Q&A: What the Experts Are Saying

It’s a fact: Trans fats are bad for your heart, and the federal government is taking action. One source of trans fats in the American diet is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, sometimes called artificial trans fats — found in certain oils used for frying and baking, processed foods and bakery products.

In 2010, the US Department of Agriculture issued new guidelines that urge people to keep their intake of trans fats as low as possible, spurring questions about how this will affect Americans' overall health and, not inconsequentially, the taste of our food. We've asked PhD Nutritionist Dr. Douglas Balentine and culinary professional Normajean Longfield for their take on these questions.

Q: What are the most important changes to come out of the new dietary guidelines?

Dr. Balentine: The updated Dietary Guidelines focus on calorie control and a diet pattern of nutrient dense whole foods such as whole grains, low fat dairy, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables and vegetable oils. They specifically call for Americans to limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, sugars and sodium. For example the guidelines recommend Americans replace foods high in saturated fats, such as butter, with foods high in mono and polyunsaturated fats like vegetable oils or vegetable oil spreads

Q: How are soft vegetable oil spreads different from margarine and from butter?

Dr. Balentine: Soft vegetable oil spreads and margarines are made from vegetable oils that are low in saturated fat and high in mono and polyunsaturated fats, the type recommended in the Dietary Guidelines. Butter is made from cream and is high in saturated fat. Margarines must contain 80% fat like butter while soft vegetable oil spreads are less than 80% fats. For example I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® contains 70 percent less saturated fat than butter and 30 percent fewer calories than butter. It contains zero cholesterol, and zero grams of trans fat per serving because it contains no partially hydrogenated oils. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® Original is also an excellent source of Omega 3 ALAs*.

Q: How are soft spreads made?

Dr. Balentine: Many consumers have misconceptions when it comes to soft spreads. In actuality, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® is made from a blend of vegetable oils that are emulsified using a process very similar to the way butter is made from heavy cream.

Q: But isn't butter best when it comes to baking?

Normajean Longfield: In addition to spreading, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® can be used for cooking, sautéing and, yes, baking. When it comes to baking, people still want their favorite desserts, but want them to be a bit better for them nutrition-wise. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® Sticks bake like butter and taste like butter, but have 50% less saturated fat than butter**, no cholesterol and provide an excellent source of Omega-3 ALA per serving*.

Q: Any other advantages of margarine sticks over butter? 

Normajean Longfield: The other great thing about I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® Sticks is that it is ready when you are. It is easy to blend in right out of the fridge so you don't have to wait for it to get soft like butter.

*Contains 460mg of ALA per serving, which is 28% of the 1.6g Daily Value for ALA. 

*I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® Original 58% Vegetable Oil Spread contains 8g fat (2 g sat fat, 0g trans fat) 70 calories per serving. Butter contains 11g fat (7g sat fat 0g trans fat) 100 calories per serving.

Try these good-for-you recipes:

Buttery Grilled Corn

Shrimp Scampi Skewers

Summer Chicken & Basil Pasta