Is It Healthy? Earth Balance Buttery Spread.

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In our society, many people are turning to a vegetarian or vegan diet because they believe they are doing what is best for their health. In my opinion, the vegan lifestyle is almost becoming a new trend, especially among bloggers and young to middle-aged females. I will admit that I gave the vegan lifestyle a trial run earlier this year and just didn’t feel satisfied. While I didn’t necessarily miss meat, I greatly missed the taste of real, organic cheeses, pastured eggs, and full fat plain yogurt. So I got off that bandwagon pretty quickly and decided that there was a place for QUALITY animal products in my life. Not to mention that shows like Oprah started bragging about the health value of a vegan diet that was almost ALL processed soy foods. Ug. There’s so much wrong with that! That is NOT the vegan lifestyle!

This post is NOT bashing anyone who chooses to follow a vegan lifestyle. I am just stating that it is not for me and that I would rather practice a vegetarian lifestyle 80-90% of the time.

Recently, I was asked about the health value of Earth Balance buttery spreads. Earth balance has a vegan line of butters, soy milk, and mayonnaise.  I have never used any of these products myself but have heard rave reviews from other websites and bloggers. I did a little research on the different buttery spreads and this is my conclusion.

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If you’re looking to cut calories by using these vegan spreads, you are out of luck. One tablespoon of Earth Balance Buttery spreads will still run you between 80-100 calories and about 11 grams of fat per tablespoon. These are about the same values of one tablespoon of regular butter.

The ingredients of the organic whipped butter: expeller-pressed natural oil blend (soy bean, palm oil, canola, olive), filtered water, salt, crushed soy beans, natural flavor (derived from corn, no MSG, no alcohol, no gluten), soy lecithin, lactic acid (non-dairy, derived from sugar beets), naturally extracted annatto for color. Even the non-organic versions have similar lists. Personally, I would only buy the whipped organic version of the Earth Balance spreads, if I bought any at all. I just don’t like purchasing anything that contains non-organic soy¬†derivatives. Just my personal opinion. Plus, I like the ingredient list of my REAL organic butter: organic sweet cream. *sigh* No guessing there!

While I have not tasted any of these spreads, the website boasts “superior flavor and consistency,” and from what I’ve read from other bloggers, fairs well in many recipes; breads, brownies, cookies, tarts, fettuccine, etc. Not too shabby!

Overall, I believe that the Earth Balance line is a healthy butter alternative for those vegans looking to replace real butter in their diet. There’s no artificial colors, flavors, ingredients, or other chemicals and that’s excellent. However, if you are NOT vegan, I don’t really feel it’s necessary to use Earth Balance over real, organic butter. You’re spending about the same amount of money and getting about the same nutritional values. Both products should be used moderately.

 

 

QUESTION: Do you use the Earth Balance line? What do you think?

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28 comments to Is It Healthy? Earth Balance Buttery Spread.

  • Raysa Frias-soto

    I am a Vegan, had been for the last 27 years….. I became a vegan because I realized that I did not need to consumed animal products to live……. therefore the little bit of poultry I used to eat, I gave it up for the sake of animals……….. I only eat vegan products…… regardless where they are extracted from……. as long as there is no animals/fish involve….. it will be on my table. THE ANIMALS HAVE FEELINGS TOO.

  • Actually, saturated fat in our foods is no threat to cholesterol in our bodies.

    Check out the experts:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=swrKkwlnSnI

  • Yogayurveda

    I’m not technically vegetarian or vegan, though I don’t eat red meat and I go 2 or 3 days a week with no animal proteins. I don’t believe in going to the extremes of all or nothing — balance is best! I have health concerns that prevent me from giving up the animal protein entirely, so I stick to organic, farm-raised, grass-fed.

