I don’t know about you, but when I get to the Butters, Margarines and Spreads section lately – I’m inundated with choice! Salted, unsalted, dairy free, lowering cholesterol. It is fantastic that so many options are available to us now – but do you know what they all mean and the differences between them? Well I’ll admit I didn’t – so I did some research!
Butter has been made and eaten by man for over 4,000 years! It is made of churned cream separated from the milk with added salt – it’s easy to make at home and is very natural. No artificial ingredients are used in butter and the yellow colour is naturally occuring from the beta-carotenes consumed by the cows in the paddock. Butter is full of animal fat. 50% is saturated fat (unhealthy fat) which raises our cholesterol levels. Problem is butter tastes sooo good!
Types available: salted, unsalted
Margarines are derived from plant based oils, primarily seeds such as sunflower or canola. The problem with margarine is that the oil is extracted from these natural products using chemicals that aren’t natural, then the oils are mixed with either milk, water, salt and other additives. Margarine contains about 20% saturated fat. The Heart Foundation of Australia says that replacing butter with margarine is an easy way to lower the intake of saturated fat and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. They also state that switching from butter to margarine on your morning toast and sandwiches at lunch will remove 3kg of saturated fat from your diet in a single year!
Don’t be fooled though, margarine DOES contain as many kilojoules as butter, it’s the type of fat that is the problem. Many people claim that margarine is full of trans fats, however even though margarine does contain a small amount of trans fat, in Australia we have the lowest levels in the world.
Dairy Free Butter Substitutes
Even the lactose intolerant are catered for these days with a large range of dairy-free butter and spread substitutes. Soy margarines, nut based spreads and even coconut are widely available to use as an alternative to butter and margarine. Although many butter substitutes are not favoured due to their taste (some tend to be a bit on the chemical side, whilst others have no taste at all!), most people who seek a dairy-free alternative will find a specific brand and stick with that, as they are familiar with its ingredients and its cooking ability.
So whether you like to spread a bit of the good, old fashioned butter on your toast, or prefer (or need) a substitute, there are heaps of different products available in your supermarket dairy section.