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Better ‘butters': tasty tests 4/12
(This article is adapted from the March 2012 Consumer Reports magazine.)

Everything’s not better with Blue Bonnet on it. Despite the ad claim, a Blue Bonnet vegetable oil spread rated lowest of 15 butter alternatives Consumer Reports’ trained tasters sampled, due to its fatty residue, stale taste, and lack of dairy flavor. Other findings:

Best of the bunch was Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil, which was rated excellent. It has a whipped-butter taste and lacks the slight to moderate movie-popcorn fake-butter flavor found in other products. But it was higher in calories than several very good, somewhat less expensive alternatives (all in tubs). They are:
• Smart Balance Buttery Spread Original
• I Can't Believe It's not Butter Light Spread
• Brummel & Brown 35% Vegetable Oil Spread
• I Can't Believe It's not Butter Original Spread
• Shedd's Spread Country Crock Original
• Olivio Original Spread
The products above have a clean flavor and a sharp melt. The rest of the butter stand-ins have a slower melt and slight flaws: Some taste stale; some leave an oily residue or fatty feeling in the mouth. The lower-rated products are mostly sticks, not tubs.

Nutritional value

As fat is replaced with water and other ingredients, calories decrease. Although the Land O Lakes products we tested have 100 calories per tablespoon, the same as butter, the rest have 45 to 80.

All the excellent and very good products are free of trans fat, but except for top-rated Land O Lakes, they contain palm oil or palm kernel oils, which are highly saturated and therefore less than healthful. Most of the products claim to have added vitamins, a few claim added omega-3 fatty acids, and one claims plant stanol esters.

People might benefit from products that claim to contain the following:

Omega-3 fatty acids: Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil, Smart Balance Buttery Spread Original, Olivio Original Spread, Promise Buttery Spread, Land O Lakes Margarine.

Plant stanol esters: Benecol.

Vitamins: All the tested products contain vitamin A, several contain vitamin D, and a few have E and B vitamins.

Related links

The truth about fish oil pills. 2/12

25 healthy and delicious food bargains. 3/11

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