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The best breadspreads: margarine gets a makeover.

We've come a long way since shoppers had a choice one kind of butter or one kind of margarine. And it's been a while since margarine went from better than butter (less saturated fat) to worse (more trans fat) to better (with some exceptions, much of the trans is gone).

But now the options have mushroomed: Stick, tub, squeeze, or spray? Full-fat, light, or fat-free? With or without trans, olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, yogurt, plant sterols, or vitamins?

Here's a guide to help you get through the spreads case without having to make a detour through the aspirin aisle.

If you've been buying the same spread for a year or more, we've got news for you. The selection of (mostly) tubs filled with creamy, rich-tasting spreads and little or no bad fat (saturated plus trans) has ballooned.

We found some two dozen Best Bites--that means no more than one gram of harmful fat per tablespoon. And companies have cut more than the damaging fat. By adding more water to their oil, many "light" spreads pack just 40 or 50 calories in each tablespoon.

Honorable Mentions (no more than 1 1/2 grams of bad fat) are typically higher-calorie cousins of the "lights." They have more fat and less added water, which makes them better for cooking.

Nevertheless, many stick margarines continue to pump too much trans fat into the nation's arteries. Trans is created when companies make liquid oils more solid by partially hydrogenating them. Some companies avoid trans by hardening their soybean or canola oil with a small amount of fully hydrogenated oil, which is trans-free (only partially hydrogenated oils have trans). Others substitute small amounts of saturated fats like palm oil, which are also trans-free.

One caution: the U.S. government has decided that foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can list trans as zero on their Nutrition Facts labels. So if you eat two tablespoons of a "trans-free" spread that contains partially hydrogenated oil, you could get close to 1 gram of trans, which isn't trivial. Bottom line: keep it to one shmear. The information for this article was compiled by Danielle Weinberg, with help from Heather Jones.

Mediterranean Margarine?

"Olive oil is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet a diet that helps people live longer and healthier lives," says the top of the Olivio Made with Olive Oil tub.

Olivio is delicious, and it's a Best Bite. (Look for it in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic, San Francisco, Florida, and Michigan.) But olive oil it ain't. In fact, olive oil is the third--and last--oil in the spread's "vegetable oil blend." So if olive oil leads to longer and healthier lives (the answer isn't clear), Olivio won't get you there.

Ditto for Fleischmann's Made with Olive Oil, which has just enough olive oil (added to its soybean oil) to give it a robust olive-y flavor and just enough buttermilk to produce its "Light Buttery Taste."

Bottom line: either spread will please your palate and arteries, even if the olive oil is scarce.

Cultured Crock

"Deliciously creamy Brummel & Brown is blended with the goodness of yogurt," says the label. If you're expecting yogurt's active cultures, protein, calcium, or vitamins, forget it. The delightfully tart and creamy spread is only 10 percent yogurt, which works out to about a third of a teaspoon in every tablespoon.

Country Crock Plus Yogurt, with 25 percent yogurt, is as tasty and a bit more tart. Bonus: with yogurt (and water) crowding out some of the oil, each spread comes at the bargain price of around 50 calories per tablespoon.

A Better Butter

If only butter will do, Land O'Lakes Light Butter with Canola Oil is the only tub in

Few people can afford the 7 grams of saturated fat (and 100 calories) in every tablespoon of ordinary butter. But Land O'Lakes, an Honorable Mention, blends its butter with water and canola oil, which slashes the sat fat to 2 grams (butter has no trans fat). And the water (that's why it's "light") brings the calories down to 50.

Yet it tastes like ordinary butter. (Just keep in mind that, like any light spread, the added water means you can't cook with it.)

Best Bite spreads like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (Light or with Calcium) and Move Over Butter cut the sat fat to 1 gram. They're not quite butter, but for many taste buds, they're close enough.

Go Crisco

If you've ever made a pie crust, you know that tub spreads or light sticks just won't do. A crust needs a more-solid (that means saturated or trans) fat to stay light and flaky.

The best crust maker with the least amount of bad fat: Crisco 0 Grams Trans Fat Shortening. Its 3 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon are too much for an Honorable Mention, but for bakers it's a real find. It beats other Criscos, which have 4 1/2 to 5 grams of harmful fat.

Smart Balance Shortening (4 1/2 grams of sat fat and no trans) is made with a "Patented Blend to Help Improve The Good To Bad Cholesterol Ratio." But that improvement only showed up in studies in which people got nearly all of their fat from Smart Balance.

In the real world, we get much of our fat from meat, poultry, cheese, pastries, and dozens of other saturated fats. What we need is a lesssaturated fat to balance those foods.

