Margarines & Spreads, Fats explained

Margarine and spreads explained
Margarine and spreads explained
(image source www.myjewishlearning.com)

Last week, I together with a team of other bloggers and influencers were invited by the Unilever team for the launch of their re-branded Blue Band which is no longer a margarine but a spread. The launch was at the Nairobi Primary school where we interacted with marketing team as well as their nutritionist on why despite years of being a household name that is synonymous with margarine, Blue band was re-branding to a spread and adding the Omega 3 & 6 ingredients to the spread.

As we spoke with the nutritionist, she mentioned something interesting which a lot of us (myself included) haven’t taken time to fully grasp.

Not all fats are bad, there are actually some good fats and unfortunately, most consumers don’t know which ones they are

Due to the health consciousness wave that has hit most people which can mostly be attributed to advertising and many mistaking doctor’s advice on reducing fat intake, a lot of people are still  not aware that fats ( those termed as good fats) are actually as important as vitamins to our body. Most of us, due to fear of heart disease which has been attributed to high cholesterol, have gone on to avoid most forms of fat without fully understanding which ones to avoid completely and the ones to take in moderation.

Why do we need fat in our diets?
Just like other nutrients, fat is as important as  vitamins to your body. However, unlike vitamins which are not classified into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, fats fall into these two classes. Fats are a type of nutrient that you get from your diet. It is essential to eat some fats, though it is also harmful to eat too many. We will get into that shortly. For now, what exactly is the use of fat in our bodies?

  • Source of energy
  • Carrier of vitamins A,D,E & K improving uptake of fat soluble nutrients
  • To keep your skin and hair healthy.
  • Fat also fills your fat cells and insulates your body to help keep you warm.
  • brain development, controlling inflammation, and blood clotting
  • Fat provides flavor and texture to help prevent food from being bland and dry.

What happens when you don’t have enough fat in your body?

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Hair loss
  • Low body weight
  • Cold intolerance
  • Bruising
  • Poor growth
  • Lower resistance to infection
  • Poor wound healing
  • Loss of menstruation

What are Bad Fats?
These include Saturated and Trans Fats.
Saturated fats are mostly found in animal sources such as sausages, pies, cheese, Saturated fats raise your (“bad”) cholesterol level. High  cholesterol puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and other major health problems. You should avoid or limit foods that are high in saturated fats

Trans fatty acids are unhealthy fats that form when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated fats, or “trans fats,” are often used to keep some foods fresh for a long time.

What are ‘Good’ Fats?
If you want to cut your risk of heart disease, it’s best to reduce your overall fat intake and swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats or ‘Good’ fats as they are often referred to. There is good evidence that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol.

Found primarily in oils from plants, unsaturated fats can be either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats help protect our hearts by maintaining levels of good cholesterol while reducing levels of bad cholesterol.

Monounsaturated fats are found in:

  • olive oil, rapeseed oil and their spreads
  • avocados
  • some nuts, such as almonds, brazils and peanuts

Polyunsaturated fats can help lower the level of LDL cholesterol. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may also help reduce triglyceride levels.

There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Some types of omega-3 and omega-6 fats cannot be made by the body and are therefore essential in small amounts in the diet.

Omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils such as rapeseed, corn, sunflower and some nuts. Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish such as mackerel, kippers, herring, trout, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna.

While most of us get sufficient omega-6 in our diet, mostly from cooking oil, we’re advised to eat more omega-3 by eating at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish.

So whats the difference between Margarine, Spread and Butter?
To be called a margarine, the product must have at least 80 percent oil or fat. A spread has less than 80 percent fat. That means it might have more protein, but usually it has more water. Water takes up space and has no calories. 

Butter, Margarine and Spreads at a Glance

Percent Fat Source of Fat Percent Water
Butter 80% Milkfat Less than 20%
Margarine 80% Vegetable and/or milkfat Less than 20%
Spreads Varies, can be less than 60% oil Vegetable Up to 40% water

So next time you go shopping, pay attention to what you buy to apply on the bread as well as the cooking oil/fat that you use.

This article is the first in a series of sponsored posts for the new Blue Band #GrowGreatKids digital campaign. You can follow the campaign via various social media platforms and give your thoughts and experience on the new brand using the hashtag #GrowGreatKids.

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  1. Pingback: A reflection on Blue Band over the years - AfroMumAfroMum

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