There is Nothing Smart About Smart Balance

by Sarah healthy fatsComments: 511

smart balanceI’ve had it. Everyone has her limits and I’ve reached mine.

If one more person who claims to eat healthy tells me that she uses Smart Balance or any of those health robbing butter substitute “spreads”, I think I’m going to scream.

A loud, obnoxious, ear piercing, wine glass shattering SCREAM!

You see, there is nothing remotely “smart” about Smart Balance unless of course you happen to be a shareholder of the company. In that case you would be very happy with the cheap, rancid, genetically modified vegetable oils that are used to manufacture this butter substitute resulting in a very low cost of production and handsome profit margins.

Don’t think for one moment that Smart Balance could possibly be made in the comfort of your own kitchen the way lovely yellow butter can easily be churned from cream in a bowl with a hand mixer.

No way!  A frankenfood as complex as Smart Balance or any of the many other “spreads” on the market requires synthesis in a factory in all its high tech, food denaturing glory.  Smart Balance and margarine spreads like it are chemistry experiments, not food!

Get a load of the catchy marketing on the Smart Balance website:

  • Use it like butter, love it even more!
  • Now Dairy Free
  • No hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
  • 0g trans fat
  • Supports healthy cholesterol levels that are already within the normal range
  • Made with a unique blend of expeller-pressed oils that improves the ratio of “good” HDL to “bad” LDL
  • 350mg ALA per serving
  • Gluten free
  • No diacetyl added

It’s funny how these margarine manufacturers always talk about “using it” and “loving it” like butter.

Why would people do that anyway?

Mmmm. Maybe because these folks need some healthy fats like REAL butter perhaps??

I know a die hard vegetarian who once told me that every now and again when she craves a big, thick juicy steak, she gives in and eats one.

Smart gal. Cravings can tell us a lot about ourselves – if we’ll only listen – from the state of our gut as in the case of craving sugar and having a gut imbalance problem to craving a steak due to the complete proteins only animal foods can provide (soy is NOT a complete protein, by the way. Don’t even get me started on that one).

So, when that craving for all things buttery comes over you, it is always best to get some Real Butter and slather it on anything that seems remotely feasible at the moment. A vegan community in South Florida suffering from severe dental decay issues likes to eat raw butter straight out of the tub with a spoon, I’m told. Now, that’s a serious craving for the “buttery taste”!

What Exactly is in Smart Balance?

Let’s take a look at the ingredients in Stupid, er – I mean, Smart Balance:

When this post was originally published, here were the ingredients in Smart Balance (original):

Natural oil blend (soybean, palm fruit, canola, and olive oils), water, contains less than 2% of whey (from milk), salt, natural and artificial flavor, vegetable monoglycerides and sorbitan ester of  fatty acids (emulsifiers), soy lecithin, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, Vitamin D, dl-a-tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E),  lactic acid, beta carotene color, and potassium sorbate, and calcium disodium EDTA (to preserve freshness).

Ingredients Analysis

Shall we analyze this rather long list of ingestibles?

  • The soybean and canola oils are almost certainly genetically modified. Frankenfood at its finest!
  • The olive oil isn’t even extra virgin olive oil and is likely cut with cheap vegetable oils like most olive oil on the market. Can we say cheap, cheap, CHEAP?
  • Natural and artificial flavor – this must be where that “buttery taste you crave” part comes in.  Excellent stuff if you dig tricking your taste buds (newsflash, you won’t trick your tummy though.  At least not for long. You’ll be craving that “buttery taste” soon after and more than likely sticking your head in a big bowl of ice cream by 9pm).
  • Soy lecithin – yet another genetically modified ingredient.
  • Vitamin A palmitate – the synthetic form of vitamin A – the kind that is dangerous. Since there’s not much natural about Smart Balance in the first place, “fortification” with synthetic vitamins seems logical!
  • Vitamin D – the label doesn’t even specify what type, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s synthetic D2, which won’t help at all in avoiding vitamin D deficiency symptoms. Is this the wondrous, natural vitamin D3 everyone – even Oprah – raves about? Brilliant marketing and wishful thinking doesn’t make it so.
  • Beta carotene color – the normal color for factory produced margarine like Smart Balance is a very unappetizing grey, so color is definitely needed here to fool the masses. Don’t be fooled that this beta carotene adds natural Vitamin A either. Beta carotene is not true vitamin A!
  • Potassium sorbate – a supposedly safe food preservative that inhibits microbial growth. Safe at least until they find it isn’t. Three cheers for being a guinea pig!
  • Calcium disodium EDTA – an organic pollutant which breaks down in the environment into ethylenediamine triacetic acid and then diketopiperazine.  Diketopiperazine is a persistent organic pollutant, similar to PCBs and DDT. Not only does Smart Balance pollute the bodies of those who eat it, it pollutes the environment too!