    I think what was missed here in the initial evaluation of Earth Balance is the fact that the “bad fats” are gone — that is the artery-clogging saturated fats that are in regular butter. And there are no hydrogenated oil/trans fats in their blend which is excellent — this is the big problem with margarines. I have bought Earth Balance in the past and I liked the taste of it. I will probably buy it again. I do think it’s a good alternative to regular butter — I preferred it to Smart Balance. I still use other forms of regular butter (a little bit of ghee or clarified butter) once in a while for some cooking of Indian food, but I have tried to cut back on this quite a bit. I have been leaning more towards Almond butter (delicious!), but it just doesn’t work in a lot of cooking or baking recipes.

    Anything we really like and crave we tend to eat too much of and that’s the danger with the real butter — it’s creamy and lovely tasting, but no matter what your political or environmental views, the fact is that it creates plaque in the arteries which blocks blood flow and that’s never good!

    It’s good to stay open and investigate, try the alternatives, read the labels and make sure you understand what they mean. We all need “good fats,” but if something has “Saturated or Monosaturated” fats, you may want to think twice before you buy! Even better if we all stay away from the packaged foods that have been processed.

  • Angela

    All Vegan skeptics should google “the China Study” to find out what eating animal products does to your immune, inflammatory, and cardiovascular system.. Also Forks over Knives is a great documentary. This will help you understand why people eat “fake” animal products that are actually made of “real” food.

  • Regan

    Friends,

    I lived on a farm that supplied high end soy beans to vegans across the world. You would not believe how good venison tastes that the owner of the farm shot so they would stop eating the soy beans. If you want to be vegan or veg because it is a health reason – great, but doing so because you can’t bear to think about killing animals… perhaps you should take a more holistic “systems” approach before you confuse yourself about the loss of life that goes into each vegan meal.

    Of course there is less loss of life than eating a burger, but your impact is not “neutral”

  • tia

    If you are concerned about animals and the environment DO NOT eat Earth Balance spreads. Their main ingredient is PALM OIL, which is (as almost everyone concerned with environmental issues knows) the primary cause of deforestation in South-East Asia and other tropical areas of the world. Palm oil is the cheapest oil on the market and far from being the healthiest. It is found in biscuits, “health foods”, shampoos, candles, cereals, cheap processed food and a whole load more products as well as being used for biofuel. It is the main ingredient in what is labelled as vegetable oil and the cheapest oil on the market, because it does not take into account the environmental damage it causes to countries such as Indonesia, its people and its wildlife. I am working on becoming a vegan too, but I’d rather eat butter than palm oil as this is what is making orangutan, rhino, elephants, tigers and a whole lot of other plants and animals go extinct!!

  • MelanieJ

    I think many of you do not realize the reason that many people choose to be vegan…no animals are harmed with a plant based diet. Many vegans choose to eat meat replacement as a option for protein. EB is just one option for replacing butter in your diet. I think the taste is very similar to butter and feel good knowing that I not responsible for the suffering of another living being.

  • Lorna

    I’ve been vegan for almost two years. (The “China Study” convinced me.) I’ve been vegetarian for 42 years. I do not use the fake meats, cheeses or butters. Coconut oil and olive oil are good enough. Legumes, grains, nuts and seeds of all types satisfy my hunger. Veggies and fruits are a big part of my diet, of course. I still have problems with gaining weight, if I’m not careful, but it’s just because it’s so easy to get food in these modern times. (No snacking allowed!) I hiked the Colorado Trail (500 miles) last summer. I’ll probably hike the Pacific Crest Trail next summer (2600 miles). I have plenty of energy. I’m considered a strong hiker. I truly believe protein is over-rated. Look at elephants, deer, cows, elk, moose, horses, giraffes, etc. They’re all large vegetarians. I’ve heard that mothers’ milk is only 2% protein. I guess people are different in their requirements, as discussed above. All I know is I couldn’t kill a deer or a cow, unless I was absolutely starving. In any diet, food, whether vegetarian or not, should be eaten as unprocessed as possible. Earth Balance is definitely processed.

  • Cinzia

    Has anybody anything to say about ghee and vegetable ghee?

