Setting the record straight: Butter versus margarine
An ad came on the telly the other night during breaks in The Biggest Loser (my fave show on TV at the moment) that made me so angry I found myself booing and flipping the TV set the bird. Now this is not how I like to act considering I’m supposed to be all about promoting peace and serenity and all that, but these particular ads just gets on my nerves that much. The ads I’m talking about are the ones promoting the use of margarine instead of butter. They claim that butter is bad for your heart and arteries because it is made from cholesterol-raising saturated fat. According to the doctor they’ve employed to deliver the message via these ads, margarine is the better option because it is made from plant oils. This would be fair enough if it were at all true. But it’s not. I blame Fabio and his whole “I can’t believe it’s not butter” charade. Fabio, you may have some luscious locks, but you know nothing about nutrition.
When it comes to choosing something to spread on bread I am more inclined to promote natural vegan products like avocado, tahini and hummus over butter, but when you are comparing butter with margarine there is really no competition. Butter, even though it is a saturated animal fat, is the far superior option. Margarine, on the other hand, is said to be one molecule away from plastic.
The fallacy began with the introduction of the low-fat campaign. As saturated fat was heavily demonised, butter was completely banished. When butter was no longer a welcome addition to the table, food manufacturers had to come up with something to replace it. So, they hit the lab and created partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or margarine as it’s known to the lay consumer.
Margarine is made by a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogen molecules are forced into oil molecules through the use of high heat, high pressure and toxic catalysts such as nickel. However, in the absence of saturated fats, margarine contains something called trans fats, which are now known to cause heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and other degenerative diseases. In addition, trans fats have been linked with lower birth weight of babies as well as declined fertility. On the other hand, people have been successfully eating butter for around eight or 10 thousand years. It is an animal product and should be used sparingly if you do choose to eat it, but it’s a heck of a lot better for you than trans fats.
More things you may not know about margarine:
• Margarine is typically made from cheap, poor quality oils that have already turned rancid – because the oils had been extracted from oil seeds using high temperature, and high temperature damages oil, causing rancidity.
• Some of the oils used in making margarine, such as cottonseed oil, are not suitable for human consumption in the first place because they contain naturally toxic substances.
• At the end of the hydrogenation process, the resulting margarine is grey and smell – certainly not something you want to accompany your sandwich. To counteract this problem, the product is bleached and deodorised, artificially flavoured and dyed yellow.
And this is something certain doctors on the telly are promoting as healthy! Can you understand now why I was so angry at these marg-promoting, butter-bashing TV ads?
It comes down to this: Margarine should never, ever be consumed. Butter is better, because at least it is a natural product. If you choose to eat butter, go for an organic brand made from the milk of grass-fed cows. However, an even better option would be to go for a natural plant-based spread like avocado, tahini, hummus, coconut oil or olive oil.
Have you seen these ads on TV lately? Have you ever been fooled into believing margarine is a healthy option?
Positive affirmation for the day: Every step I take is an achievement. Every setback I experience is a lesson. Either way, I am always improving.
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