I haven’t had margarine since I was probably 10 years old and I have my mum to thank for that. Mum was a passionate listener of ABC radio and one afternoon, she had heard a leading oncologist speak about how margarine was one of the first foods he would remove from the diet of his breast cancer patients. This oncologist was ahead of his time (this was over 17 years ago), he explained why he took such “drastic measures” and he also explained his incredible rates of recovery. Being the mother of 3 girls, that afternoon mum decided she was not gambling on her daughters’ health and marched right into the kitchen and through the margarine in the bin. From that moment on she swore she would never have it in our house and whilst we resisted for a week or so, we were forced to make the switch. I cannot thank her enough. 17 years on, not a single one of us has considered reverting back to margarine, not once.
I never really looked into how or why this oncologist made these claims, but after many discussions with clients of late, I thought it was time to put pen to paper.
WHAT’S IN MARGARINE?
Margarine is typically made from a range of vegetables oils, milk, salt, emulsifiers, colours, flavours, preservatives, food acid, maltodextrin, vitamins A and D amongst other things. To some people this might sound OK – vegetable oils, vitamins with a few “less desirables” but hey, what are you going to do? We all know we need less additives, preservatives, colours and flavours, but what about the big players in this process?
When these companies refer to vegetable oils, know that the following oils fall under that heading:
- Palm Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Canola Oil
- Peanut Oil
Whilst the term “vegetable oil” may sound harmless, unlike olive oil (that’s squeezed from crushed olives), most vegetable oils undergo a long and arduous process that makes the product palatable for sale. Let’s use Canola oil as an example. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation experts Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, the process of preparing canola oil for sale is as follows:
“Like all modern vegetable oils, canola oil goes through the process of refining, bleaching and degumming — all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety. And because canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which easily become rancid and foul-smelling when subjected to oxygen and high temperatures, it must be deodorised. The standard deodorisation process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids. Although the Canadian government lists the trans content of canola at a minimal 0.2 percent, research at the University of Florida at Gainesville, found trans levels as high as 4.6 percent in commercial liquid oil. The consumer has no clue about the presence of trans fatty acids in canola oil because they are not listed on the label.”
Trans fats are the ones we want to avoid. Why? Firstly, they have been linked to inflammation and calcification of arteries, which are well-established risk factors for coronary heart disease. High levels of trans fats have also been linked with breast cancer (turns out that oncologist was right all along :)) as well as pre-eclampsia, obesity, colon cancer, diabetes, allergy and more.
But what about trans-fat free margarine? Well, this is where it all get’s a little science-based BUT according to McGill University in Canada:
“A liquid fat that has mostly unsaturated fatty acids connected to its glycerol backbone is mixed with a solid fat such as glyceryl tristearate. The solid fat can be made by total hydrogenation of a vegetable oil such as soybean oil. Total hydrogenation gets rid of all the double bonds and does not produce any trans fats”
In short, the oil is once again, heavily processed to produce a spreadable option. It’s not real food.
Emulsifiers are used to combine two ingredients that normally don’t mix together, i.e. oil and water or oil and vinegar. Emulsifiers are used frequently in food manufacturing to stabilise processed foods.
What are the health effects? One study suggests emulsifiers have the potential to damage the intestinal barrier, leading to inflammation and increasing our risk of chronic disease.
Another study discovered that feeding mice common emulsifiers resulted in an altered gut microbiome, with reduced numbers of bacteria considered beneficial to health, and increased levels of inflammation-promoting microbes. The research also discovered that once healthy mice who had been fed emulsifiers ate more food and gained more weight (especially body fat), had higher blood sugar levels and were resistant to the action of insulin AKA metabolic syndrome. One huge player in the Australian health epidemic.
HOW BUTTER IS MADE
Butter is made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk, sometimes with a little salt. That’s it. I know which one I’d rather 🙂
BUTTER & SATURATED FATS
For those of you concerned about saturated fats, heart disease and cholesterol, I have attached a few articles you may be interested in reading below. If you have an issue with cholesterol or heart disease, please speak to a registered health practitioner before changing your diet.
1. Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease: The discrepancy between the scientific literature and dietary advice: http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(11)00314-5/abstract
2. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract
3. Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/5/828.short
WHAT ABOUT NUTTELEX?
I thought you’d ask 🙂 I’ve written an entire post about this here.