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Spreadable Fats
Spreadable Fats

Dietitian, Juliette Kellow reviews some of the low fat spreadable fat products available on the market and explains some of their nutritional and health claims.

Low Fat Spreadable Fats Reviewed

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Lurpak Lighter Spreadable

Per 100g: 544kcal, 60g fat (of which 26.6g saturates, 21.3g monounsaturates, 6.5g polyunsaturates)

This product states it is reduced-fat and explains this means it contains 25 percent less fat than standard Lurpak Spreadable. Lurpak Spreadable contains 80g fat per 100g, so indeed the ‘Lighter’ version contains 25 percent less fat. For spreadable fats, the term ‘reduced-fat’ can be used on products which have a fat content of more than 41 percent but less than 62 percent. This product meets these guidelines.

Don’t be fooled into thinking reduced-fat products are also low in fat though – with 60g fat per 100g, this is still a high-fat product and so should only be used in small amounts.

Finally, this product states it is free from additives, artificial colourings, preservatives and hydrogenated fats and oils – a quick look at the ingredients list confirms this is the case.

Vitalite

Per 100g: 503kcal, 56g fat (of which 14g saturates, 15.9g monounsaturates, 25.5g polyunsaturates)

This product claims to be ‘full of sunflower goodness’. Indeed, sunflower oil accounts for 39 percent of the oil it’s made with.

It also claims to be ‘dairy free’, ‘a source of vitamins A, B and D’ (which are added), ‘naturally rich in vitamin E’ and claims to contain ‘no hydrogenated vegetable oils’. These claims are all supported by the information provided on the packaging.

Currently, the regulations that cover the labelling of spreadable fats don’t include a description for saturated fats. As a result, in the future this product will need to comply with the new generic nutrition and health claim regulations that come into effect this on 1 July 2007. These regulations say a product must contain less than 1.5g fat per 100g to qualify for a ‘low in saturates’ claim. Manufacturers have until mid 2009 to make changes to their packaging. But after this time, it’s likely that Vitalite will no longer be able to label the product as being ‘low in saturates.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

Per 100g: 635kcal, 70g fat (of which 25.7g saturates, 18g monounsaturates, 25.8g polyunsaturates)

This product claims it contains ‘half the saturated fat of butter’ and provides a chart on the back of the packaging comparing it with butter. This indeed shows that butter contains 54g of saturates while this spread contains 25.7g saturates – just under half.

This chart also shows there’s not a huge amount of difference between the total amount of fat or calories in this product compared with butter – butter contains 744kcal and 82g fat per 100g, while this spread contains 635kcal and 70g fat. In other words, you should still be eating small amounts of it as it’s almost as high in calories and total fat as butter.

This spread also claims it ‘contains no hydrogenated fats’ and the ingredients list backs this up.

It also states it contains ‘Virtually no trans fatty acids’. Any product that makes claim such as this, must by law show the amount of the nutrient in question per 100g of the product (in this case 0.5g trans fats per 100g). It’s likely these trans fats come from the buttermilk (dairy products contain naturally occurring trans fats, which research shows don’t harm health in the same way as trans fats made artificially from hydrogenated fats and oils).

Asda You’d Butter Believe It!

Light Per 100g: 345kcal, 38g fat (of which 9.2g saturates, 18.9g monounsaturates, 7.9g polyunsaturates)

This spread claims to contain 45 percent less fat than the standard Asda You’d Butter Believe It! The standard product contains 69g fat per 100g, so with 38g fat per 100g in the Light version, this is certainly the case.

According to regulations for spreadable fats, the term ‘light’ may be used as an alternative to the term ‘low-fat, which means the product contains less than 41 percent fat. This is indeed the case.

Flora Pro-activ Light

Per 100g: 324kcal, 35g fat (of which 9g saturates, 8g monounsaturates, 17.5g polyunsaturates)

This spread is loaded with claims.

It states it’s ‘Clinically proven to lower cholesterol’ and comes ‘With active plant sterols and omega 3s’. This first claim is due to the addition of plant sterols – substances found in plants that research shows help to reduce LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. The product backs up this claim by providing information on the side of the packaging stating that three portions a day provide the optimal intake of plant sterols (2-2.5g) needed to lower cholesterol. It then explains what counts as a portion (all based on Flora Pro-activ products) and also highlights that eating more than three portions has no additional benefits. The ingredients list backs up that the product has plant sterols added to it.

