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In the past, people switched to margarine thinking it was healthier than butter but then studies on trans fatty acids found in margarine suggested otherwise.

Given that history, I was wondering if anyone knows what manufacturers of vegan "butter" spreads do to make those products solid, given that they contain vegetable oils. Do they contain trans fatty acids?

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  • I did hear margarine was used because 1. it can be applied after taking out of refrigerator, 2. its price was cheaper but its "lower quality" then original butter. Butter from vege oils is another thing, I dont know recipe or company/product but yt/google can help youtube.com/results?search_query=vegan+butter or maybe try google products available in your country :-) – user2120 Apr 22 at 13:15
  • Great question - I have always wondered the same thing – Zanna Apr 23 at 13:41
  • This is just a single example, but Miyoko's vegan butter is based on coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature and melts at 25C - quite close to cow-milk butter. – T.C. Proctor Jun 3 at 12:29
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The short answer is: they use oil bases that are solid at room temperature. Miyoko's creamery butter is based on coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, and smart balance uses palm oil. Palm oil is probably the most common method, though there are serious questions about its environmental effects.

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I don't know about vegan butter specifically, but tighter regulations about trans fats have been introduced recently in a lot of countries, which may answer your question.

In the EU, since 2019, foods may not legally contain more than 2 grams of trans fats per 100 grams of total fat. (Complicated way of measuring it, but there you are.) https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/fs_labelling-nutrition_transfats_factsheet-2019.pdf (This factsheet also has a few useful bits of information about trans fats in general - for instance, that the World Health Organization recommended maximum intake of trans fats is no more than 2.2 grams a day for an adult). There doesn't seem to be any requirement for nutritional information labels to cover trans fats, so all you have to go by is the ingredients list - if a food has trans fats it'll have "hydrogenated vegetable oil" somewhere in the ingredients list. (At least, I think that's a reliable rule.)

In the USA, the percentage of trans fats now has to be listed in the nutritional information on all food labels. Note, however, that if the amount is less than 0.5 grams per "serving" it can, and, in fact, apparently must, be listed as "0 grams". https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/small-entity-compliance-guide-trans-fatty-acids-nutrition-labeling-nutrient-content-claims-and

In Canada, there's a similar regulation, but the limit for how much trans fat can be listed as "0 grams" is lower (the exact rules are rather complicated). https://inspection.canada.ca/food-label-requirements/labelling/industry/nutrition-labelling/additional-information/labelling-of-trans-fatty-acids/eng/1415805355559/1415805356965

See also: https://www.theweek.co.uk/64042/trans-fat-ban-how-to-tell-if-food-contains-trans-fats

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Most if not all extracted oils are bad for our health. They are totally fine when they come in the same package with other ingredients in the food. For example fats in the walnuts or avocados are great, but if you extract them and put them in foods or bread they aren't healthy on its own.

Therefore margarines and butters aren't healthy. Maybe some exist but I haven't found any scientific evidence to support that. Only comparisons what's less unhealthy.

Plant based margarines are less unhealthy than butter, but to my knowledge, there are no healthy options/replacements.

Vegan butters are created mostly to provide alternative to dairy based butters, where animals aren't exploited in the process. Many try to make their product less harmful, but I wouldn't trust that unless I see an evidence.

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  • I tend to agree with you about this. I'm just trying to assess what the additional risks might be in commercial vegan butters beyond the extracted oil ingredients themselves. – Not_Einstein Apr 22 at 22:46
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    In what way are extracted oils bad for health? How do you know this is true? – Zanna Apr 23 at 13:35
  • @Zanna - It's based on what I've read, but don't have any sources readily available, plus my intuition. It's similar to my opinion of fruit juices - how many pieces of fruit, with their sugar content, would you have to consume to get the amount of juice in one glass? I just think it's best to eat food as they occur, so consuming some oil that's in an olive is okay but squeezing many olives to consume the oil by itself may not be. – Not_Einstein Apr 23 at 14:10
  • @Zanna they are basically 'empty calories'. By ingesting fats, the body doesn't get other micronutrients that are necessary for maintaining health and preventing disease. Perhaps very small amounts are still okay, especially if they are Omega 3. When we eat the whole food instead of extracted oils, we ingest some vitamins, minerals, fibre and proteins along the way. We still don't know for certain, but combination of these food 'packages' are beneficial for us. There are number of studies exploring this topic. – Sasho Andrijeski Apr 23 at 14:57

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