Is Margarine Vegan? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Is Margarine Vegan? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

One of the world’s favorite breakfasts is buttered toast! Who doesn’t love it?

I speak for myself. Here at home the breakfast of choice are some toasties to accompany a good coffee with a vegan drink.

The reality for many is that when they became vegans they had to abandon buttered toasts, because it is not vegan. Well, the solution is to exchange the butter for margarine.

I know that it doesn’t taste the same, but it is a good option if you want to continue eating your morning toast.

However, be very careful, because not all margarines are vegan. 

In recent years I have seen an increase in the number of margarines with a “vegan” certificate or symbol, but still, most are not vegan.

What is Margarine Made Of?

margarine

Margarine is made mainly from fats and oils of vegetable origin, such as soybean, corn, palm, sunflower, coconut, olive, linseed, and rapeseed oil.

The main difference between butter and margarine is the base ingredient, which in butter is of animal origin and in margarine is of vegetable origin.

Butter is made from milk, usually cow’s milk, more specifically from cream (fat) from milk.

Although the basis of margarine is of plant origin, it does not mean that it is vegetarian or vegan. In reality most vegetable margarines/creams contain at least one ingredient of animal origin.

These ingredients are usually:

  • Milk: although not among the main ingredients and not mandatory, most margarines contain milk.
  • Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids: This is an emulsifier almost always present in supermarket margarines and can be of vegetable or animal origin.
  • Vitamin D: It can be of vegetable or animal origin. The one added to foods is often obtained from lanolin. Lanolin is a product of the oil glands of sheep, extracted from their wool.

If it contains milk we already know that it is not vegan. If it does not contain milk and does not have the vegan symbol, the only way to know is to contact the brand.

How is Margarine Made?

Margarine is produced by hydrogenating vegetable oils – a molecule of hydrogen is added to the natural unsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oils to make them more saturated. Thus the oil becomes more solid or semi-solid.

Because of hydrogenation, trans fats are formed. Given the harm that trans fats have on our health, most margarines on the market today are no longer manufactured using this process.

The new margarine manufacturing process is interesterification. Interesterified fats are obtained from the mixture of fully hydrogenated vegetable oil (saturated fats) and liquid vegetable oils.

Then other ingredients such as emulsifiers, vitamin A, vitamin D, flavors and colorings are added. (Marjorie P. Penfield, Ada Marie Campbell, in Experimental Food Science (Third Edition), 1990)

Emulsifiers, mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, are used to make the oils mix more homogeneously with water or milk.

Vitamin A and D are often added to margarine because they are fat-soluble vitamins, i.e. vitamins that are soluble in fat but not soluble in water. These vitamins need the presence of fat to be absorbed. (D.H. Morris, M. Vaisey-Genser, in Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), 2003)

Is Country Crock Spread Vegan?

is country crock vegan

Country Crock’s original spread contains the following ingredients:

  •  Purified Water, Soybean Oil, Palm Kernel and Palm Oil, Salt, Lecithin (Soy), Vinegar, Natural Flavors, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (Color), and Vitamin D3.

While it doesn’t have any animal ingredients like milk or mono-and-diglycerides, it contains vitamin D3, which is usually obtained from lanolin, a non-vegan ingredient. 

Therefore, this particular margarine is not suitable for vegans.

Is Earth Balance Spread Vegan?

earth balance

Earth Balance’s spread contains the folllowing ingredients:

  • Oil Blend (Palm Fruit, Canola, Soybean, Flax and Olive Oils), Water, contains less than 2% of Salt, Natural Flavor+, Pea Protein, Sunflower Lecithin, Latic Acid (Non-Dairy), and Naturally Extracted Annatto (Color).

Fortunately, it is suitable for vegans.

Is Becel Margarine Vegan?

becel original

According to Becel’s Canadian website, their original margarine contains the following ingredients:

  • Canola and sunflower oils 74%, water, modified palm and palm kernel oils 6%, salt, buttermilk powder 1% (milk), natural flavours, lactic acid, vitamin A palmitate (vitamin A), vitamin D3, natural colour, soy lecithin, and calcium disodium EDTA.

As you can see, it is not suitable for vegans.

However, they also a vegan margarine, which is made entirely with plant-based ingredients, so unlike the original version, it doesn’t contain vitamin D3. 

Is Blue Band Margarine Vegan?

blue band

Blue Band Margarine contains the following ingredients:

  • Plant Oils 60% (Rapeseed 36%, Palm 24%), Water, Salt 1.01%, Emulsifiers (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Sunflower Lecithin), Faba Beans, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Acid (Citric Acid), Flavourings, Vitamins (A, D3, E), Colour (Carotenes)
While it doesn’t have any obvious animal ingredients, it contains controversial ingredients such as mono- and diglycerides, which may be derived from animal fats, and vitamin D3, an ingredient that is almost always derived from lanolin, a grease extracted from sheep’s wool. 
 
