It seems many of us are still falling victim to the clever marketing ploys adopted by manufacturers of margarine. Claims that margarine is 'good for your heart health' and 'helps to lower your cholesterol', not to mention the latest Meadow Lea advertisement using cute little kids to ‘guilt’ Mum's into using margarine because it's supposedly healthier than saturated fats found in natural butter?? I'm sorry to say but this is BS marketing at it's best! Not only is it and totally misleading, but it's actually scientifically incorrect and a load of rubbish, which is exactly what margarine is! To make matters worse, margarine is endorsed by the heart foundation tick, which many consumers see as an indication a food is 'healthy' - again another load of rubbish and nothing more than a deceptive and misleading form of advertising - that can actually be bought by food manufacturers. In my view the heart foundation tick should never be trusted as a reliable indicator for healthy food.
What is margarine?
Margarine is made from refined vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower and soybean oil. The process used to turn these vegetable oils from a liquid to semi solid state, to make spreadable margarine, is called ‘hydrogenation’. It’s this process that not only causes the oil to turn a blackish, grey, which they then dye yellow so we consumers will be none the wiser, but it also transforms the oils into trans-fat. Trans fats are the most dangerous fats for us to consume because they increase LDL - 'bad' cholesterol and decrease HDL, 'good' cholesterol - increasing triglycerides, lipoprotein, and inflammation - all the factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease! The trans fats in margarine and so many processed foods clog our arteries, causing stroke and heart attack, NOT the saturated fats in animal sources and unrefined coconut oil.
But some margarines have had the trans fats removed because of all the bad press, but this still does not make margarine a healthy source of fat because omega 6 polyunsaturated vegetable oils are some of the most chemically altered foods we can eat and they're contained in the majority of processed food, ranging from bottled salad dressings to mayonnaise, even biscuits and some protein powders! To make matters worse, many vegetables oils are often made from genetically modified crops - such as soy and canola, which are also heavily sprayed with dangerous levels of chemical pesticides - Roundup. Add to this scenario the fact we eat meat from animals such as chicken, pork and beef that are usually fed genetically modified, pesticide laden seeds and grains, like soy, making our overall intake of omega-6 rich oils and seeds in our diets way out of proportion, compared to the other essential fatty acid - omega 3.
The case for butter
Butter is totally natural (unless you’re buying the spreadable brands, which I advise against because they contain processed vegetable oils), made from cow’ milk. Now many of you will know that I don’t advocate drinking cows dairy, ( you can read why here) but I make an exception with all natural butter, because it has not undergone the same processing methods that cow’s milk has and because we only need to consume such a small amount of it, the same way we have ’ been eating butter for over 100,000 years.
Many people forget that vital organs, such as the heart, are covered in a layer of saturated fat – known as visceral fat - which is essential for our survival. It's only when our visceral fat levels increase from eating too much sugar, trans fats and processed vegetable oils that we develop lifestyle diseases.
Unlike margarine, butter also contains a portion of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, E K and D, essential trace minerals like selenium - a powerful antioxidant, protective against cancer, along with other healthy fatty acids like butyric, linoleic and lauric acid - which possesses potent antimicrobial and antifungal properties. (these fatty acids are also found in extra virgin coconut oil)
Another reason we were scared off butter stems from the fact it contains the supposed dreaded cholesterol! But science is finally acknowledging that cholesterol is NOT the perpetrator when it comes to heart disease, but rather inflammation is. In fact our body actually needs a certain amount of healthy cholesterol to manufacture essential Vitamin D, as well as for calcium assimilation and cortisol production – the stress response hormone.
Is Saturated Fat bad for us?
In short, no! The demonization of saturated fat began in 1953, when a Dr known as Ancel Keys, published a paper comparing saturated fat intake and heart disease mortality. His reporting skills however left a lot to be desired as he neglected to include key pieces of information which would have proven his theory completely wrong. It is only today, 60 years on, that the truth is finally starting to be revealed. As science has begun to revisit his studies and discover a totally different picture than what he reported.
Obesity only became a health issue along with coronary heart disease when a government health campaign warned us off saturated fats and onto eating supposed 'healthy' vegetable oils. Before then we were still sucking the fat from our chops and eating the chicken skin, whilst enjoying the cream off the full fat, unpasteurised milk, but now days we avoid saturated fats as though they are the plague and have replaced them with dangerous processed vegetable oils and sugar. The truth in reality, is processed vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, corn and soy along with sugar, are the real cause of obesity, cancer and coronary heart disease, NOT unprocessed saturated fats! In 1900 the amount of vegetable based oils that people consumed was basically non existent. Today, people consume, an average, of 31 kgs of vegetable oils throughout the year.
So as you can see once again there is a very large commercial vested interest in certain food products, and like soy, vegetable oils made from various seeds are big bucks and that means big marketing campaigns to educate us on the supposed health benefits of these foods. Hopefully this article clears the confusion once and for all around butter vs margarine and if you’re keeping a nasty tub of margarine in your fridge, do yourself a favour and go and hurl it into the garbage bin right now!