You could also try Promise spread. It's the trans-free stick that's lowest in sat fat--2 1/2 grams per tablespoon. (Promise took the trans out of all of its spreads several years ago.) But your crust may not end up quite as flaky as one made with shortenings like Crisco or Smart Balance.

Heartfelt Promises

Promise Light "helps maintain a healthy heart when substituted for butter or margarine as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol," says the label. That sounds impressive ... unless you know that the government requires no evidence for claims that use the words "helps maintain."

Do the added vitamins B-6 and B-12 "help maintain cardiovascular health"? It's too early to say. Does the added vitamin E "help protect cells and tissues including t heart"? Maybe, maybe not.

And what about Promise's omega-3 fat? Each tablespoon contains 250 milligrams of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, an omega-3 that comes from the spread's canola and other oils. It's not clear whether ALA helps ward off heart attacks from irregular heartbeats as well as EPA and DHA--the omega-3s in fish oil--appear to.

Every tablespoon of Promise Light also has 2,000 mg of omega-6 fat (mostly from the spread's soybean oil). Do omega-6 fats and ALA "help maintain cholesterol levels already within the normal range," as the label boasts? A spread made with any unsaturated oil--like soybean, corn, canola, or safflower--would do that.

Promise Light is a fine-tasting Best Bite. Just don't confuse it with Benecol and Take Control, which are made with plant sterols that are proven to lower cholesterol. Both have a mild, sweet-cream flavor, and the "light" versions deliver just 50 calories per tablespoon.

Spray Savvy

"For Fat-Free Cooking," says PAM's label. All no-stick cooking sprays are Best Bites because each serving delivers so little oil (typically soybean, canola, or olive). But "fat-free" may be exaggerating a bit.

Labels list calories and fat as zero because the serving is just a 1/4-second or 1/3-second spray. (PAM, for example, assumes that you spray a 10-inch pan for just one second, and that the pan holds 3 or 4 servings of food.)

Our chart gives numbers for a one-second spray--1 gram of fat and 7 calories (which we rounded to 10). That way, you can easily adjust them up or down. If your mind wanders and you spray for, say, 6 seconds, you end up with about 40 calories and a teaspoon of fat. That's still not much, but it's not zero either.

In contrast, a refrigerated spray like Parkay, which comes in a plastic pump bottle rather than an aerosol can, is essentially fat-free. Its first ingredient is water, followed by soybean oil and buttermilk. Give it five good sprays and you're not even up to 5 calories.

You can't bake with Parkay, but on toast, a cob of corn, some asparagus spears, or other veggies, it's a smash.

Spread the Word.
Best Bites have no more than 1 gram of bad fat (saturated-plus-trans)
per tablespoon. Honorable Mentions have up to 1 1/2 grams. Honorable
Mentions for butter have no more than 2 grams of sat fat per
tablespoon (butter has no trans fat). Within each section, products
are ranked from least to most saturated-plus-trans fat, then trans fat,
sat fat, and calories.

 Total Saturated
 Calo- Fat Fat
 Tubs & Squeezes (1 Tbs.) ries (grams) (grams)

