Monday, August 8, 2011

Why This Butter IS Better

Part of the whole concept of Clean Eating is questioning the "Well, I've always bought that" or "I've eaten this for years" mentality, and actually looking, researching, and questioning what you put into your body on a regular basis. Is what you are consuming have as few ingredients as possible? As simple as possible? As unprocessed as possible?

Last week, I reached towards the tub of Country Crock margarine I buy for my guys to consume on their toast and such, and I paused.

What is margarine?

From the Wiki:

Modern margarines can be made from any of a wide variety of animal or vegetable fats, mixed with skim milk, salt, and emulsifiers. Like butter, margarine is about 80% fat, 20% water and solids, flavored, colored, and fortified with vitamin A, and sometimes D, to match butter's nutritional contribution to the human diet. The oil is pressed from seeds, purified, hydrogenated, and then fortified and colored, either with a synthetic carotene or annatto. The water phase is usually reconstituted, or skim milk, that is cultured with lactic acid bacteria to produce a stronger flavor. Emulsifiers such as lecithin help disperse the water phase evenly throughout the oil, and salt and preservatives are also commonly added. This oil and water emulsion is then heated, blended, and cooled. The softer tub margarines are made with less hydrogenated, more liquid, oils than block margarines.

Clear as mud, huh?

Essentially, margarine is oil that is processed so that when it become chilled, it solidifies into a solid form. Flavoring, coloring, salt, and preservatives are added before solidification.

Butter is cream and salt, shaken until the fat globules in the milk break down and join up to form a solid mass. You can make butter at home easily by putting a few cups of cream in a jar with a tablespoon of salt, and shaking the jar ( sealed, of course! ) for 5+ minutes until a solid mass appears in the cream. 

Ok, it is pretty clear - margarine isn't Clean.  But we have been warned for years about butter. Should we or shouldn't we? Traditional butter is high in saturated fats, which is not healthy for your heart. But nobody is going to sit down and eat a stick of butter - we're talking small amounts, a few times a week. Maybe on your whole grain noodles, or melted over your green beans.

Try looking for one of the new "hybrid" butter products, like Land O Lakes Spreadable butter with canola oil. The calories, fat, and sodium are almost identical to margarine.

But how many ingredients?

Again- question what you think you know. Don't assume you know the answer. Research. Ask around. Investigate. Compare.

Small tweaks to your diet can yield big results. Replacing a "staple" like margarine that has 15 ingredients       ( mostly chemicals! ) with a heart healthier version with 3 ingredients is a tick in the "win" column. 

I bought the Land O Lakes spreadable butter instead of the Country Crock that day last week.  The boys didn't blink at the change. I know they are eating a more wholesome, Clean product. I feel good knowing I've made one more switch in my household to steer us towards a more Clean diet.