Our Junk Food Habit is Bad News for Forests


A new study published in the journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, found that vast amounts of valuable tropical forests are being deforested each year to produce vegetable oils that end up in many unhealthy, nutrient-deficient snack foods. Some prominent foods on this list include: cookies, ice cream, candy, and many processed snacks like potato chips. The findings in the report strengthen the connection between what we eat, our health, and the overall health of our environment.

The data’s implications are staggering. If we continue to purchase and consume junk food at current levels, we’ll need “an additional 5 million to 9.3 million hectares (12.3 million to 23 million acres) of soybean land and about 0.5 to 1.3 million hectares (1.2 million to 3.2 million acres) of additional oil palm land.” That would be disastrous for our tropical forests and, likely, the global environment as well.

One such product that you may be familiar with due to more recent news coverage, palm oil, is now the most consumed oil in America. This oil is mostly found in candy and snack food products found across the U.S., and it has proven to be disastrous for ecosystems and wildlife. Luckily, there are alternatives, but this is why the non-profit organization, Rainforest Action Network, is calling on 20 snack food companies to eliminate unsustainable palm oil from its products.

Thankfully, there is a solution. Choose to eat healthy, locally produced, and sustainable food. The quicker we cut unhealthy junk food from our diets, the better, as this will decrease the need for supply.

Nithin is an eecosphere Impact Mill and freelance writer who focuses on cultural, economic, and environmental issues in developing countries with an aim at building channels of communication and collaboration around common challenges. He alternates between a home in California and working on social projects in Africa and Asia.