Margarine and vegetable fat: facts

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Now that we understand more about fats, let’s talk about the black sheep in the family.
ickfd margarine butterillustrations: Rafael Silvério
Margarine and vegetable fat are products where, through chemical (mega) manipulation, it was possible to transform a liquid fat (vegetable oils) into a solid one. They are fats designed for a specific purpose, which is why they are called “designer fats”.
Margarine is, like butter, an emulsion of water, oil and air. Its fat content varies between 30% (Becel type vegetable cream has 35% fat) and 80% (these being the closest to butter). They can be 100% vegetable or have milk derivatives in their composition: so it is essential to look at the labels if you need to avoid dairy products!
Vegetable fat is 100% fat, but has air retained in its mass. In addition, its composition was made to obtain the best creaming degree of all fats.
ickfd butter
What were these fats developed for?
1. To reduce cost.
Yes, although in an ideal world we only work with first-rate ingredients, this is not always possible. And that cake that you buy for 1 real a slice was certainly not made with premium butter.
2. To make the confectioner’s life easier
Think of butter like a woman in PMS: it is sensitive. For example, the ideal temperature for such “creaming” varies between 18-21 degrees. A-huh. That is, you can only work with butter in a minimally air-conditioned environment. For puff pastry, croissant, brioche, only if it is very air conditioned. Again, this is not always possible. So what did the industry do? He created these fats with a much higher melting point, withstanding greater variations in temperature while remaining in the same state.
In addition, as they are made by the industry, it is possible to add several features to them. That way we find margarines suitable for croissants, another for puff pastry, another for toppings … And so on.
And how are they made?
That’s where the danger lives. First, the extraction and manufacture of the oils themselves (with the exception of olive oil) is already similar to the creation of an alien. Solvents are used in the extraction, then centrifuges, then an alkali is poured, which will form like soap and remove impurities, then whiten everything, filter, deodorize … That’s the basics. Uffff. Only you need it solid now. How to make? There are three ways to make an oil solid.
1. Hydrogenation
It is the traditional method, cheaper and more used. Remember when we said that in the saturated (solid) fats all the carbons were linked to a hydrogen and in the unsaturated (liquid) “lacked” hydrogen? So… Tchã-frog! Just put hydrogen in the oils! The problem is that during this process a type of fat harmful to health is generated: trans fat. Note that there are also controversial here, and even butter has a small amount of trans fat naturally (but this is different from industrially generated trans fat). But the current rule is not to consume trans fats. And with that several places in the world have already banned any and all hydrogenated fat for sale and consumption.
2. Combination with saturated fats
To avoid hydrogenation, many of these fats are combined with naturally saturated fats or 100% hydrogenated fats (which do not generate trans fats) making the final fat more solid and stable, but still with high levels of saturated fat. To identify these types of fat, read the label: it will have 0 trans fat, but a considerable content of saturated fat.
3. Interesterification
It is the most modern method of producing vegetable fat / margarine. Here an enzyme is used to change the structure of fatty acids. This achieves greater fat stability, with higher melting points and some plasticity without trans fats and with a low saturated fat content.
Unfortunately here in Brazil we still don’t have a lot of plastic fats with a good “politically correct” fat content. I say this because yes, margarines and vegetable fats, even those that are not hydrogenated, are highly processed and manipulated products. Are the ideals? Certainly not. But they are possible in certain cases. And if we stop to analyze, sugar and wheat flour and other oils are also in the sights of health. The important thing is to have knowledge and awareness. If you find out, decide, choose.
ickfd2 butter

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