  • Stacy

    Although I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years, I am not a fan of butter alternatives. Organic butter has numerous health benefits! If you are eating a healthy diet comprised of a variety of whole foods you do not need to worry about the saturated fat content of butter. You probably need it. If you are trying to eat healthy cut out white flower, white sugar, and (organic or not!) highly processed foods – including vegetable oils.

    The following article runs along the same lines as the book I’m currently reading.

    http://www.organicauthority.com/health/i-cant-believe-its-not-butter-the-ugly-truth-about-vegan-margarine.html

    The book is Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.

    My biggest concerns with this list of ingredients is the soy and canola oils. Canola is derived from the rape seed, which, unprocessed, is not suited for human consumption. The process of turning it into an edible oil includes a deodorizing process and a flavoring process. All this processing creates problems, making the result similar to trans fats. There is a ton of research right now suggesting that the free radicals released by these oils are actually far more harmful than saturated fats and cholesterol.

    There are numerous books with a lot of scientific research worth looking into regarding the way we think about saturated fats and cholesterol vs. processed vegetable oils. Dr. Weston Price’s research is a great jumping off point.

  • Harold

    Interesting conversation, albeit one that does not provide any definitive answers. I think the dialog is a healthy one.

    I just want to clarify something for Juli, who posted on January 9th. There is no hydrogenation involved in the making of EB. and the “expeller pressing” you refer to is not what turns any liquid into a solid.

    Otherwise, you make a good point. Whatever one chooses, moderation is a good thing.

  • ErinA

    I came across this page after trying to research whether or not Earth Balance, other than being pure fat, is unhealthy. I gather now that it’s no worse than other fats and should be used in moderation.

    However, I felt that there was some misinformation happening in the posts on this page that I wanted to address.

    For one thing, I wanted to address the post about the palm oil crisis and Earth Balance. Take a look at their webpage. It seems like they are concerned about the plight of the orangutan and are doing their part to buy responsibly source palm oil. They also donate to organizations that are helping to protect orangutans. Take a look and at it and at least judge for yourself. Isn’t buy responsibly sourced palm oil better than supporting the dairy industry?
    http://www.earthbalancenatural.com/responsibility/palm-oil/

    Second, Dr. Baer, posted that there were too many problems to list with regards to the book “The China Study”. If you are going to take the time to write a post against a book with your credentials as a doctor, you can take the time to actually state why. The fact remains that the biggest killers in the US are all diseases of excess. Heart disease is not an inevitability. What better place to start looking at why it’s so prevalent here than looking at the diets and lifestyles of people where it isn’t prevalent. Do you have a better starting point? How about evidence of the health of those with heart disease who have turned their health around with a plant based diet? In my opinion, “The China Study” has benefited our society by bringing attention to how what we eat just might be killing us and that we shouldn’t take a drug for something when we can cure it by what we put into our mouths. If you’d like a study that was not done through observation, create one. I feel that that should come next – perhaps it’s already out there. How about the attention that “The China Study” brings to the health care industry. People should know the drug companies fund medical schools and that doctors receive hardly any education on nutrition. There is so much that that book has done to educate people, I felt it was unfair to discredit it outright.

  • Andrew Baer, MD

    The current Life Extension foundation recommendations suggest that the current recommendation that glucose be below 120 fasting are too high. Optimal level is below 85! That is right, 85. Post prandial glycemic excursions can cause many problems. See current article: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/feb2012_Suppress-Deadly-After-Meal-Blood-Sugar-Surges_01.htm

  • Cygnia

    Hi Dr. Baer – your post is very interesting. I just ordered a copy of the Wolcott book on metabolic typing so I can read what you are referring to. Thanks for posting – I love getting leads on dietary approaches that go beyond the very limited understanding of approaching diet (e.g., USDA dietary recommendations). My husband is using a high-fat, high-protein diet for losing weight and its the perfect diet for him. I don’t have weight issues, but high carb diets don’t work for me either since they cause substantial blood sugar swings. I believe the concept of “carbohydrate intolerance” (per Drs Volek and Phinney) with those that suffer from diabetes type 2, obesity, and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome is interesting and will inevitably gain traction. With that said, I agree with your view point that there is too much genetic diversity for a one-size-fits all, whether its the questionably high-carb approach of the USDA dietary recommendations or working towards creating and maintaining a state of nutritional ketosis.