[check] I Can't Believe It's 10 0 0
[check]
[check] Not Butter Fat Free
[check]
[check] Promise Fat Free 10 0 0
[check]
[check] Smart Beat Smart Squeeze 10 0 0
[check]
[check] Smart Beat' 20 2 0
[check]
[check] Fleischmann's Light 40 5 0
[check]
[check] Benecol Light 50 5 0.5
[check]
[check] Take Control Light 50 5 0.5
[check]
[check] Spectrum Naturals 80 10 0.5
[check]
[check] Blue Bonnet Light 40 5 1
[check]
[check] Country Crock Plus 40 4 1
[check] Yogurt
[check] Brummel & Brown Made 50 5 1
[check] With Yogurt
[check] Country Crock-Light or 50 5 1
[check] Plus Calcium& Vitamins
 (2)
[check] I Can't Believe It's Not 50 5 1
[check] Butter-Light or with
 Calcium (2)
[check] Move Over Butter 50 6 1
[check]
[check] Parkay--Calcium or 50 5 1
[check] Light (2)
[check] Promise Light 50 5 1
[check]
[check] Blue Bonnet Homestyle 60 7 1
[check]
[check] Country Crock Whipped 60 7 1
[check] Easy Squeeze
[check] I Can't Believe It's Not 60 7 1
[check] Butter Squeeze
[check] Benecol 70 8 1
[check]
[check] Olivio Made with Olive 80 8 1
[check] Oil
[check] Spectrum Naturals 80 10 1
[check] Essentials Omega-3
[check] Take Control 80 8 1
[check]
[check] Smart Balance-Light or 50 5 1.5
 Light with Flax Oil (2)
[check] Country Crock 70 7 1.5
[check] Fleischmann's Made with 70 8 1.5
 Olive Oil-tub or
 squeeze (2)
[check] Fleischmann's Original 70 8 1.5
[check] Parkay Original-tub or 70 8 1.5
 squeeze (2)
[check] Promise 80 8 1.5
[check] Canola Harvest-regular 100 11 1.5
 or with Calcium (2)
 I Can't Believe It's Not 80 9 2
 Butter
 Canoleo Soft 100 11 2
 Willow Run 100 11 2
 Country Crock Churn 60 7 1.5
 Style
 Imperial 60 7 1.5
 Earth Balance Organic 80 9 2.5
 Whipped
 Smart Balance-Omega Plus 80 9 2.5
 or Organic Whipped (2)
 Smart Balance-regular or 80 9 2.5
 with Flax Oil (2)
 Earth Balance Buttery 100 11 3
 Natucol
 Land O'Lakes 100 11 3
 Land O'Lakes Fresh 80 8 1.5
 Buttery Taste
 Earth Balance-regular or 100 11 3.5
 Soy Garden (2)
 Canoleo 100% Canola 100 11 2
 Land O'Lakes Country 100 11 2.5
 Morning Blend
 Fleischmann's Soft 60 7 1
 Whipped *

 Sticks (1 Tbs.)

 Promise 90 10 2.5
 I Can't Believe It's Not 50 6 1
 Butter Light
 Country Crock-Spreadable 80 8 1.5
 or Churn Style (2)
 Land O'Lakes Fresh 90 10 2
 Buttery Taste
 Earth Balance 100 11 4.5
 Buttery
 Imperial 80 9 2
 I Can't Believe It's 90 10 2
 Not Butter
 Land O'Lakes 100 11 2
 Land O'Lakes Country 100 11 2.5
 Morning Blend
 Willow Run 100 11 2
 Blue Bonnet Light * 50 5 1
 Fleischmann's Light * 50 5 1
 Parkay Light * 50 5 1
 Blue Bonnet * 80 9 2
 Parkay Original * 90 10 2
 Fleischmann's Original * 100 11 2

 Butter (1 Tbs.- tub,
 unless noted)
[check] Land O'Lakes Light 50 5 2
 Butter with Canola Oil
 Land O'Lakes Whipped 50 5 3
 Light Butter
 Land O'Lakes Light 50 6 3.5
 Butter, stick
 Land O'Lakes Whipped 50 6 3.5
 Butter
 Land O'Lakes Spreadable 100 11 4.5
 Butter with Canola Oil
 Land O'Lakes Soft Baking 100 11 5
 Butter with Canola Oil,
 stick
 Butter, any brand, stick 100 12 7
 Land O'Lakes Ultra 110 12 8
 Creamy Butter, stick

 Sprays

[check] I Cant Believe It's Not 0 0 0
[check] Butter, Parkay, or other
 refrigerated pump sprays
 (5 sprays)
[check] PAM, Crisco, or other 10 1 0
[check] aerosol cooking sprays
 (1 second spray)

 Shortening (1 Tbs.)

 Crisco 0 Grams Trans Fat 110 12 3
 Crisco--regular or 110 12 3
 Butter Flavor (2)
 Earth Balance 120 13 5
 (refrigerated) or Smart
 Balance (2)
 Lard, any brand 120 13 5
 Spectrum Naturals 110 13 6

 Trans
 Fat Sat + Trans
 Tubs & Squeezes (1 Tbs.) (grams) Fat (grams)