Smart Balance 7 Years Later

Let’s analyze the ingredients again 7 years later. Smart Balance has, in the interim, gotten significant press on its “pledge” to remove GMOs from its ingredients. Has it happened yet? Apparently not. Don’t hold your breath on that one. Not much improvement here despite an outcry from consumers to do better.

  • Vegetable oil blend (canola, olive, and palm oil)
  • Water
  • Contains less than 2% of:  Salt
  • Pea protein
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Sunflower lecithin
  • Vitamin A Palmitate
  • Beta-carotene (color)
  • Vitamin D
  • Monoglycerides of vegetable fatty acids (emulsifier)
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • Lactic acid
  • Calcium disodium EDTA

Let’s analyze the (few) changes.

Little Improvement in Smart Balance Ingredients

First, the GMO soybean oil has been removed. While this is a positive, unfortunately GMO canola oil is still in there as the primary vegetable oil.

Second, pea protein has replaced the whey protein from before. This is apparently an effort to make Smart Balance dairy free. Is pea protein any healthier than whey protein? Unfortunately not. All protein powders are highly processed and not a healthy choice.

The GMO soy lecithin has been replaced with sunflower lecithin. This is a solid improvement and a step in the right direction.

Two new ingredients include lactic acid and monoglycerides of vegetable fatty acids. While lactic acid is not really a problem, it could be from a GMO source. The originating food for the lactic acid is not specified. Similarly, the vegetable oil that is used to derive the emulsifying fatty acids is not specified. In those situations, I’ve learned to pretty much assume the worst … they are most likely of GMO origin.  If they were nonGMO you can be sure Smart Balance would trumpet as much on the label like they have identified the source of the lecithin as nonGMO sunflower.

Everything else appears to be the same.

All in all, Smart Balance has improved from a grade of “F” to a “D-” in seven years.  Is it healthy to use? Nope. It’s still frankenfood and not a good choice for those who understand the critical importance of natural, healthy fats in the diet.

Butter is Always Best!

Nothing manufactured in a factory can ever beat the simple, natural, whole nutrition of plain BUTTER and other whole traditional fats. No genetically modified, artificial flavors or organic pollutant preservatives needed. Loads of natural vitamin A, D, and E that really will boost your immune system unlike the synthetic versions in margarine spreads like Smart Balance.

Be sure not to buy butter from cows fed genetically modified feed, however, like Kerry Gold is rumored to do.

Grassfed butter is what you are looking for (quality sources)!

Butterfat is far superior to the rancid, highly processed vegetable oils in Smart Balance. While not hydrogenated, the edible oil processing , called interesterification, is still very much denaturing and is arguably worse for cardiovascular health than transfats.

On the other hand, butter, particularly grassfed butter, is one of the richest sources of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is the magical X Factor written about by Dr. Weston A. Price which is known to prevent arterial calcification which is a very strong (if not the strongest) predictor of cardiovascular disease risk, NOT cholesterol levels. Natural cholesterol in the diet supplied in forms such as grassfed butter and eggs are extremely beneficial to health!

Folks with low cholesterol suffer from heart disease at the same rate as those with high cholesterol. Don’t tell that to the folks in the marketing department at Smart Balance, though. They’re doing really well with that catchy marketing slogan that associates use of Smart Balance with “healthy” cholesterol levels.

What if You Have a Dairy Allergy?

For those with dairy allergies, truly natural spreads made with unrefined traditional oils are now becoming available. This one is my favorite which blends virgin coconut oil and that anti-oxidant powerhouse, red palm oil without any additives, fillers, GMOs or destructive processing.

Once you get past the marketing hype, it sure seems that the more appropriate name for Smart Balance would be “Stupid Balance”, don’t you think?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

 

Sources:

Interesterification of Vegetable Oils, by Dr. Mary Enig

Whole Health Source, Butter, Margarine, and Heart Disease

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