  • Andrew Baer, MD

    Ooops: PS: I forgot to give a brief explanation of metabolic typing. Basically, the best diet is totally specific to a give person. It in part is based upon ancestary. Testing blood type may be part of the deal…but it is not the end all. In brief, people fall into categories: mostly veggie, mostly meat/fat, and somewhere in the middle. Sub-categories are fast and slow burners; how you metabolize carbs; para-sympathetic or sympathetic dominant…this is too complicated to explain. Wolcott has a book out which discusses this in detail.

  • Andrew Baer, MD

    II am a physician and have dealt with trying to figure out diet for many, many years.
    I have looked at Sears, Adkins, Blood Type…etc., etc.
    There are people who choose a Vegan diet for religious or other reasons all of which I respect. My next comments deal only with my medical/scientific perspective.
    I recently re-read the China Study. Unfortunately, I feel there are a lot of problems with it which are too numerous to get into. Observational studies are inherently problematic. Statistical correlations do not imply causation; that is the gold standard of statistical analysis. The rat studies on casein do not explain the fact that casein is in human mother’s milk. Perhaps the problem is the utilization of homogenized, pasteurized, basically processed milk. Who knows? That said, for years I have recommended that people not drink milk. Fresh, unprocessed milk is another thing; it may be fine. Nomads drank it for years.
    This brings me to the work of the dentist Westin Price who went all over the world studying different cultures who ate various omnivore diets and were healthy. There is the dentist Bill Kelly who successfully treated pancreatic cancer patients with a Gersen like diet, pancreatic enzymes, and coffee enemas. (Why the coffee enemas? The breakdown of cancer cells on this program are toxic and wind up in the liver. Caffeine dilates the portal duct allowing for the drainage of said toxins.) Ultimately, Kelly found there were patients who did not do well on the Gersen diet; they needed meat! There is the work of Bill Wolcott worked with Kelly. He is a proponent of Metabolic Typing. This is where I have landed with respect to diet! Disclaimer: I have absolutely no financial interest in his company:) http://www.metabolictyping.com/
    Finally, there is the work of the explorer/researcher Vihjalmur Stefansson who persuaded researchers to keep him in Belleview hospital in Manhattan on the same diet as the Eskimos; see this site for the fascinating story: http://www.ergo-log.com/meatonly.html
    I have not found a good butter substitute.
    I do use a lot of olive oil and coconut oil. The later is very good because it contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which are very helpful to treat diabetes II/Syndrome X (metabolic syndrome helping them re-train their fat burning thermostat.)

  • Jeanette

    I have been vegetarian for many years and began cutting out dairy as well. Thought I was doing a good thing using Earth Balance until I realized the damage that the palm oil industry is doing to rain forests and the animals that live there – such as Tigers and Orangutans. The turning point was watching a short film called Green. http://www.greenthefilm.com/
    It is heartbreaking and was a turning point for me. Much as I hate the dairy industry at least we have ways to regulate it and mitigate the animal cruelty to some extent. I would rather use dairy than contribute to the destruction of Tiger and Orangutan habitat and probably their extinction. After all cows will never become extinct.

  • Thank you for this honest post. Like you, I agree with the ethics/ politics/ environmental concerns of vegans, but the vegan diet is not a sustainable choice for me. After being a vegetarian for 7 years, I needed to reintegrate QUALITY meat back into my life. In terms of a butter substitute, Organic Melt Buttery Spread is great stuff. In fairness, I must disclose that I am the Founder of Prosperity Organic Foods and created Organic Melt (with organic virgin coconut oil, flax seed oil, and others) for myself while recovering from several digestive disorders and on a very restricted diet. The product is quite good, however, and I invite you to conduct a taste test between EB and Melt. I am happy to supply Melt product if you are interested. Thanks for letting me post on your site.

