Is Vegan Butter Healthy? Let's Talk About It
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
- We tend to think of all vegan products as healthy, but vegan products can actually be highly processed and full of artificial ingredients.
- Vegan butter is one of these products, often including high amounts of salt, preservatives, and artificial flavoring. Additionally, it doesn’t include the essential fatty acids that you find in full fat dairy butter.
- If you do end up choosing vegan butter, you can still get the necessary C15:0 by taking a supplement like fatty15, which will help support cellular health.
We tend to think of the term “vegan” as a synonym for healthy. Excluding animal products, high fat dairy products, and increasing our intake of fruits and vegetables seems like a no-brainer for increasing our overall health.
Benefits of a vegan diet can include:
- A lowered risk of heart disease
- Weight loss and healthy weight maintenance
- A potentially lowered risk from certain cancers
Unfortunately, becoming vegan does not automatically cause you to become “healthy.” In fact, it is entirely possible to be unhealthy as a vegan. Critics of veganism often point out that many products created for vegans as substitutes for traditional meat and dairy are:
- Highly processed
- Full of artificial ingredients
- Heavy on refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Lacking many nutritional benefits
Because of our natural tendency to associate veganism and vegan products with an improvement to our health, we are sometimes misled by cleverly marketed products that don’t actually provide any health benefit to us.
A great example of this is a dairy-free cookie. Many dairy-free cookies are “accidentally vegan.” In other words, they weren’t created as a specifically vegan product, however the absence of any animal product or byproduct in them makes them vegan by default. A cookie heavily laden with vegetable fat, sugar, artificial colors and flavors wouldn’t be considered nutritious.
The same is true for vegan butter substitutes. Just because a vegan butter substitute is marketed as vegan does not mean it’s actually good for you. For a product to be considered vegan, it simply has to contain no animal products or byproducts.
Many vegan butters contain ingredients that are questionable for one’s overall health. Popular vegan butter substitutes often include:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial flavors
Additionally, there are some health benefits of full fat dairy butter that you will not receive if you are eating a plant-based butter.
For example, C15:0 (also called pentadecanoic acid) is a natural odd-chain saturated fatty acid found primarily in whole milk and full fat butter, and a growing body of scientific evidence supports that it is actually nutritious and beneficial to our cellular health.*† So beneficial, in fact, that it may just be the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in 90 years.
Although vegan butter may not contain C15:0, getting C15:0 directly from whole fat butter may not be the best option for you. This is because full-fat dairy products like butter contain another type of saturated fatty acid, called even-chain saturated fatty acids (like C16:0), that have been associated with an increased risk of inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Thankfully there is a way to get healthy, non-animal based C15:0 in your diet while still using a vegan butter alternative.
First, let’s dissect vegan butter to determine whether it’s actually beneficial to your health.
Nutritional Content of Vegan Butter
Calories. In terms of calories, vegan butter is quite similar to regular full fat butter. Weighing in at about 100 calories per tablespoon, it is on par with regular butter. You would be hard-pressed to find a vegan butter that contains less calories, as vegan butters are typically derived from plant-based oils which are typically higher in fat.
Cholesterol. Cholesterol is a different story. A tablespoon of regular butter contains approximately 30 mg of cholesterol whereas vegan butter does not contain any cholesterol. Cholesterol is only found in animal products and animal byproducts, so you won’t find it in any vegan butter option.
Fat. While the fat content across different brands and types of vegan butters can vary slightly, most vegan butters will contain around the same amount of total fat as regular butter. This is usually between 10 to 12 grams per tablespoon. The difference in terms of fat content is the source of the fat.
- Monounsaturated fat. Vegan butter is high in monounsaturated fat which has been linked to positive health benefits. Regular butter contains primarily saturated fat over monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat.
- Vegan butters also contain amounts of polyunsaturated fats commonly known as omega-6 fatty acids. While these fatty acids are essential, meaning our bodies need them and cannot make them on their own, getting too much omega-6 in your diet has been associated with undesirable health conditions.
- Vegan butter is lower in saturated fat, however it is important to remember that not all saturated fats are bad. Unfortunately, the saturated fat contained in regular butter is a mix of both good odd-chain and bad even-chain saturated fatty acids.
As previously mentioned, one of the downsides of food created especially for vegans is the potential risk of it being highly processed. The problem with overly processed foods is that they can lose much of their nutritious profile during the processing.
Additionally, it is pretty common for vegan butters in particular to include artificial colors, flavors, and a myriad of preservatives. In addition to being ingredients that you just don’t want to see in your food, highly processed ingredients typically don’t add health benefits for your body.
This creates empty calories when every calorie we take into our bodies is important -- and should provide some type of nutritional benefit.
We’ve already discussed that vegan butter:
- Can contain highly processed ingredients devoid of nutritional value; and
- Can contain a higher amount of omega-6 fatty acids then you actually need.
Additional considerations when opting for a vegan butter alternative are:
- High sodium content. The sodium content of 1 tablespoon of regular butter is 2 milligrams compared to approximately 120 milligrams of sodium in vegan butter.
- Inclusion of refined oils. Many vegan butters contain refined oils which could be linked to negative health impacts, like inflammation.
- Higher price. Although this isn’t a health concern, it could certainly be viewed as an important consideration. When we purchase food we are essentially making an investment in our health. That money is either going to buy products that either provide significant nutritional benefit to our diets, or don’t. Vegan butter may not provide enough nutrients to be worth the high price tag that comes along with them.
How to Get C15:0 With Vegan Butter
If lactose allergies or dietary restrictions have you considering vegan butter as an alternative to full fat butter, you should know you can still get the same health benefit from C15:0 without eating regular butter.
Fatty15 is a daily supplement that contains only FA15™, a pure powder and vegan-friendly form of C15:0.
Fatty15 is an effective way to provide support to your cells and improve your overall health profile, and has been linked to:*†
- Balanced immunity
- Healthy metabolism
- Red blood cell health
- Liver health
Fatty15 provides a daily dose of this healthy fatty acid, so no matter what type of butter you consume, your cells will still get the support they need to stay healthy and strong.*† Fatty15 supports your cellular health specifically by promoting cellular membrane structure, bolstering mitochondrial health, and balancing your immunity and metabolism.*†
Fatty15 is also a vegan-friendly product and completely sustainable, from our single ingredient to our refillable glass bottle to the bamboo cap. We ship our initial product and refill pouches in a three-month supply to cut down on packaging and shipping. It’s important to us that our desire to take care of our bodies not result in a negative impact on the environment or increase our carbon footprint.
So, whichever type of butter you choose to spread on your toast, take advantage of fatty15 and all its benefits to make sure your cells get the support they need to keep you healthy and help you age on your own terms.*†
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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