[check] I Can't Believe It's 0 0
[check]
[check] Not Butter Fat Free
[check]
[check] Promise Fat Free 0 0
[check]
[check] Smart Beat Smart Squeeze 0 0
[check]
[check] Smart Beat' 0 0
[check]
[check] Fleischmann's Light 0 0
[check]
[check] Benecol Light 0 0.5
[check]
[check] Take Control Light 0 0.5
[check]
[check] Spectrum Naturals 0 0.5
[check]
[check] Blue Bonnet Light 0 1
[check]
[check] Country Crock Plus 0 1
[check] Yogurt
[check] Brummel & Brown Made 0 1
[check] With Yogurt
[check] Country Crock-Light or 0 1
[check] Plus Calcium& Vitamins
 (2)
[check] I Can't Believe It's Not 0 1
[check] Butter-Light or with
 Calcium (2)
[check] Move Over Butter 0 1
[check]
[check] Parkay--Calcium or 0 1
[check] Light (2)
[check] Promise Light 0 1
[check]
[check] Blue Bonnet Homestyle 0 1
[check]
[check] Country Crock Whipped 0 1
[check] Easy Squeeze
[check] I Can't Believe It's Not 0 1
[check] Butter Squeeze
[check] Benecol 0 1
[check]
[check] Olivio Made with Olive 0 1
[check] Oil
[check] Spectrum Naturals 0 1
[check] Essentials Omega-3
[check] Take Control 0 1
[check]
[check] Smart Balance-Light or 0 1.5
 Light with Flax Oil (2)
[check] Country Crock 0 1.5
[check] Fleischmann's Made with 0 1.5
 Olive Oil-tub or
 squeeze (2)
[check] Fleischmann's Original 0 1.5
[check] Parkay Original-tub or 0 1.5
 squeeze (2)
[check] Promise 0 1.5
[check] Canola Harvest-regular 0 1.5
 or with Calcium (2)
 I Can't Believe It's Not 0 2
 Butter
 Canoleo Soft 0 2
 Willow Run 0 2
 Country Crock Churn 0.5 2
 Style
 Imperial 0.5 2
 Earth Balance Organic 0 2.5
 Whipped
 Smart Balance-Omega Plus 0 2.5
 or Organic Whipped (2)
 Smart Balance-regular or 0 2.5
 with Flax Oil (2)
 Earth Balance Buttery 0 3
 Natucol
 Land O'Lakes 0 3
 Land O'Lakes Fresh 1.5 3
 Buttery Taste
 Earth Balance-regular or 0 3.5
 Soy Garden (2)
 Canoleo 100% Canola 2 4
 Land O'Lakes Country 2 4.5
 Morning Blend
 Fleischmann's Soft n/a n/a
 Whipped *

 Sticks (1 Tbs.)

 Promise 0 2.5
 I Can't Believe It's Not 1.5 2.5
 Butter Light
 Country Crock-Spreadable 2 3.5
 or Churn Style (2)
 Land O'Lakes Fresh 2 4
 Buttery Taste
 Earth Balance 0 4.5
 Buttery
 Imperial 2.5 4.5
 I Can't Believe It's 2.5 4.5
 Not Butter
 Land O'Lakes 2.5 4.5
 Land O'Lakes Country 2.5 5
 Morning Blend
 Willow Run 3 5
 Blue Bonnet Light * n/a n/a
 Fleischmann's Light * n/a n/a
 Parkay Light * n/a n/a
 Blue Bonnet * n/a n/a
 Parkay Original * n/a n/a
 Fleischmann's Original * n/a n/a

 Butter (1 Tbs.- tub,
 unless noted)
[check] Land O'Lakes Light 0 2
 Butter with Canola Oil
 Land O'Lakes Whipped 0 3
 Light Butter
 Land O'Lakes Light 0 3.5
 Butter, stick
 Land O'Lakes Whipped 0 3.5
 Butter
 Land O'Lakes Spreadable 0 4.5
 Butter with Canola Oil
 Land O'Lakes Soft Baking 0 5
 Butter with Canola Oil,
 stick
 Butter, any brand, stick 0 7
 Land O'Lakes Ultra 0 8
 Creamy Butter, stick

 Sprays

[check] I Cant Believe It's Not 0 0
[check] Butter, Parkay, or other
 refrigerated pump sprays
 (5 sprays)
[check] PAM, Crisco, or other 0 0
[check] aerosol cooking sprays
 (1 second spray)

 Shortening (1 Tbs.)

 Crisco 0 Grams Trans Fat 0 3
 Crisco--regular or 1.5 4.5
 Butter Flavor (2)
 Earth Balance 0 5
 (refrigerated) or Smart
 Balance (2)
 Lard, any brand 0 5
 Spectrum Naturals 0 6

[check] [check] Best Bite. [check] Honorable Mention. (1) Average of
all varieties. (2) Average of the varieties listed. n/a Number not
available. * Company didn't disclose trans fat number; product listed
at end of section.

Daily Limits (for a 2,000-calorie diet): Total fat: 65 grams. Saturated
+ trans fat: 20 grams.

Sources: manufacturers and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The use of information from this article for commercial purposes is
strictly prohibited without written permission from CSPI.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:BRAND-NAME RATING
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:2822
Previous Article:American pie.
Next Article:Imagine there's no chicken.
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