Monday, February 1, 2010

Part 2, Lesson 1: Real vs. Fake Foods (The Truth About Butter)

Part 2: "I Don't Know Anything About Food"
Lesson 1: Real vs. Fake Foods (The Truth About Butter)
The butter vs. margarine debate has been raging since margarine's debut in 1869.  The dairy lobby has had a heavy hand in the villainization of oleo (as my grandma calls it) and there's a lot of truth mixed with a lot of fiction floating around.  It isn't one molecule away from being plastic and it wasn't originally developed to fatten turkeys.  It was developed as a low cost butter substitute to feed the French military and the lower class.  You can read all about it hereAnd hereAlso here.  Speaking of lobbying, margarine manufacturers couldn't add coloring to their products to make it look more palatable until the end of the Second World War.  Imagine spreading your morning toast with something that looked like shortening.  Does that make you change your mind about margarine?

Margarine is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than butter.  Stick margarine usually contains trans fats, which we all know to be evil and wrong.  If you're going to use margarine, get the kind in the tub.

However, you need to decide if you really want to eat something that involves bleaching, deodorizing, fortification, colorization, and (sometimes) hydrogenation

Assuming you're not vegan, consider giving butter a second chance.  Butter contains one, maybe two ingredients: cream and (sometimes) salt.  It contains the same amount of calories as margarine.  Personally I think it tastes better.

But the key here is moderation.  Moderation in all things in good.  Moderation in fats is better.

The butter vs. margarine debate is a good example of real vs. fake foods and how politics and lobbying have shaped our perception about acceptable foods.  Somehow along the way we decided that fluorescent powder in a packet (or fluorescent ooze) is an acceptable substitute for real cheese.  That vitamins sprayed onto empty calories and chemically manufactured sugar substitutes were more acceptable to feed our children in the morning than buttered toast and fruit.  Colorful advertisements, cartoon mascots, and special interest lobbying have led us down a terrible path.

I don't mean to sound preachy here, but this is the bread and butter (ha!) of the Real Food Boot Camp: to get you to think critically about the things you put into your body.

Your homework
If you have any stick margarine, throw it away.  There really is no excuse to subject yourself to trans fats.

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