Unlike many other spreads, this product also gives nutrition information for the two different types of polyunsaturates – omega 3 and omega 6 fats. If you read the packaging carefully, you’ll see that the omega 3 fats actually come from plant sources rather than oily fish. Because this product is labelled with information about omega 3s, it may make some consumers think they are getting enough omega 3s from this spread. However, the body isn’t able to use the omega 3s from plant foods as easily as it can use those in oily fish. Plus, only small amounts of spreads tend to be eaten, so this product contributes only tiny amounts of omega 3.

Bottom line: it’s important not to rely on this product as a major provider of omega 3s. Instead, continue having one portion of oil-rich fish every week as your main source of these important heart-healthy fats.

Tesco Healthy Living Enriched Sunflower Spread

Per 100g: 350kcal, 38g fat (of which 8.6g saturates, 10.8g monounsaturates, 16.9g polyunsaturates)

This product states it is ‘A good source of omega 3 and 6 oils, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Rich in folic acid and vitamin B12’. Indeed, a quick look at the ingredients shows this product has all of these vitamins added.

For a product to claim it is a ‘source of’ a vitamin or mineral, it must contain at least 15 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) per 100g or per pack, if the pack only contains a single serving. For a product to be ‘high in’ a vitamin or mineral, it needs to contain at least 30 percent of the RDA. This product certainly meets both these criteria for folic acid and vitamins B6, B12 and E.

This product also states it is ‘low in saturates’ and so is likely to face the same problem as Vitalite in the future in terms of being able to claim this.

Finally, like the Flora product, this spread provides nutrition information for both omega 3 and omega 6 fats. It doesn’t state where the omega 3 fats come from but as the product is suitable for vegetarians and there are no omega 3 fats or fish oils included in the ingredients, it’s likely that like Flora Pro-activ Light, these are coming from plant sources.

Anchor Lighter Spreadable

Per 100g: 544kcal, 60g fat (of which 23.7g saturates, 23.4g monounsaturates, 8.9g polyunsaturates)

This product claims to be ‘reduced-fat’ and states that it contains 25 percent less fat than Anchor Spreadable. The standard product contains 80g per 100g, so with just 60g fat per 100g, this Lighter version is indeed meeting its claim.

As with the Lurpack Spreadable, the term ‘reduced-fat’ can be used on this product as it has a fat content of more than 41 percent but less than 62 percent.

The use of the term ‘lighter’ in the title is a little misleading. The term ‘light’ may be used as an alternative to ‘low-fat', which means the product must contain less than 41 percent fat. With 60g fat per 100g this isn’t the case.

Marks & Spencer Reduced Fat Olive Spread

Per 100g: 536kcal, 59g fat (of which 14.5g saturates, 32g monounsaturates, 9.5g polyunsaturates)

This product claims to be ‘high in monounsaturates and low in saturates’. Because it will need to follow the regulations for generic nutrition and health claims in the future, by mid 2009, this product will no longer be able to claim it is ‘low in saturates’.

There currently doesn’t appear to be any guidelines regarding claims made about a product being ‘high in monounsaturates or polyunsaturates.’

This product also claims to contain 25 percent less fat than standard butter or margarine, which is indeed the case.

It’s also free from hydrogenated oils and low in trans fats, as claimed on the packaging.

St Ivel Gold Extra Light

Per 100g: 192kcal, 19g fat (4.7g saturates, 9.6g monounsaturates, 3.7g polyunsaturates)

This product claims to be ‘The UK’s lowest fat spread’. This might be the case at the moment, but St Ivel will need to keep a close watch on any new products that are launched that may be lower in fat.

The product also claims to have ‘Half the fat of Flora Light’. This is indeed the case (Flora Light contains 38g fat per 100g).

It also meets claims that it contains vitamins A, D, E and B12.

Again, this product won’t be able to make a claim that it’s low in saturates in the future.

Finally, unlike all the other spreads, this product contains a small amount of fibre. This is likely to come from the modified maize starch and pectin that are included as ingredients.

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