My mother had a mild heart attack the week before Thanksgiving and was found to have an 85% blockage in one of her coronary arteries. Thankfully she is recovering and gaining her strength back after having a stent put in. Guess what type diet was prescribed for her? A heart healthy diet otherwise known as a low-fat diet.
What food do you think of as being full fat? For me, it is butter, rich creamy butter. Unfortunately, butter is a big no-no on a heart healthy diet.
So, what is a person to use as a substitute for butter?
You guessed it – Margarine!
Margarine is of course, at the top of the list when a low fat diet is prescribed. After all, who would want butter, full of fat and saturated fats at that! At the risk of being politically incorrect, saturated fats are good for you! But margarine …
According to the Free Dictionary:
A fatty solid butter substitute consisting of a blend of hydrogenated vegetable oils mixed with emulsifiers, vitamins, coloring matter, and other ingredients ,[French, from Greek margaron, pearl]
The History of Margarine
Margarine was created in 1870 by a Frenchman from Provence, France — Hippolyte Mège-Mouriez — in response to an offer by the Emperor Louis Napoleon III for the production of a satisfactory substitute for butter. He used margaric acid, a fatty acid component isolated in 1813 by Michael Chevreul and named because of the lustrous pearly drops that reminded him of the Greek word for pearl, margarites – and – he claimed the Emperor’s prize.
6 Secrets About Margarine “They” Don’t Tell You:
1. Margarine is high in trans fatty acids - The disadvantage of true margarine is the trans fat level. A study done in Boston, at the Harvard School of Public Health showed that trans-fatty acids do increase the risk of heart attack. In fact, the risk of heart attack more than doubled between those who ate the most and those who ate the least foods containing vegetable oil trans-fatty acids.
The more solid a margarine is at room temperature, the more trans fat it contains, as much as 3 grams per tablespoon. Even the improved brands, such as, Smart Balance are full of artificial ingredients, synthetic vitamins which do nothing to boost your immune system (as those found in real butter do) and artificial colors because without them the products are unappealing.
2. Margarine actually contributes to heart attacks – Another study done by the Harvard School of Public Health asked people how much margarine they ate. Once the answers were recorded they waited to see what they died from. Amazingly, people who ate as little as three pats of margarine a day had twice the heart-attack rate of those who ate less than a pat a day, far worse than those who ate lard or butter.
3. Margarine increases cholesterol – Not only does margarine increase total cholesterol, it also increases the LDL (the bad cholesterol). If that were not enough, margarine lowers the HDL which is the good cholesterol!
4. Margarine lowers quality of breast milk- Studies show how a mother’s eating of trans fats affects the level of trans fats in her milk. One study, for example, comparing Canadian breast milk to Chinese breast milk found that Canadian mothers had 33 more trans fats in their milk than the Chinese mothers. So the quality of the breast milk can be affected by the consumption of trans fats.
5. Margarine decreases immune response - According to Dr. Mary Enig, author of Know Your Fats (affiliate link), consuming trans fatty acids “Affects immune response by lowering efficiency of B cell response and increasing proliferation of T cells.” This decreases the body’s immune response.
6. Decreases insulin response -Actually the trans fats can increase blood insulin levels, which increases the risk for diabetes.
Mistake in Research
So, if margarine is actually bad for us, how did it get to be so popular? Pure and simple – money! Margarine gained popularity beginning with America’s entry into World War I when there was a shortage of fats and cost of living was high. A cheaper alternative to the more expensive butter was quickly received by the uninformed public.
Dr. Mary Enig discovered during her research that the studies linking saturated fat to heart disease were wrong. Saturated fats along with trans fats (partially hydrogenated fats) had been grouped together because of there similar chemical structure. This was done for analytical purposes. These “minor” difference, however, made all the difference in the world to the conclusion of the research. Dr. Enig found that when separated into different groups, saturated fats were found to have NO LINK to heart disease while trans fats were found to have a very strong link!
Unfortunately, when Dr. Enig tried to make others aware of the mistake, she was cast out. Naturally the edible oil industry whose profits she so threatened opposed her findings and she found herself unable to get grants, funding, or even a job. Fortunately for us, she has continued her research quietly and is now on the board of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
What About “Heart Healthy” Substitutes?
You might think the heart healthy oil blends are a good compromise. Think again!
The word “Smart” should be taken out of Smart Balance! As mentioned earlier not only is it full of artificial ingredients, synthetic vitamins which do nothing to boost your immune system (as those found in real butter do) and artificial colors but the process to make them is called “interesterification” which may be even more dangerous to health than trans fats! You can read more about the process here. Suffice it to say, these so-called heart healthy blends can not be made in your own kitchen using only 1 ingredient!
I don’t know about you, but I am sticking to real butter and whole raw milk and bacon and cream and ….