(mmm beefcake…I mean, butter…)
On the way back from the gym yesterday, I suggested we go out to breakfast at one of our favorite spots in Austin after the 5k. The Man—as all good Men do—promptly agreed with me that this was a wonderful idea.
“Yeah, we definitely should! God, I’d LOVE some Eggs Benedict…it’s just a shame that Hollandaise sauce is so bad for you.”
“What are you taking about? Hollandaise sauce is pretty Paleo-friendly…it’s just egg yolk and butter.”
“I know! It’s got SO MUCH butter!”
“Um…that’s not a bad thing. It’s OK, (laughing) I know you were born and bred on I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”
You see, in 29 of his 30 years of life, The Man was raised like so many others of us to believe that fat is evil and butter may as well be Satan himself in edible form. To avoid butter in all its fatty (and vitamin-rich) glory, we’ve been handed tubs of margarine and “heart-healthy buttery spreads.”
I’m not just talking about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!…I’m also looking right at you, Country Crock…and you, too, Smart Balance and Bestlife! In fact, let’s round up all margarines and “buttery spreads” for a sec and have a looksee at what they’re made of and how they’re making you fat and diseased.
First of all, buttery spreads are some of the most processed foods around. Until recently, most of them were just piles of artificially flavored hydrogenated vegetable oils, aka extremely high in trans fatty acids. By now, we’re well-versed in what trans-fats can do to you.
Since then, however, products like ICBINB have claimed that they’re still awesome for you because not only are they lower in fat than real butter, they are free of all of the trans-fat and have replaced it all with non-hydrogenated polyunsaturated fats from vegetable and soy oils. And we all love vegetables, right?
Let’s rag on ICBINB a little bit more and take a look at the ingredient list…(Thanks, Wikipedia!)
Vegetable Oil Blend (“Soybean oil, non-hydrogenated soybean oil, liquid canola oil”)
Nut and seed oils are, as a whole, a big No-No because they’re insanely high in Omega-6 fatty acids. The human body is made up of mostly saturated and monounsaturated fat, and needs these same fats to build and repair its cells. We’re told instead that we have to replace saturated fats with vegetable oils, which oxidize easily in the body and lead to inflammation and cell mutation.
What’s more, soy and canola oils are very highly processed, genetically engineered, degummed, and otherwise teeming with some pretty wacky SH**. Even without all the processing, rapeseed, the base of canola oil, is toxic to humans. Soy is a whole other story.
Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA
Potassium sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid and is a common food preservative. Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (ooh, big word!) is another preservative but makes appearances in a lot of industrial scenarios for its ability to dissolve limescale, bleaching paper, and improving the stability of cosmetics towards air (Source).
Natural Sweet Cream Buttermilk
Vegetable Mono- and Diglycerides
I had to Wiki this one… “common food additives used to blend together certain ingredients, such as oil and water, which would not otherwise blend well.” These are formed synthetically to help keep your ICBINT smooth in texture because all that vegetable oils doesn’t mix well with water on its own.
Citric acid is added as a “natural” preservative, as ICBINB lasts a LONG time in the fridge…too long. It is also an emulsifying agent that keeps liquids and fats blended.
Lecithin is another anti-emulsifier. Soy lecithin is the byproduct of soybean oil extraction. In the case of margarine and buttery spreads, lecithin is added as an ‘anti-spattering’ agent for shallow frying (Source).
Vitamin A (Palmitate)
A major derivative of palm oil found in a lot of spreads like ICBINB, this is added as a supplemental source of the vitamin to a lot of dairy products after the natural form is lost through fat removal.
Beta Carotene (for color)
This is how ICBINB gets its yellow-orangey color. I couldn’t find anything about the exact source of carotene (ie whether it’s naturally derived or not) in ICBINB being natural or not, but I’m not holding my breath.
Natural and Artificial Flavors
I see “artificial flavors” on a label and the red flag goes up. Obviously, an artificial flavor is a flavoring agent derived from a substance “not identified for human consumption.”
As for the “natural” flavoring, the US Code of Federal Regulations defines “natural flavors” as the following:
“the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”
Personally, I love real butter and prefer it to margarine and other fake spreads (my Mom is Lithuanian and I grew up on the rich, buttery, bacon-y fare of the Old Country). I could go on and on about how butter and other natural sources of saturated fat aren’t just good for you but necessary for optimum health, but I think the worst part of the whole butter-vs-buttery spread debacle is that yet again, we took something and bastardized it just because “fat is bad.”
Spreading toxic waste on (healthy whole grain) toast isn’t worth it to me when I could instead be devouring a plate of poached eggs in all their yolky goodness floating in a lake of Hollandaise. Just sayin’.