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Vegan butter: an alternative to normal?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 195 views

Vegan butter consists of purely plant-based ingredients. It is therefore suitable as a vegan butter substitute for a plant-based diet. This spread fat variant has some advantages, but it is not completely healthy. Read here what vegan butter is and what you should look out for when buying it.

What is vegan butter?

Basically, conventional butter is not vegan because it contains milk cream. In the form of vegetable or vegan butter, however, it does not contain milk or other animal ingredients. This also distinguishes vegan butter from plant-based margarine. The latter may contain up to two percent fats of animal origin as long as it does not bear the “vegan” logo.

Typically, vegan butter is based on water and a vegetable oil, for example coconut, olive, canola or sunflower, sometimes palm oil, or a mixture of different oils.

Depending on the product, manufacturers add other ingredients to this base, such as salt , emulsifiers (these combine water and fats), natural flavors or colorings to give the plant product the look, taste and texture of animal butter.

Make your own vegan butter: This is how it works!

You can make vegan butter yourself. Basically, you can mix together a vegetable butter alternative from vegetable oil (e.g. rapeseed or linseed oil or both), coconut oil , salt and possibly some turmeric for the yellowish colour. Depending on your taste, the butter can be refined with spices.

But: Homemade and also bought vegan butter does not always have the same texture, the same taste or the same properties as animal butter. For example, to make brown butter, which gives different dishes a special flavor, the lactose has to caramelize – vegan butter doesn’t have that.

Because it has a different water content than animal butter, the texture of pastries may also change when you use a vegan butter alternative.

What vegan alternatives to butter are there?

It doesn’t always have to be vegan butter as a substitute for spreadable animal fat. Depending on what you want to use the classic spread for, there are various vegan alternatives to butter, for example:

  • Plant margarine: as a spread or for baking – vegans should make sure that it is really purely plant-based.
  • Vegetable oils (rapeseed, coconut, olive, etc.): for cooking and frying
  • Nut butter (peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts or similar): for baking or as a spread
  • Tomato paste: to bind dark sauces or as a spread

Vegan Butter vs Regular Butter: Which is Healthier?

Whether vegan butter is healthier than animal butter depends on which aspect you look at. In terms of fat and calorie content, there are only minimal differences.

Of course, there are always fluctuations here too, depending on which fat or combination of fats and which additional ingredients were used.

However, the fat in vegan butter is plant-based — and that could have some health benefits. Because vegetable fats are cholesterol-free, contain less saturated but more mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. That means:

  • More unsaturated fatty acids: Certain vegetable fats that make up various vegan butter products are high in unsaturated fatty acids. Various studies indicate that these mono- and polyunsaturated fats have a positive effect on bacterial diversity in the gut and can thereby improve gut health.
  • Fewer saturated fats: It is true that there is still no scientific evidence of a clear connection between the consumption of saturated fatty acids and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke. However, there is evidence that saturated fat can negatively affect certain risk factors such as the ratio of “bad” LDL cholesterol to “good” HDL cholesterol.

Attention: Some vegetable fats, e.g. B. coconut or palm oil, contain many saturated fatty acids. If the vegan butter consists largely of such oils, the health effect is sometimes canceled out compared to animal butter.

What should you watch out for with vegan butter?

Plant-based does not automatically mean healthy. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE), for example, warns: “On the one hand, plant-based substitute products or vegan ready meals are sometimes highly processed products with a high content of sugar, table salt or fat, which are provided with many additives. Such foods may be nutritionally unfavorable and therefore not necessarily beneficial to health.”

On the other hand, it goes on to say, such vegan substitute products are often enriched with vitamins and minerals and “can thus make a significant contribution to the supply of nutrients.” As with many other products, you should also pay attention to the ingredients when buying vegan butter.

Avoid artificial additives

Vegan butter should contain few highly refined oils and if possible no artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

Watch out for allergens

If you have an allergy or intolerance, you should pay attention to any allergens such as soy, nuts or gluten.

Balanced ratio of fatty acids

Vegetable fats often provide many polyunsaturated fatty acids, mainly omega-6 . However, these fatty acids should always be in a balanced ratio to omega-3 fatty acids. Otherwise, the risk of inflammatory processes in the body increases. So also eat enough omega-3-rich foods such as chia and flaxseed or, if you do not completely avoid animal products, fatty fish such as salmon.

Is vegan butter better for the climate?

Livestock farming produces more greenhouse gas emissions and uses more water and land than growing crops. Therefore, vegan or plant-based nutrition is considered more sustainable.

However, certain plant-based ingredients in vegan butter, especially palm oil, are controversial. Cultivation of the latter is associated with various negative environmental impacts such as deforestation and (as a result) reduced biodiversity.

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