July 13, 2015

Label Madness Monday: Buttery Spreads, Take 2

It’s that time again, kids. The start of another work week, and a new adventure in food label land. A couple posts back, we looked at a buttery spread whose very name implies it is “Simply Delicious,” even though we made mincemeat out of that claim pretty easily. I left off at the end of that post saying we’d come back and take a look at some even wackier imitation butter spreads, and I’m making good on that today.

First up: Smart Balance “dairy free butter” with omega-3s.

I’m not even sure where to start with this. I guess all I can really say is, there’s no such thing as dairy free butter. If it’s not dairy, it’s not butter! For clarification on this issue, I’ll refer you to comedian Lewis Black’s take on milk and soy "milk." (NSFW!! Not even close. Unless you have headphones - then it's fine. No problematic images, just the language.) He’s right: there’s no such thing as soy “milk.” Soybeans do not have teats; therefore, they cannot be milked. It is soy juice. And I guess we can say the same thing for almond, rice, and hemp “milks” juices, too.

Wondering where they get the omega-3s they advertise so prominently on the front of the package? It’s from the fish and flax oils they managed to cram into this concoction, along with the canola, palm, olive, and soybean oils:

Wowza, that is some combination of oils! I won’t even get into the long list of weirdo additives this food thing contains. As for the beta carotene added for color, I’ll refer you to the previous buttery spread post, where I explained that they add the color because, except for the palm oil, which has most likely been bleached of its natural, bright red color, none of these oils contains any appreciable amount of nice, orange/yellow carotene, unlike butter from the cream of grass-fed dairy cows.

But that’s not all, folks! In case six different oils weren’t enough to entice you to buy this, they’ve so thoughtfully included pea protein, as well.

*Head shake.* Withawhatnow?

Pea protein?

Pea protein?!

Your guess is as good as mine.

Here’s a look at another Smart Balance “dairy free butter” offered by the fine folks at GFA Brands, Inc. (I am so tempted to have a Freudian slip here and call them GFY Brands, Inc.) It’s their “original” one:

Notice their claim about how this product “supports healthy cholesterol levels.” 

See the small print? It supports healthy cholesterol levels that are “already in the normal range.”  Translation: if your cholesterol levels are already “normal” (whatever that even means anymore), this product won't eff ‘em up! Yay us!

Um, I think we could say the same thing about broccoli.

Next victim contestant on today’s show: Smart Balance “Purely Better™.” You might be asking yourself the same question I asked myself the second I saw this label: Better than what? Lest we remain in the dark on this issue, the manufacturer has helpfully included the answer: “A purely better choice than butter.”

They’re kidding, right?

Moving along, as you can see, this product is made with extra virgin olive oil. And as you can also see, it’s just a “delicate hint of olive oil.”

Want to know why it’s only a delicate hint of olive oil? It’s because there are three ingredients more heavily employed in this product than olive oil: canola oil, water, and palm oil:

Oh, and in case you missed it, there’s the pea protein again. Seriously, what is the deal with that? (And also the added beta carotene. *Sigh.*)

I’ll ask again: does anyone out there really believe this edible food-like substance is “purely better” than butter? Good ol’ butter, with its two humble ingredients: cream, and salt? This is all especially confusing, since the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics -- the organization that issues the registered dietitian credential (RD) in the U.S., has officially gone on the record to exonerate saturated fat for the crimes against human health it was previously (and ERRONEOUSLY!) indicted for. So if saturated fat isn't bad for us (and never was), why bother with all these other oils and emulsifiers trying to mimic real butter, when we can just eat real butter?

It makes me kind of sad to know that there are brilliant chemists dedicating their careers to creating freaky new permutations of canola, corn, soy, flax, olive, cottonseed, and fish oils, along with stabilizers, preservatives, coloring agents, and emulsifiers, all because people are terrified to eat butter. I mean, seriously. Don’t we have more pressing problems these scientists could be working on? (Such as how to help a 36-year-old woman have a growth spurt so she won’t go through the rest of her life being only 5’2”? Yeah. Now that is a project I would support.)

Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.


  1. :-D Speaking of *labels*.... Have you heard, Whole Paycheck is being hauled into court again, because a class-action suit is claiming they're deceiving consumers by putting "evaporated cane juice" on their labels instead of "sugar." I'm not personally up in arms about it, because anyone with a brain should know that it's just a synonym ... but just goes to show that people are fed up with this rigamarole.

    1. No, I didn't know. If that's true, though, they shouldn't be suing only WF. Why not Trader Joe's, or really, not the stores that sell the stuff, but the individual manufacturers? Seems like *they're* the ones to go after. (But I understand if, like you said, it's the 365/WF store brand itself.)

      I agree with you though -- it's not the store's fault if consumers are morons and don't understand that the "cane" part is referring to sugarcane. It's like Robb Wolf once said: "Save the smart ones." (We can't reach everybody, and, frankly, more and more, it seems like some people *deserve* to get left behind.)

  2. What about the so-called "natural" flavors in these products?

    My über standing is that is likely to be MSG.

  3. I know people that eat that stuff. Statins and Smart Margarine what a combo.

    btw, I thought 'The Alzheimer's Antidote' was well written.

  4. I just look for butter ... nothing more, nothing less... but I agree labeling and how foods are presented can be so UGH sometimes...

    All the best Jan

  5. At least there is no wheat in there.

    Thanks for a label day. Great after a headbutting illogical day at the office.