Although many people still use it in their many recipes, some people have de campaigned the use of margarine calling it a plastic and not a healthy option for the heart. There are many myths surrounding it and in comparison, whereas butter is made from the butterfat of milk, modern margarine is made mainly of refined vegetable oil and water.
Due to its versatility, margarine is often used as an ingredient in other food products, such as pastries, doughnuts, and cookies. Most margarine is made from soybean, simsim, coconut, gnut oil or a blend of oils, but others may contain trace amounts of dairy products such as whey or lactose.
According to Dr Alex Mokori, a dietician at UNICEF, margarine is made through a process called hydrogenation. It includes the manufacture of margarine from animal or vegetable fats in the presence of hydrogen to make it solidify so that it can be durable.
He says, “If the hydrogenation process is fully done, the magarine is very safe for people to consume but there are instances when it is done half way. This is what really makes margarine unhealthy because it then translates into trans-fats that are not healthy for the heart and can cause cardiovascular diseases.”
Maragarine with no trans-fats is a healthy option that acts as an energy booster. It is very vital in children as they grow up but parents should be careful not to often feed their already overweight babies on margarine but rather in moderation because it can make them overweight and obese.
Mokori says, “Most margarine is fortified with a variety of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. The nutrients help in boosting your immunity, sight and energy. These nutrients are important in closing up the gap of the deficiencies you or your child would suffer when you are not able to find some of the essential nutrients from the other foods.”
According to Dr Denis Katanku Musoga, a dietician at the Uganda Heart Institute, margarine is better than butter when it comes to heart health. This is because margarine is made from vegetable oils, so it contains good unsaturated fats. Be careful however, as not all margarine is created in the same way — some contain trans-fat; unsaturated fats.
Dr Katanku says, “It is important that before you purchase the margarine; check out on the amount of trans-fat on the nutrient content list.
Margarines that contain high levels of trans- fats are not a good option because they increase the cholesterol levels in your body which increases your risk of heart disease.
Trans fats harden at room temperature, so the harder the margarine, the more trans-fat it contains.”
Your body needs small amounts of fats to perform some essential functions; too much can be detrimental to your health. The polyunsaturated fatty acids in margarine, on the other hand, help lower your blood bad cholesterol levels which makes it a better option when compared with butter.
Dr Katanku says there are other alternatives one can use as alternatives. For the purpose of spreading on bread, one can use the peanut paste which will offer similar benefits like in margarine. Honey is also good for a spread. It offers energy and other added benefits but only if it was not put in the tea.