At a Safeway in Westminster, MD, recently, I was looking for a "vegan buttery spread," and found a new vegan product: "Smart Balance Regular with Flax Oil." Odd, I thought, having read the ingredients in "Smart Balance" in my friend's 'frig the day before. It contained "whey." I bought it (no whey!) and here's what I think:
Price was a little above $2 for two 8 oz. tubs, in the same zone as other vegan spreads I like.
PACKAGING: I like the tubs (will re-use them), although plastic, better than the "sticks." Labeled a "non-hydrogenated buttery spread" with "64% natural vegetable oils. "Patented blend to help balance cholesterol." Has text explaining HDL "good" and LDL "bad" cholesterol, as well as the following bullets of note:
- 500 mg (ALA) Omega-3's
- Vitamins A, B6, B12, D & E added
- No Hydrogenated Oil
- No Trans Fats ... Naturally
- No Palm Kernel Oil
- Natural Blend - No Chemical Modification
- Right Balance of Fats to Improve Cholesterol
- No Gelatin, Starch or Gums
- Gluten Free
The "inside" package has a good page's worth of text billed as ""Heart Health News." It's quite reasonable, with 5 categories of info: "Dedication to Exercise," "Check Your Blood Pressure," "Mom Was Right About Fruits & Vegetables," "You May Need More Omega-3's," and "Satin Drugs" (for high cholesterol). Pretty cool, overall.
TASTE: not as "buttery" as others, but acceptable. I like the idea of the Flax Oil and vitamins being added, although some of the ingredients I'm not wild about (natural and artificial flavor... like what? potassisum sorbate, TBHQ, calcium disodium, lactic acid (animal or non-animal sourced?)... all stuff I'd have to research if I cared enough to).
I put Smart Balance on some bagels for toasting (it spread well), and I'm going to try a "tofu in tamari then dipped in nutritional yeast and sauteed in a little buttery spread" test later in the week to see how well it handles the heat.
NUTRITION FACTS OF NOTE: (per TBL): Total Fat (9g), Cholesterol (0g), Sat Fat (2.5g), Sodium (85mg - 4% DV) - "Natural oil belend (palm fruit, soybean, canola seed, flaxseed and olive oils).
CONCLUSION: I plan to consume less and less hydrogenated oils in the near future, and taste is not that critical. I like the nutritional values in Smart Balance (well, "balance" this with the fat content, of course) and will probably use it more often then those with hydrogenated oil. I would not use S.B. daily for a variety of health reasons. I may research the ingredients later, actually verifying that those I don't know are vegan, but at least it doesn't contain "whey" or some obvious cow-related ingredient and it's a "more than adequate" substitute for butter (so far).
It's clear that this company may have ripped off the makers of "Earth Balance" buttery spread (that I've seen as being very popular on vegan boards), but without more research, don't know for certain (or can compare the nutritionals). Some of the "claims" of "Smart Balance" are VERY similiar to "Earth Balance" literature/marketing online, but they have added stuff that "E.B." doesn't have.
Anyway, it's really great to see these kind of options in a conventional grocery store, and since this Safeway is near a liberal arts college, it tends to have organic and veg'n items sooner than other locations. When visiting my friends in the area, I do most of the nighttime cooking. To be able to go and purchase a vegan buttery spread to make garlic bread and other recipes for my non-veg'n friends, is wonderful. I can anticipate using some of the spread in a mock clam chowder, on toast, making French Toast, in breads, maybe even as an "herbed butter" on vegetables.
BOTTOM LINE; solid "B" as a product, don't use too often (largely fat), and let's hope that Smart Balance, ahem, spreads to other stores.
COMPANY: Heart Beat Foods