Flora, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Country Crock, Imperial, Brummel & Brown, Promise, Becel, Rama, and Blue Band, the refrigerated section at any supermarket is full of these non-butter margarine products.
Even though sales of Margarine are falling, millions of people around the world are still buying (and eating) this processed junk on a regular basis.
After hearing how a new client of mine was still buying margarine for his family I knew it was time to speak out. If you are serious about your health you should stop consuming margarine asap.
If you want to know why read on.
Below I have listed 11 reasons why you need to avoid margarine.
Margarine is primarily made up from a vegetable oil base. Depending on the particular brand, this vegetable oil may be soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil or one of many other vegetable oil derivations.
Vegetable oils are predominantly made up of polyunsaturated fats, also known as PUFA's. These types of fats are easily oxidised (through heat and light) and oxidised PUFA's have been shown to cause A LOT of health problems when ingested. I explore this problem in depth in my article PUFA's: The Worst Thing For Your Health That You Eat Everyday.
If you are using margarine for cooking, frying or simply heating it in general, you are increasing the likelihood of oxidising these extremely sensitive fatty acids. However, even if you're not heating margarine, due to the heating treatment in the manufacturing process, the damage may already be done.
Vegetable oils are also high in the omega 6 form of PUFAs. High consumption of omega 6 fats is linked to all sorts of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, IBS and arthritis.
Spreadable Canola - Harmful for Health
One of the main reasons people continue to buy margarine is due to the belief that saturated fats are bad. This is misconception has been proven numerous times by health experts and research studies. I personally cover the topic in more detail in my article - 9 Reasons Why Your Doctor Is Wrong About Fat
However, the fact that saturated fats aren't harmful, and are in fact beneficial to our health is still far from being mainstream wisdom. Margarine manufacturers exploit society's ignorance on this topic and continue to market their 'low in saturated fat' margarine products as healthy.
Meanwhile, instead of containing the beneficial saturated fats as found in margarine superior alternative butter, margarine products are extremely high in damaging fats such as polyunsaturated fats and trans fats.
Saturated Fat = Not So Bad Afterall
High levels of polyunsaturated fat aren't the only issue with margarine fatty acid profile. Margarine products can contain large amounts of extremely damaging Trans Fats.
Trans Fats are man-made fatty acids that are formed during the process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation turns liquid vegetable oils into solid fats.
These newly formed fats are highly toxic and their consumption is linked to cardiovascular problems, including heart disease, elevated inflammation, insulin resistance, infertility and diabetes (1).
Although the amount of trans fats in margarine products has been drastically reduced over the years, it is still common to find these toxic fats in margarine products. Though food labeling rules allow products to state that they contain 'zero trans fats' if there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving.
Meanwhile, the US Food & Drug Association determined that man-made trans fats are unsafe at ANY level. (2)
Unlike butter, margarine lacks essential nutrients like vitamin A and K. Butter is actually rich in fat-soluble vitamins, and the healthier the cow the more nutrient dense the butter will be. Some of these nutrients actually protect us from heart disease.
Natural vitamin A, for instance, is important for thyroid and cardiovascular health.
Butter also contains the antioxidant vitamin E, this can protect against damaging PUFA fats in the diet.
As margarine is derived from heavily processed vegetable oils, the end product is void of such nutrients. Some margarine manufacturers now fortify their products with synthetic forms of vitamins like Vit A, and D.
However, with this manipulation comes problems. Synthetic vitamin A can have a detrimental effect on the body.(3)
Energy wise, butter and margarine are very similar and both contain similar amounts of 'total fat'. But once you go beyond the macro level and look at the micronutrient differences you will clearly see that butter is a make more nutrient-rich food source, not to mention it's fatty acid profile that is far more stable than that of margarine.
This from Margarine manufacturer Flora:
"We then add valuable ingredients to the vegetable oils such as vitamins (A, D and E) that can only be carried by fat, as they are fat soluble.
Vegetable oils and fats are the basis of all Flora products.
Many vegetable oils, of which Flora margarine is made, are naturally rich in vitamin E. In addition, food legislators in many countries ask us to fortify our margarines with vitamins A and D because they are a simple and healthy daily source of nutrition. Carotenoids, known as the components that give colour to carrots, tomatoes and pumpkin, are added to give margarine its deep and rich yellow colour. Selected flavourings give margarine its subtle, pleasant taste. To ensure freshness, a commonly used food preservative called potassium sorbate is sometimes added."
We know that margarine is derived from vegetable oils from plants such as safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed.
