IS PLANT-BASED VEGAN BUTTER HEALTHY? EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Plant-based butter has grown popular today and form suitable alternatives for vegans. While they may have some health benefits, they are expensive and may contain unhealthy additives.
Life as a vegan is not the easiest because you are constantly worried about missing out on this or that. Thankfully, vegan alternatives like plant-based or vegan butter provide ideal substitutes for vegans. Plant-based butter is used as spreading and can also feature well in baked products and cooking. Nonetheless, you might want to know their typical nutritional profiles, potential benefits, and downsides, if any. Tune in and keep reading this article, for it answers all your questions.
Understanding plant-based butter
First things first, let’s understand what plant-based butter is before getting into the nitty-gritty about its benefits and downsides. Simply put, this kind of butter is vegan in nature and made entirely from plant products. Typically, they contain water as the base product and a combination of oils, including olive, canola, palm, palm kernel, soy, avocado, coconut, etc. Some brands, such as Earth Balance, prepare soy-free vegan butter because many people are allergic to soy. The vegan butter also contains artificial or natural flavors, colors, emulsifiers, and other additives to help them look and taste as close as possible to the regular dairy butter. They are close to margarine, but the main difference is that while margarine may contain some dairy traces, vegan or plant-based butter are entirely free of dairy products.
How does plant-based butter compare with regular butter?
As stated previously, plant-based butter contains several additives, including salt, emulsifiers, colors, and artificial and natural flavors. This is also true of regular dairy-based butter. The main difference between regular and plant-based butter is that the former is prepared from cream (a dairy product), making it unsuitable for vegans. Plant-based butter is made from plant products and is appropriate for vegans and vegetarians.
Furthermore, there are small differences in the nutritional compositions of these two types of butter. For instance, while regular butter contains about 102 calories, plant-based butter contains 90 to 110 calories per spoon. Besides, the total fat, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated content of the two types of butter, also differ. However, because many vegan butter brands are in the market, it is difficult to pinpoint the difference. The nutritional composition depends greatly on the brand you are purchasing your vegan butter from.
Plant-based butter: the nutritional profile
In gauging the contribution any food or food element has on human life, nutritionists and dietitians explore the nutritional profile of the food in question. We follow the same example in determining what contributions plant-based butter makes to human life. Earth Balance is a popular soy-free vegan (plant-based) butter brand, and below is a breakdown of its nutritional profile;
- Calories; 100
- Total fats; 11 g
- Saturated fats; 3.5 g
- Monounsaturated fats; 5 g
- Polyunsaturated fats; 2.5 g
- Cholesterol; 0
- Sodium; 120 mg
The breakdown above shows the nutritional profile per tablespoon (14 g). Earth Balance vegan butter is made from a water base and a combination of oils, including canola, soybean, flax, and other additives, including soy protein, annatto extract for color, salt, soy lecithin, lactic acid, and natural flavor. As stated previously, the composition, especially now that of fatty acids, will depend on the brand.
What are the potential health benefits of using plant-based butter?
There are several health benefits to using plant-based or vegan butter. They include but are not limited to;
- They are high in monounsaturated fats
Monounsaturated fats contain only one double bond and are linked to several health benefits. Studies have shown that they are associated with low risks of obesity, good heart condition, and better control of blood sugar levels. Thankfully, some vegan butter brands contain significant amounts of monounsaturated fats per unit tablespoon. As such, vegan butter could be good for weight management and lower risks of heart disease.
- They are low in saturated fats
Generally, studies and researchers are advising against using saturated fats. Of course, the direct link between saturated fats and health conditions has not been established, but there is a possibility that saturated fats increase risk factors for heart disease. Such parameters include bad cholesterol, bad to good cholesterol ratio, and apoprotein B. Besides, some studies show that increased consumption of saturated fats is associated with increased inflammation markers, showing that they may have a direct link with inflammation.
- They are environment-friendly
One reason vegan or plant-based butter is popular is that they are environmental-friendly. For instance, some studies suggest that using vegan sources such as plant-based butter helps reduce unnecessary wastage of water and other resources. Besides, such vegan sources also show consideration to animals and the environment at large. For example, preparing vegan butter does not involve killing animals or releasing fossil fuels to the environment. Nonetheless, palm oil-based butter is becoming controversial because its increased demand has led to deforestation and unsustainable land use. As such, you can switch to non-palm-based oils.
- They are convenient substitutes
Plant-based butter also makes convenient substitutes for regular butter. You can use the former as spreading on bread and other dishes, just like you would use regular butter. Besides, vegan butter can also be well used for baking, although the resulting taste may be slightly different from what regular butter offers. As such, knowing what brand works best for what product will help you get the desired results.
Are there any potential downsides to using plant-based butter?
Vegan butter is ideal for vegans, but using them does not come without potential downsides. Here are some emerging issues with the use of vegan butter;
- They are generally expensive, with some brands being twice as expensive as regular dairy-based butter
- They may contain allergens from tree nuts, soy, and gluten
- They might be high in omega- 6 fatty acids, potentially increasing inflammation risks
- Some are highly processed, sapping out most nutritional benefits
Plant-based butter is made from a water base and a mixture of plant-based oils, including avocado, coconut, canola, olive, and palm oil. They are a convenient substitution for dairy-based butter, might be high in monounsaturated fats, and are low in saturated fats. Still, they may be expensive, contain allergens, and be highly processed, leaving no nutritional benefits. Knowing what vegan butter brand works best for what products helps you realize the desired results when cooking or baking with vegan butter.