Margarine is an emulsified, fatty food product initially created as a substitute for butter. While originally made from animal fat in the 1800s, today the primary ingredients include vegetable oil, water, salt, emulsifiers, and milk. Technically, It is a water-in-oil (W/O) emulsion in which the water phase is finely dispersed as droplets in the continuous fat phase.
Difference between Butter and Margarine:
Manufacturing of Margarine requires high processing. Following are the processing steps-
- Preparation of Ingredients: When the ingredients arrive at the margarine manufacturing facility, they must first undergo a series of preparatory measures. Like safflower, corn, or soybean, the oil used, like safflower, is treated with a caustic soda solution to remove unnecessary components known as free fatty acids. Next, the oil is sometimes bleached with a mixture of bleaching earth and charcoal in another vacuum chamber. The bleaching earth and charcoal absorb any unwanted colorants and are then filtered out from the oil. Whatever liquid is used in the manufacturing process—milk, water, or a soy-based substance—it too must undergo preparatory measures like milk will undergo pasteurization to remove the microbial load.
- Hydrogenation: The oil is then hydrogenated to ensure the correct consistency for margarine production. In this process, hydrogen gas and a metal catalyst are added to the oil under pressurized conditions. All this heavy processing will lead to the production of trans fats.
- Melting of oils: Oils are transferred to a tank (say tank 1) to obtain a homogenous melt ensured by continuous stirring at 60°C-70°C.
- Preparing the aqueous phase: The aqueous phase is generally milk, water, salt and other water-soluble ingredients are dissolved and mixed in tank 2 to make up the final vol. which constitutes 16% of the final wt. of Margarine.
- Mixing: Contents of both the tank 1 and tank 2 are sent to the emulsifying tank (say tank 3) where they are mixed.
- Adding Emulsifier and other fat-soluble ingredients: Emulsifier such as lecithin, mono or diglycerides are generally used. Lecithin should be first dissolved in a small vol. of oil and fat blend preferably in a ratio 1:4 at 65°C-70°C. The mix is than poured in the main tank i.e., tank 3 and mixed. Apart from this antioxidant, color, flavor are also added at this point. At this phase, we get a semi-liquid kind of consistency.
- Pre-crystallization: The contents are then transferred to the pre-crystallizer where the scrapper speed of 300-1000 rpm and a temp. of 10°-22°C is maintained.
The pre-crystallized fat is then passed through a pin worker. The rotating pin helps the pre-crystallized fat to get adequately homogenized crystallized fat.
- Packing: Margarine is filled in containers and packed.
- Tempering: done at 5°C-7°C to stabilize the texture of Margarine.
Is margarine vegan?
The answer is yes if you are eating it in India. According to FSSAI, This is an emulsion of edible oils and fats with water which is not rancid and does not contain any mineral oil or animal body fats. Table salt content must not exceed 2.5 per cent, and the content of skimmed milk powder must not exceed 2 per cent.
Whereas in other countries FDA permits the use of animal fat the limit is only on the percentage of fat used i.e. it should not be less than 80%, it has nothing to do with the source of fat.
Butter vs Margarine: Which Is the Healthier Option?
In the general case, Margarine is not considered healthy as it contains a lot of trans fats. It is important to limit the intake of saturated fats and to avoid trans-fats altogether. It should be noted that Margarine containing trans-fats lower the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol and raise the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol, thereby increasing the risk for coronary heart disease.
Margarine is a substitute for butter. It is not a dairy product. So, it does not contain any animal fat. It is made from vegetable oil, water, salt, and other additives. Since there is no animal fat, Margarine is low in saturated fatty acids. On the other hand, it contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are healthy fats. This is a only plus-point for Margarine over butter.
However, the flip-side of Margarine is that it contains incredibly harmful trans-fats. However, nowadays, companies are slowly lowering the trans-fat content in Margarine, and some varieties do not contain any trans-fats at all.