Margarine! It’s History and Awesome Facts 

Margarine! It’s History and Awesome Facts 

Margarine is a common product in almost every household. Yet most people don’t know its rich history and array of awesome facts that make it a fascinating subject of discussion. From its humble beginnings to modern-day variations, margarine has played an integral role in the culinary world. 

This article explores the history of margarine and highlights some of the intriguing facts about this versatile spread. 

The History of Margarine 

The history of margarine begins in the 19th century when butter was in high demand but often expensive. To curb the issue, the Emperor of France at the time, Napoleon III announced a competition in search of a spread better than butter. The emperor wanted a cheaper alternative to butter so that he could feed the French army and improve the life of the poor and the working class [1]. Chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès managed to win the competition as he invented margarine in 1869. The original recipe was a mixture of skimmed milk, animal fat, a bit of salt, and water. It was called margarine, a term that was derived from the Greek margaritēs because the mixture shone like pearls. 

Image 1: Chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès

Over time, the recipe evolved to include vegetable oils, such as soybean, palm, or sunflower oil. The process involved hydrogenating the oils which transformed them into a semi-solid form similar to butter. In 1925, margarine was fortified with vitamins A and D to improve the nutritional status of children and adults. In 1960, the margarine in the market was similar to what we have today. Spreadable portions were put in tubs and liquid margarines were in bottles. This advancement made margarine easy to produce and more widely available. 

Commercial production of margarine in the U.S. began in 1874. But it was not well-received and most states banned the product due to its yellow color. Without the yellow color, margarine was unappealing as it looked like lard. The Federal government plus many states passed heavy taxes on margarine. It was only in 1857 that margarine sales overtook butter in the U.S. 

Manufacturing of margarine 

The manufacturing process usually entails:

  1. Blending. Ingredients such as soybeans, palm oil, and sunflower oil are carefully selected and blended. 
  2. Hydrogenation. The blended oils go through a hydrogenation process where hydrogen gas is introduced to the oil in the presence of a catalyst. This process converts the liquid oils into a semi-solid state, increasing their stability and shelf life. 
  3. Emulsification. Emulsifiers, such as lecithin, are added to the mixture to stabilize it, improve texture and spreadability. 
  4. Flavoring and coloring. Margarine may be flavored with salt, milk solids, or other additives to replicate the taste of butter. Also, coloring agents such as beta-carotene are incorporated into the mixture to give it its yellowish color. 
  5. Packaging: Once the desired taste, consistency, and appearance are achieved, the product is packaged into containers, ready for distribution. 

Awesome Facts about Margarine 

Fact 1: Margarine is good for you. Margarine is an excellent source of vitamins A and D. It can also be an excellent source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. Margarine contributes satiety, it contributes appetizing flavor, and it has complementary effects on other foods.

Fact 2: Margarine is good for vegans. Most margarine products in the market contain no animal products making them a suitable vegan alternative to butter [2]. Still, it is important to check the ingredients as some manufacturers use milk instead of water, or they may add ingredients derived from animals, such as lactose, whey, or casein. Margarines with these ingredients are not vegan. 

Fact 3: Margarine is not made from plastic. There’s a common misconception that margarine is plastic. However, this is not true as margarine is made from a combination of fats and water. There is no chemical similarity between margarine and plastic. 

Fact 4: There are cholesterol-lowering margarines in the market. These margarines are enriched with naturally occurring substances called plant sterols or phytosterols. When taken correctly, plant sterols are known to lower blood cholesterol. This substance occurs in seeds, nuts, and some vegetable oils. However, they are in such small quantities that they cannot help in lowering blood cholesterol. 

Fact 5: There’s also lactose free margarine. Although almost all margarines have no animal products, people who are lactose intolerant often look for lactose free margarine. Many chefs also prefer to use this margarine as its healthier. 

Margarine versus Butter 

Margarine is a refined product, which means that it has been processed in some way. Although most margarines are made from plant-based materials, the fact that they are refined means that they have fewer vitamins compared to unrefined sources such as avocados, nuts, or olives. 

The hydrogenation process that some margarines go through makes this product less healthy. Hydrogenation leads to the development of trans fats. These fats are harmful as they are created to mimic the structure of saturated fats. Researchers believe that this change in structure is what leads to health issues such as heart disease and neurodegenerative conditions, as well as premature death [3]. Trans fats are the reason that the U.S. has banned or restricted the use of artificial trans fats. 

It is advisable to go for other alternatives to margarine such as:

  • Mashed avocados. 
  • Nut butter 
  • Coconut butter 
  • Cream cheese 
  • Hummus 
  • Olive oil 

Plant oils such as coconut and olive oil can also make a great substitute for margarine when cooking or baking. 

To Conclude 

Margarine has come a long way since its creation in the 19th century. Its origins are intertwined with the need to have a cheaper alternative to butter. Yet in over 150 years, margarine has evolved into a distinguished product that’s fortified with vitamins. Today, margarine offers a versatile, health-conscious option for those looking for a butter alternative. As we continue to embrace it as a favorite household product, margarine remains a fascinating subject as it is a testament to the ingenuity of food science and the evolving preferences of consumers. 

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Lyda Dorcas

    I can use margarine in almost everything

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