Chef Orange -
My roommate and I are having an ongoing debate of butter vs. margarine. She was raised on it, and believes it to be healthier than eating actual butter. I was raised believing that real butter is the only way to go, and argue that the artifical ingridents are actually worse for you. What is your take?
All Buttered Up
I’m going to have to side with you on this one. Margarine is made by hydrogenating vegetable oils and adding artificial butter flavor. Basically, that means that manufacturers of margarine take regular old corn oil, process it with nickel, and then expose it to hydrogen gas under heat and pressure. The unsaturated vegetable oil fat molecules change shape and take on hydrogen to become artificially saturated. This allows the margarine to mimic butter, as saturated fats solidify at higher temperatures than unsaturated fats (i.e., in the refrigerator, not the freezer), and hold their shape at room temperature. The nickel is then strained out, having fulfilled its purpose as a catalyst to the reaction.
While it is true that the hydrogenation process mimics the saturated fat content of butter, I’d prefer my fat to be presented to me in its natural format: oil when oil is called for; butter when butter is called for. That’s a personal choice. Somewhat more troubling to me are the potential side effects of exposure to large quantities of artificial butter flavoring: the potential of serious health problems due to one of its key ingredients, diacetyl.