Trans fats are naturally occurring fats found in limited amounts in dairy and red meat products.
These fats can also be artificially manufactured from vegetable oils and other unsaturated fats through a process called partial hydrogenation to produce solid fats like margarine. This process is what has given trans fats their second name: partially hydrogenated fats.
Many countries have banned manufactured trans fats in their products. This includes European countries (such as Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria) and some US states. But is UK margarine trans-fat-free? Or are we taking on these health risks with every mouthful?
Does Margarine Contain Tran Fat in the UK?
Trans fats are not banned in the United Kingdom and might be found in the margarine available in British supermarkets.
Nevertheless, according to the British Heart Foundation, it is unlikely to find manufactured trans fats in UK margarine. Many British food companies have reduced the trans fats used in their products voluntarily to mitigate the associated health risks.
To make trans-fat-free margarine, the process of hydrogenation has been replaced with interesterification. This latter method does not produce trans fatty acids! Instead, the position of specific fatty acids in the chain is altered to solidify the oil and give it different physical properties.
So, is UK margarine trans-fat-free? Well, sometimes! Margarine might contain trans fats as food manufacturers can legally use these fatty acids in their products. However, it largely depends on the brand you’re referring to and whether they use hydrogenation or interesterification in production.
Which UK Margarine Does Not Contain Trans Fats?
In 2007, British Retail Consortium members including Asda, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose announced that they would stop using trans fats in their own branded products.
Purchasing an own-brand margarine from these supermarkets ensures you can reduce the number of trans fats in your diet.
Another great brand to purchase is I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. All of their products contain 0g of trans fat per serving!
However, other leading brands aren’t as health-conscious. According to an article from The Daily Mail, Clover, Anchor SoSoft, Golden Churn, Willow, and Pura Buttertaste all have high levels of trans fats in their spreads.
How Can I Tell if Margarine Contains Trans Fats?
In the UK, there are currently no legal requirements to label trans fats on food. As such, it can be challenging to determine whether or not a tub of margarine is trans-fat-free.
However, if they have been used to make the spread, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil must be listed on the ingredients list. If the margarine you’re looking at does contain these fats, there is a good chance it also includes trans fats, so beware!
Always check the label. If in doubt, choose own branded products from Asda, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Waitrose, or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
What’s Healthier – Butter or Margarine?
Margaine is made from vegetable oils which are a type of unsaturated fat, whereas butter is made from animal fats which are a type of saturated fat.
Saturated fats are generally considered to be worse for your health. They can raise the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and increase your chances of heart disease and stroke. Based on this information, margarine is better than butter, assuming you’re eating trans-fat-free margarine.
Trans fats are also bad for human health as they raise the LDL in the body. However, they also lower the “good” cholesterol (HDL), making them worse than saturated fats.
These changes in cholesterol increase the risk of severe health conditions, including heart disease, type two diabetes, liver dysfunction, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.
Margarine used to be the most common place to find trans fats, making it more unhealthy than butter. But as the dangers of trans fats have come to light and food manufacturers now offer trans-fat-free margarine, margarine has become a healthier alternative for UK consumers.
Hannah is a freelance content writer passionate about natural health, mindfulness, and the environment. She shares her enthusiasm for a conscious lifestyle on Naturaler, inspiring others to take the steps towards a more natural and fulfilling life