DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: What do you think about Smart Balance as a spread as a margarine or butter substitute?—Sandra Lee
DEAR SANDRA: Smart Balance and other butter substitute spreads that contain plant sterols are like margarine-based spreads, without the transfats and with added health benefits. The plant sterols they contain can help reduce cholesterol—LDL in particular—pretty dramatically. One study showed a 12.4% drop in LDL after just two weeks; others have shown as much as a 14% drop. Some varieties also have added benefits such as omega 3s and additional vitamins.
Certainly if you’re using margarine right now, you should make the switch. Smart Balance now even comes in sticks as a butter substitute for baking and cooking as well. Nutrition experts also suggest making the switch if you use butter but have high cholesterol.
RELATED: Butter vs. Margarine
Note, though, that these spreads are comparable with margarine and butter in terms of calories, so nutrition experts suggest limiting your use of them as you would any type of fat. Since I don’t typically use spreads and don’t have a cholesterol problem, I stick with unsalted butter for baking and for the rare occasions when I do want a little butter on my bread or corn-on-the-cob. I like the flavor of true butter, and the fact that it tends to be less processed than such spreads—even better-for-you ones.
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Spryliving.com. Ask her your question here.