Mailbag: Smart Balance versus Butter

Question:

We are having a discussion about whether buttery spread – such as Smart Balance is better than using butter?!?!

http://www.smartbalance.com/FlaxFamily.aspx

what do you think??

Thank you!!
Claire from Los Angeles

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Smart Balance is not good for you in the relative scheme of things.  It is a chemical conglomeration of esterified oils – which means they take all these different oils, blast them apart, combine them with caking agents which come together to form this new age margarine.  Its WAAAY better than old fashioned margarine, made from trans fat, but still not a natural food.  That stuff about the flaxseed oil helping is really nonsense – processing destroys the bioavailabilty of omega-3s.

Ideally, you want to eat your essential fats, that is Omega3 and Omega6, in a 1:1 ratio.  Most Americans get about 15-20X more Omega6 than Omega3, precisely because of this processing problem.  Omega3 is very sensitive – it will degrade at room temperature even – and only in a small number of foods (flax, walnuts, wild salmon).  Omega 6 is everywhere and stands up to heat and processing much better…so you can see where this goes.  Smart Balance will have a high Omega6:3 ratio – making it an inflammatory food.

We would much rather see you eating butter, but realize the type of butter you are eating here is key.  You really want to find butter from grass fed cows.  This type of butter will tend to be a bright yellow orange – the more orange the better.  This is an outward indication the cows feed on grass, which is rich in beta-carrotene – an orange flavonoid that will tint your butter (it will be more orange in the spring, when grass first starts to grow).  This is an unrefined, real food that contains high amounts of omega3 fats along with a dizzying array of vitamins and minerals – all very bioavailable.  Try and find Raw, Grass Fed butter if you can – this is even better for you.

People lament that butter is high in saturated fats, which have been linked to heart disease.  While this is true, that information is related to a more outdated view of heart disease.  Heart disease is truly an inflammatory disease, not one of cholesterol.  Its when cholesterol gets oxidized that we have problems and eating natural foods decreases inflammation in the body.  Additionally, there is no research to back up the idea that saturated fats even translate into cholesterol in the body – the mechanisms are very very complex and still not fully understood.

The degree of processing in foods is always an indication of whether or not you should be eating them.  ALWAYS STAY AWAY FROM PROCESSED FOODS!  Ignore whatever the label says – you have no idea how bought and paid for those labels are.  Smart Balance is highly processed; if it was not, the oils would simply separate and youd have something along the lines of salad dressing.  Butter is clearly the winner here.

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Follow-up:

Ok – one more question
Salted or unsalted butter??  - or is that an obvious one?

Claire, LA

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The salting is important but pretty irrelevant considering how little the amount of salt in your butter will contribute to your overall salt intake.  The big thing to pay attention to in all your food is the quality of inputs – by that I mean, how good was the stuff that went into making it?

If you buy butter from factory farm cows – who eat crap corn product, it once again creates that high Omega6:Omega3 inflammatory fat ratio, much like Smart Balance.  If you get butter from pasture cows that eat grass and hay like they are supposed to (they have 2 stomachs for a reason!), the nutrient profile increases dramatically.

This ideology extends into everything you eat.  If you put an organic carrot next to conventionally grown carrot, you probably wont see a difference – but your body will.  Organics come from soil not artificially enriched and not bathed in hormone disrupting pesticides – which is why they are always preferred.

Of course finding these foods is always hard, not to mention their cost after you have found them.

For cooking, the most readily available unrefined oil is extra virgin olive oil.  You want to use it in low heat cooking (steaming) because it can oxidize easily due to its monounsaturated fat chemical alignment.  For higher heat cooking (BBQ, Sauté), use raw coconut oil or the grass fed butter – they are saturated fats, which can take heat very well.  Both the oils are readily available if you have trouble finding grass fed butter.

  • Sheree Burke

    John (and Patti):

    I want to just tell you that I am SO enjoying reading your information! We had started to change some of what we eat, doing our work with Patti, and this extends our knowledge. Just yesterday, we had a professor from Iowa here to interview Jamie for a 2nd book he is writing. He commented numerous times on how good Jamie looked. I know this is due to the work with Patti, the supplements, and the food changes we’ve made. I’m so often cognizant of when I see kids with autism with what we used to see in our own son—that pale, yellowy-looking skin, and those big allergy shiners! Interesting about the butter—(which we use!) I was brought up on a German heritage-type diet. Lots of beef, gravy, butter, and heavy cream. I cringe when I think back to Sunday mornings with the cream of wheat, swimmimg in heavy cream, topped off with LOTS of brown sugar!! My dad passed away at 91, but had no major heart problems. My mom is still living, also 91, and with no real heart problems. However, both had high cholesterol levels and took meds for that for many, many years. So, thanks again for all your work! It’s appreciated! All the best,
    Sheree Burke

  • Sheree Burke

    John (and Patti):

