Is Margarine the Recommended Omega-3 Source?

I know you know, it definitely isn’t. But let’s do a mental exercise, especially when watching or hearing an advert coming from the mainstream media, luring us in to buy more margarine. What do they tell you? That margarine is rich in omega-3 and omega-6! And the marketing actors smartly laugh in confidence. I would call this a misleading scam, but I know that margarine factories have added the legally required smidgen of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids to their health hazardous trans fats, to the mixtures of saturated fatty acids and “accepted” industrially processed poisons, err, preservatives.

How do they hide the healthy drops of omega-3 in the mass of margarine? That’s another industrial and chemical story. So I stop short of calling this kind of ads by the name of “scam.” Instead, let’s metaphor away.

Take a guy in Northern Norway, not Southern but Northern Norway. He lives happily on the West Sptisbergen island, part of the Svalbard archipelago. Near the Arctic Ocean, you guessed it right. And this courageous guy built himself a nice and cozy greenhouse where he is raising orange trees. Quite a roomy greenhouse he made. OK. Don’t ask yourself about the light and heat sources, because it’s not interesting to our subject. Just imagine how would it sound to your ears to hear a marketing agency broadcasting an advert, urging you to buy the succulent and tasty Svalbard oranges, the source of vitamin C from the North Pole… Well, it may sound a bit more credible than taking your daily healthy dose of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from… margarine.

On a side note, there’s a debate going on about differentiating between fish-derived and plant-derived omega-3.

While eating fish has a great nutritional value, the wide-spread mercury pollution in waters where fish live makes us rather look for mercury-free deep-sea fish oil supplement pills. Unless we know for certain about the unpolluted places where the fish we eat were harvested from, whether those waters are mercury-free or not. But this is not the issue of my ranting here. So back to margarine. What is margarine, after all?

Wikipedia informs us…

Alternatively, solid fats can be manufactured from oils by converting animal or vegetable oils by passing hydrogen through the oil in the presence of a nickel catalyst, under controlled conditions. The addition of hydrogen to the unsaturated bonds results in saturated bonds, effectively increasing the melting point of the oil and thus “hardening” it. However, as there are possible health benefits in limiting the amount of saturated fats in the human diet, the process is controlled so that only enough of the bonds are hydrogenated to give the required texture. Margarines manufactured in this way are said to contain hydrogenated fat. This method is used today for some margarines although the process has been developed and sometimes other metal catalysts are used such as palladium. If hydrogenation is incomplete (partial hardening), the relatively high temperatures used in the hydrogenation process tend to flip some of the carbon-carbon double bonds into the “trans” form. If these particular bonds aren’t hydrogenated during the process, they will still be present in the final margarine in molecules of trans fats, the consumption of which has been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. For this reason, partially hardened fats are used less and less in the margarine industry. Some tropical oils, such as palm oil and coconut oil, are naturally semi solid and do not require hydrogenation.

Like raising oranges beyond the Arctic Circle, margarine should not be advertised as the “omega-3 health bringer” simply because it is primarily a solid saturated fatty acid, as against the omega-3 which is a liquid polyunsaturated fatty acid. Even if technically true (omega-3 is trapped somewhere in the texture of margarine) this type of marketing is misleading because omega-3 mainly resides in olive oil and fish oil, in liquid oils and not in hardened margarine.

Furthermore, margarine can only be obtained by industrial processing, which implies hydrogenation, which does not exclude the trans fats carbon bonds remnant in the ensuing product, which leads to really bad cholesterol and serious health problems. Add to the aforementioned bad basics the litany of artificial colorants (to make it optically attractive), add the wide variety of animal and vegetable fats mixed with various emulsifiers and the skimmed milk, pasteurized, of course.

Margarine, like pork, is just too hazardous for you to eat in the first place. As for feeding your body with separated and healthy amounts of omega-3 and omega-6, think natural and buy extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, eat mercury-free fish and supplement with pharmaceutical grade omega-3 pills extracted from deep-sea fish oil.

Back to oranges now. I recently heard (read actually) that oranges are not so orange after all, because in nature most of them remain green even when ripe. This seems to be an issue with the release of carotene at cooler temperatures. And that’s not always happening in round-the-year warm countries where orange cultures grow. To hide this aesthetic discrepancy, it turns out that producers and distributors spray oranges with a liquid dye (or with ethylene). This is deemed safe for human consumption, sure, like margarine…

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