  • I have used the vegan organic EB before and it does taste almost like real butter. For the most part though, I use real butter. Vegan doesnt work for me, I’ve tried it and I do not feel good on it, plus the weight seems to pack on when I do eat vegan…

  • Lori

    I just wanted to note that there are many people with milk allergies, my young son being one of them. Most of the margarines contain some amount of milk in the form of whey, butterfat, casein, etc. so, even though our household is not vegan nor vegetarian, the Earth Balance No Soy is my choice for a butter replacement for the flavor. I have tried another similar product, but didn’t care for the flavor. For those of us in the house that can have milk products, I buy real butter, I too am a fan of short ingredient lists.

  • Interesting post. My food habits are ever-changing.

    I have never tried this spread, but for the last 3 years or so I’ve used Brummel Butter “Yogurt” spread. Recently I was reading a book about getting back to natural fats humans ate say 100 years ago. I looked at the man-made ingredients on my spread and really got a sick feeling.

    So basically now I’m looking to go back to eating real butter. At least then I know what I am eating.

  • Great review, Erin! I love earth balance, but RARELY use it :/ I try to create a lot of vegan meals/desserts so EB is usually my go-to replacement. We use a organic butter here too though. I was always more for the REAL foods, but then I read a bunch of books and got all ethical and started trying to do the vegan thing. Like you, it’s not for me either. My body doesn’t respond well to it and I can’t do a ton of processed soy to replace my protein . I love tempeh and other fermented soy or Amy’s veggie burgers but the fake hot dogs and other soy meats, I can’t.

    Personally I like to use coconut oil most of the time. It’s delicious and I never thought I could use it in baked goode before (thought it would make things taste coconutty) but it’s pretty freaking amazing! I even use it to cook my popcorn in and MICHAEL even prefers it over MOVIE THEATER popcorn! Score!!!!

    Love you, girl! Hope you’re well ;-)

  • Fantastic review. I get the question about butter vs. margarine all the time. Every once in a while I get specific brand comparison questions, and I’ll have to remember this post! Earth Balance definitely has a “health halo”.

  • I use Earth Balance from time to time but am not anti-butter by any stretch!
    I think that if people feel good on a Vegan diet go for it, but like you, it just doesn’t work for me. When I see vegans eating fake bacon, fake meat, fake cheese, etc. all the time, I shake my head a bit.
    When vegan cookbooks just replace cheese/meat with fake items I REALLY shake my head! :)

  • I’ve used earth balance before but I far prefer using coconut oil if I want something vegan. I don’t like the ingredients list either, but it’s better than many other margarines I will admit. I get the soy-free version on the rare occasion I do get it. But most the time I stick to olive oil, coconut oil, or real butter. ;)

  • Gen

    Great insight! We don’t really have much of that stuff here…..but it is always interesting to read about.

  • oh but being vegan is SO hot right now ;)

    I appreciate the merit and deliciousness of homemade vegan meals but the processed fake meats and dietary restricitons just don’t mesh well with my body or health. I didn’t know the EB whipped butter was so simple! some of their other stuff is way more complicated and I agree on the merits of just plain old sweet cream organic butter. But we usually always agree on everything so i’m not surprised =)

    love ya girly! hope 2012 is rocking your socks!

  • Juli

    Thanks Erin!

    So helpful! My old roommate swore by Earth Balance (even though she wasn’t vegan) and I never understood it. I guess people just get an idea in their heads that something is healthy and go on autopilot.

    Butter just has such a bad rap that I feel so guilty using it in my baking or cooking. I guess moderation is key when working with a high calorie ingredient.

    This also answers my question about whether or not it has hydrogenated oils. I suppose the expeller pressing is what turns the liquid into solid. I guess I didn’t trust that oils could be in a spreadable form without hydrogenation.

    Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t buy it!

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