Monday, July 14, 2014

THE SEARCH FOR A BETTER TABLE SPREAD

I'm always looking for ways to prepare and eat REAL FOOD - or, at least, as close to it as we can get these days when so much of the readily available stuff is full of empty calories and toxins. For my own health and that of my family members, I've learned over the years to make most food from scratch. Among other things, it was important to me to have a healthy and tasty spread for my toast and to put on the veggies.

Store-bought margarine was out because it was made from what I consider non-food contents and loaded with chemicals. Of course, I also wanted to keep within a budget - since my household income hasn't increased more than a smidgeon in five years while food costs have doubled - or it seems that way to me. Am I wrong on this?

Obviously, I wanted to use only "natural foods" in my table spread. That pretty well ruled out industrially processed vegetable oils. There are a lot of problems with those oils. One hundred years ago, most people didn't consume any vegetable based oils. Today, US people consume mostly vegetable oils such as canola, corn, cotton seed and soy. The soaring increase in vegetable oils occurred after the 1950s. That's when the government launched a campaign to convince people to eat industrial oils and margarine and thus, avoid butter and other "artery-clogging saturated fats." According to the theory, then promoted, saturated fats were the cause of so many heart attacks and that dietary change was going to change all that. Well, butter and lard in the diet decreased substantially over the years but the use of cheap industrial oils went through the roof - to a current average of 70 pounds per year per person. (For sure, a lot of this has to do with the meteoric rise of the fast food industry where processed foods and cooking grease and oil are the basis of most of what's served.)

Our collective health, as we are well-aware, has not improved over the sixty or more years since that campaign. Instead, as a nation, half or more of us are overweight and have chronic (diet-related) diseases. Part of the reason that we have so much illness comes from the unnatural oils we are consuming. Vegetable oils contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats, something human bodies can't use well - leaving us fat but not well-fed. Nutritional science knows that saturated- and monounsaturated fats, in modest quantities - is what we need. Another problem is that polyunsaturated fats are unstable and oxidize easily - during processing, by light exposure while sitting on shelves or, later on, in our very own bodies. Oxidized fats cause cell mutation. These mutations cause cellular inflammation and clog arteries. Is it any wonder that we have so much cardio-vascular disease and cancer?

Well, my answer to this dilemma is to make my own tubs of buttery spread. When I first started making this spread I just used olive oil and butter. Later, I added coconut oil to the mix. That gives it a bit more consistency and a lighter flavor.  I like the combo of flavors. My husband doesn't - says he doesn't need butter at all. So, I continue to use my combo for cooking and he uses only olive oil on bread and baked potatoes. Someday I'd like to follow his guidance - less use of dairy products - but haven't done so yet.

In the meantime, I have my own table spread - one that doesn't have a list of ingredients a mile long and is free of potentially toxic additives. It's super easy to make.

A healthy table spread that's easy to make.

Grandma's Own Not-Margarine Spread  (makes about a pound)



Ingredients (organic and extra virgin varieties are recommended)

1/2 pound butter (two sticks)
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
dash sea salt (or more if you like it salty)

Directions
Put out all ingredients close to the stove to get warm. When all are soft, take a small spatula and whip them together. You could use a blender or food processor to do this but I find it unnecessary. When there are no more important lumps, you've got your spread.

Press your spread into a clean glass jar. Store it in the fridge. The color of course, will tend to be a bit greenish rather than bright yellow. Once, I put some turmeric in the spread thinking that it would look more yellow but that didn't turn out so good. It looked an even brighter green! Also worth noting - not all olive oils are light tasting so plan to try out a couple of different brands until you find what's best. Beyond that, this otherwise good table spread but may not be the best substitute in baking. You'll probably have to experiment with that to find the fats that work for you.


Closing thoughts

With this recipe you can get along without the use of vegetable oils for your table spread. It is also advisable to stop using them for cooking and baking. I use butter, olive and coconut oil for all kitchen uses. On the other hand, a huge challenge still comes from processed foods. If you look on the label of most processed foods, you'll see "partially hydrogenated corn/soybean/etc. oil" or "may contain soybean, canola, or other vegetable oil". These products are not good for you. Stop buying them.  If you're pressed for time during the week, cook up several healthy meals on the weekend and freeze the portions that your family needs. That way you won't be so inclined to buy quick-cook dinners or stop by fast food places.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds really good, since we have been brain-washed against butter, which happens not to be so bad for you after all. And as stated the store bought margarine is chock full of other unpronounceable chemicals, this spread looks a doable alternative and sounds like it would taste good. I will make it with a light olive oil.
Home Grown Texas Girl