    I want to just tell you that I am SO enjoying reading your information! We had started to change some of what we eat, doing our work with Patti, and this extends our knowledge. Just yesterday, we had a professor from Iowa here to interview Jamie for a 2nd book he is writing. He commented numerous times on how \good\ Jamie looked. I know this is due to the work with Patti, the supplements, and the food changes we’ve made. I’m so often cognizant of when I see kids with autism with what we used to see in our own son—that pale, yellowy-looking skin, and those big allergy shiners! Interesting about the butter—(which we use!) I was brought up on a German heritage-type diet. Lots of beef, gravy, butter, and heavy cream. I cringe when I think back to Sunday mornings with the cream of wheat, swimmimg in heavy cream, topped off with LOTS of brown sugar!! My dad passed away at 91, but had no major heart problems. My mom is still living, also 91, and with no real heart problems. However, both had high cholesterol levels and took meds for that for many, many years. So, thanks again for all your work! It’s appreciated! All the best,
    Sheree Burke

  • Chef T

    Typically, salted butter is used in savory applications, and unsalted for baking and pastries. Reason being, salt can have a huge affect on the chemistry of doughs(yeast and rising), and also, who wants salty butter cream icing?
    The more important question, as John already stated, should be, “where is your butter coming from?”.

  • Chef T

    Typically, salted butter is used in savory applications, and unsalted for baking and pastries. Reason being, salt can have a huge affect on the chemistry of doughs(yeast and rising), and also, who wants salty butter cream icing?
    The more important question, as John already stated, should be, “where is your butter coming from?”.

  • Mineko

    Thank you so much for this! I have long been wondering about this, and finally decided to Google it and find out once and for all before I headed off to the grocery store. I was sure that no one else out there was having the same dilemma. Thanks again.

  • Mineko

    Thank you so much for this! I have long been wondering about this, and finally decided to Google it and find out once and for all before I headed off to the grocery store. I was sure that no one else out there was having the same dilemma. Thanks again.

  • Dana

    So what are you supposed to use if you can’t have dairy (which means no butter)? Are the Earth Balance products any better?

    • Donna Tarnef Pitzorella

      organic whipped butter,(sparingly) or extra virgin olive oil,,taste great as a dip,,of course with garlic..humus is great as well,,try caramelized onion,,wegmans

  • Dana

    So what are you supposed to use if you can’t have dairy (which means no butter)? Are the Earth Balance products any better?

  • http://www.nutritionwonderland.com John Serrao

    Earth Balance products are very similar to smart balance products. You can see the nutrition information for the soy free version here and the soy-based version here.

    Both are just conglomerations of oils that are blasted apart and chilled to form a paste. You could easily replicate this process by putting the same raw unprocessed oils we recommend here into your fridge. They will congeal and become spreadable, much like butter. And they are dairy free.

  • http://www.nutritionwonderland.com John Serrao

    Earth Balance products are very similar to smart balance products. You can see the nutrition information for the soy free version here and the soy-based version here.

    Both are just conglomerations of oils that are blasted apart and chilled to form a paste. You could easily replicate this process by putting the same raw unprocessed oils we recommend here into your fridge. They will congeal and become spreadable, much like butter. And they are dairy free.

  • Billroberts

    Excellent. Thanks! If you would earn my thanks even more, how about brand suggestions for butter from grass fed cows

  • Ktmcd444

    I agree with you about the omega 6 problem with smart balance and earth balance products.  I am still dubious that grass fed vs grain fed results in a large differential in omega 6 content. Just as we are still learning how saturated fat is digested in humans, I would think that one could not conclude a 1:1 ratio between omega 6 in grain and omega 6 in grain fed animals.  Not that I am against grass fed, it’s just that grass fed is generally more expensive and harder to find.

  • Karen Anewyoupt

    Kerygold butter is grassfed

  • Megsgetfit

    i agree and will never use a fake butteer…. great info……. p.s. – cows have 4 stomachs ;)  

  • John Smith

    This product tastes pretty good, but the problem I experience is that it is not SPREADABLE. It rolls off the knife because it is so hard, then it rolls off the toast and what little of the toast gets shredded because the stuff is harder than the toast!

  • John Smith

    As far as this goes,
    “If you put an organic carrot next to conventionally grown carrot, you
    probably wont see a difference – but your body will. Organics come from
    soil not artificially enriched and not bathed in hormone disrupting
    pesticides – which is why they are always preferred.”

    ,this article should not assume anyone cares about organic. I’m not paying ten times as much for something that’s organic, which of itself is a paradox. How can something that has less processing, chemicals, what have you cost so much more? Do they have to pay Monsanto every time somebody grows something organic?

    Not to mention, I buy processed foods because they are five to ten times cheaper than organic foods. I have yet to hear about one certified death due to someone eating a frozen pizza or burrito. Plus I want my foods to last longer than one or two days in the fridge. Yes, I am over 50 and still going strong and when I’m 100 I’m going to prove all the “organic” people wrong, especially the vegetarians. And don’t call it ignorance or naiviety because I’ve researched diet and nutrition for the last 32 years and found no conclusive evidence that anything that you buy in the supermarket is categorically bad for you, only categorically bad quantities.

    Read the article about the girl who ate nothing but starbucks for a year and still survived. I know I’m off the beaten track here, but I am so sick of people thinking they know all that about foods when it turns out they’re not as bad as the radical GMO or vegetarians make them out to be.

    I do not read or respond to comments. I said what I have to say and that’s it.

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