Unfortunately, many of these crops are genetically modified organisms. Sure, production yields are higher as a result (meaning lower prices for the consumer) but from a health point of view, this is highly alarming.
GMO crops are designed to be toxic to pests while also being resistant to commercial weed killers like Roundup. This means the farmer can simply spray the crops with weed killer and know that the crops will continue to grow while the weeds and pests all die off.
As a result, toxins like glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) make their way into our diet through the consumption of these GMO, roundup resistant crops. Glyphosate consumption is linked to an ever-growing list of health problems and environmental problems (4).
One way to avoid GMO and glyphosate consumption in your diet is to choose organic and GMO-free products. But doing that does not remedy the other 10 dangers around margarine consumption.
For more on this, read my 3 part series on glyphosate HERE.
Making butter is a simple process. Milk from a cow is pasteurised (though this can be skipped if you are happy with raw milk), the cream is skimmed from the top, the cream is then churned and butter is formed. You can do this yourself at home with nothing but a beater.
With margarine, the process is more complex and requires advanced technology
Margarine Manufacture Process. Source: PreventDisease.com
Getting oils from a vegetable is a lot more difficult that extracting the cream from milk. Vegetable oil extraction requires a lot of heat and extreme pressure. Both processes do a lot of damage to the easily oxidised PUFAs stored within the seed oil.
A lot of these extracted oils are very toxic in their refined state. Natural cottonseeds, for example, create potassium deficiency and infertility if consumed (5).
To remove these toxins, manufacturers process the oils with chemicals - fixing one problem but introducing another. The vegetable oils are treated with the solvent hexane. Along with hexane, bleaches and deodorizers are used to remove bad flavours, colors and smells. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil has an off grey colour in its natural state. As this is rather unappealing for a food product, manufacturers add yellow coloring to the margarine.
Hydrogenation is a chemical processed used to increase the melting point of the product. Effectively it makes margarine solid at higher temperatures, otherwise, it would simply melt to liquid minutes after being removed from the fridge.
The vegetable oils are hydrogenated by passing hydrogen through the product while in the presence of a metal catalyst agent.
This hydrogenation process alters molecules in the oil and can create trans fats. The body cannot easily process these newly formed molecules and this is a big reason why man-made trans fats are so damaging to the body.
All of this to ensure that margarine doesn't melt seconds after being removed from the fridge. Fats that contain higher levels of saturated fats (like butter and coconut oil) have a higher melting point in their natural state.
We already looked at the dangers of synthetic vitamins that are often added to margarine products, but these aren't the only chemicals added before shipping the product.
Preservatives are added to the man-made margarine product to ensure that longer shelf stable times. Butylated hydroxytoluene (or BHT) is regularly used in vegetable oil derived products to achieve this.
BHT is often touted as a being 'safe', but there are numerous studies on BHT that show otherwise. A 1984 study found that consumption promoted bladder cancer in rats (6).
Meanwhile, a 1988 study found that BHT was toxic and tumour promoting (7).
Given the potential risks to BHT it is better to avoid consumption and be safe than sorry.
Sterols - also known as steroid alcohols - occur naturally in plants and animals. They have cholesterol lowering effects on humans.
Margarine marketers are well aware that many of their customers are (wrongly) concerned about saturated fat and cholesterol. The manufacturers and marketers exploit this unwarranted fear and add plant sterols to their margarine products, in turn promoting the 'cholesterol lowering' properties of their product.
This would be great if lowering cholesterol was the key to decreased cardiovascular risk, but it's not (please read THIS). Worse, though, is the potential hormonal impact these plant sterols have on the body.
Consumption of these sterols could reduce the body's levels of antioxidants and carotenoids - leading to cancer and birth defects (some countries require foods that contain cholesterol-lowering plant sterols to carry and advisory warning because of this risk). There have also been animal studies that have shown the consumption of plant sterols lead to endocrine issues and infertility (8).
I cannot see any reason why you would consume margarine. You couldn't pay me to eat the stuff, yet millions of people continue to pay for this poison on a daily basis.
If your logic for avoiding butter and buying margarine is due to the fear around saturated fat and cholesterol, please look into the 'cholesterol myth'. Even then if you decide that butter isn't for you, I highly recommend seeking out another natural alternative (use coconut oil or even olive oil) instead of the heavily processed margarine products.
Society is literally brainwashed by marketing campaigns. If you are making health decisions based on TV commercials then need to understand your health is being exploited for your precious dollar.
If making 'healthy' eating and shopping decisions is difficult or overwhelming, simply apply this rule to your decision-making process - did my great grandma eat this as a child? If the answer is 'No', then there is a good probability that the food product is not the best for your health.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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