Therefore, it’s not vegan. 

Is Vitalite Dairy-Free Spread Vegan?

vitalite dairy free spread

The Vitalite dairy-free spread is quite popular in the United Kingdom, so you can find it in most retailers, including Sainsbury’s, ASDA, and Tesco. 

It contains the following ingredients:

  • Vegetable Oils (Sunflower 21%, Rapeseed, Sustainable Palm), Water, Salt, Emulsifiers-E471, Sunflower Lecithin, Preservative- Potassium Sorbate, Acid – Lactic Acid, B Vitamins (Niacin, B6, B2, Folic Acid & B12), Flavorings, Colours – Annatto Bixin, and Curcumin.

Fortunately, since it doesn’t contain animal ingredients, it’s a product vegans can purchase with no problem. 

Related Questions About Margarine

Is Margarine Bad For Your Health?

Margarine is a highly processed and fatty food.

The consumption of fat is essential and is a subject that causes a lot of controversy and about which science is learning more and more.

Our body needs moderate fat consumption. The fat that seems to bring the most benefits is unsaturated fat.

Saturated fat, on the other hand, has been regarded in recent decades as a fat to be avoided. This is due to the positive correlation that some studies have found between fat, LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels, and risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world.

However, recent studies have shown that there is no relationship between consumption of saturated fat and increased risk of developing heart disease, and that there may even be a protective factor.

Therefore, the evidence regarding saturated fat intake is mixed, and the dietary source of saturated fat appears to be an important factor. The recommendations remain to limit the consumption of this fat (it should be less than 10% of total calories, according to the World Health Organization).

Margarines are often fortified with polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6) and fat-soluble vitamins, which is good for us. However, margarine is still high in saturated fat and in some cases trans fat, which is harmful to health.

Because it is a highly processed food with a lot of fat (of all kinds) it is a food that should be consumed once in a while, in moderation.

Is Margarine Better Than Butter?

Margarine emerged as an alternative to butter, at a time when butter was strongly discouraged because of its gigantic saturated fat content.

Nowadays people look at saturated fat differently. While it is true that butter has a high saturated fat content, it is a much less processed food than margarine. Honestly, choose your poison.

It is not recommended that you consume these types of foods on a regular basis.

Does Margarine Contain Colesterol?

Cholesterol is only found in foods that come from animals.

Since margarine is made from vegetable oils, it generally contains no cholesterol.

Is Margarine Made From Plastic?

No, margarine is not made from plastic, nor is it made from petroleum.

Margarine is made from vegetable oils and plastic is made from fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas. Only its packaging is made of plastic.

Palm Oil and Other Vegetable Oils

Óleo de Palma

In the last two decades, oil-producing plants have been expanding very rapidly globally.

Palm oil, soybean and rapeseed account for more than 80% of oil production.

It is known to us that the current massive production of palm oil is having very negative environmental consequences. Depending on the region of the world, there are different animal species that are being affected its massive production, namely:

  • Central and South America: jaguar and araracanga;
  • West Africa and Central Africa: common chimpanzee;
  • Southeast Asia: tiger, Malayan bear, Borneo orangutan, northern cassowary, and tree kangaroo.

But these are not the only species that are endangered. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species has documented 321 species to which palm oil palms are a threat.

Palm oil is a giant contributor to deforestation, where pristine rainforests have been replaced by palm oil plantations.

Replacing forests with palm oil plantations not only leaves many animals homeless and at risk of extinction, it also alters the ecosystem, water quality and aquatic habitats, releases greenhouse gases, and impacts the local and regional climate.

However, swapping palm oil for a different vegetable oil is not a good solution. Other oils are equally devastating and require much more land for production than palm oil.

Today a large portion of the products we find in the supermarket contain palm oil. Most vegetable margarines/creams are made with this oil.

Vegans may want to avoid or reduce the consumption of vegetable oils not only for their health but for the impact they have on the planet. Cutting back and looking for products that contain oils produced in a more sustainable way may be gthe way forward.

(Source: Meijaard, E., Brooks, T.M., Carlson, K.M. et al. The environmental impacts of palm oil in context. Nat. Plants 6, 1418-1426 (2020)).

Conclusion

Margarines are made from vegetable oils.

However, in some countries they might contain milk in addition to other ingredients that are also often of animal origin such as vitamin D3 and mono- and diglycerides.

Brands like Becel (the vegan version), Earth Balance, and Vitalite’s Dairy-Free Spread are suitable for vegans, but others like Country Crock and Blue Band are not because they contain vitamin D3. 

Before you decide to buy margarine or butter, always check if the product has a vegan symbol or certificate, but if you can’t find it, read the ingredient label and look for the ingredients I’ve mentioned in this article. 

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than three years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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