 2.5 grams of saturated fat (13% RDA). They also contain 20mg of sodium.
Basically they are just empty calories. No protein. No fibre. No vitamins. No nutrients. No nutrition.
The World Health Organisation recently provided an advisory that says that we should limit our intake of processed sugars to 6 teaspoons a day in an attempt to reduce obesity and its associated diseases. Just to put that into perspective, a bag of skittles contains approximately 11.5 teaspoons.
Skittles Ingredients Overview
Wrigley (owned by Mars Incorporated) produce Skittles and according to their website , Skittles Original contain the following ingredients:
INGREDIENTS: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, less than 2% of: Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake), Sodium Citrate, Carnauba Wax.
As you can see from the ingredients list, Skittles mainly consist of hydrogenated oil, sugar, corn syrup and a lot of food colourings.
Most organisations around the world, including the World Health Organisation recommend that as part of a healthy diet, the intake of refined sugars, corn syrup and hydrogenated oils should be limited because of the associated health impacts.
From the ingredients list you can see that Wrigley’s use a plethora of different food colourings. In Skittles Originals the following are used: Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake).
Why is this a problem? Well there is mounting evidence from leading scientists around the world, that these chemicals have a direct link to many of today’s leading diseases. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and even certain skin conditions such as eczema.
Food Colourings – Child Hyperactivity and ADHD
During the 1970’s, Dr Ben Fenigold (who was then Chief of Paediatrics in the U.S.), was discredited and ridiculed after he suggested that food colourings used in many common foods could have a disastrous impact on a child’s developing nervous system. He also suggested that this would then have a direct effect on a child’s mood, personality and behaviour.
Many scientists (mainly funded by the food industry) and large food and drinks manufacturers (such as Cocoa Cola) put pressure on the medical establishment to disregard Dr Fenigold’s findings. The medical community ruled in favour of the $200 billion dollar a year industry and it seemed like the argument had been settled. But the truth always has a way of coming out.
Just a few years ago, a leading publication in one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world reignited the argument. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed a direct link between food colourings and hyperactivity, ADHD and impulsivity in children who consumed certain food colours and chemicals. Since the study, there has been increased calls to ban or regulate artificial colourings in foods.
Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil
One of the other problematic ingredients in Skittles is palm oil. It is one of the leading causes of deforestation on the planet (although it is dwarfed by animal agriculture). It causes mass environmental destruction and displaces and kills many animals around the world. So while animal products are not contained in skittles, there is an indirect link to the harm and killing of different species around the world.