Benecol spread is a plant-stanol-based butter substitute that is marketed as a way to reduce cholesterol levels. The spread is designed to look and taste like regular butter or margarine, but with added health benefits.
In this blog post, we will explore the question of whether Benecol Spread is good for you by examining its ingredients, nutritional content, health benefits, and potential drawbacks.
Table of contents:
What is Benecol spread made of?
Benecol has a range of spread options available, including Benecol Buttery Spread, Benecol Light, and Benecol Olive Spread. Among these options, Benecol Buttery Spread is the most popular choice. If you’re interested in the ingredients present in this spread, here is a brief overview of them:
- Rapeseed Oil – a vegetable oil extracted from rapeseed plants
- Water – the main liquid component of the spread
- Plant Stanol Ester – Plant stanols and plant sterols are naturally occurring compounds found in fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, cereals, and nuts. However, the typical Western diet contains too low of an amount to have a significant effect on lowering cholesterol. This is why plant stanols are added to cholesterol-lowering products as plant stanol ester, which maintains the efficacy of the ingredient without altering the taste or texture of the food product.
- Responsibly sourced Palm Oil – a type of vegetable oil
- Buttermilk Powder – a dry form of buttermilk that adds a creamy texture and taste to the spread
- Salt (1%) – to enhance flavour
- Emulsifiers (Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Sunflower Lecithin) – help blend the ingredients together and improve texture
- Natural Flavourings – used to enhance the taste of the spread
- Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid) – added to maintain the spread’s acidity level
- Colour (Carotenes) – gives the spread its yellow colour
- Vitamin A and Vitamin D3 – vitamins added for nutritional value
It’s important to note that Benecol Buttery Spread contains plant stanols as its primary active ingredient, which is the compound responsible for its cholesterol-lowering properties.
Every 100g of Benecol contains 6.6g of plant stanols, and you can gain its beneficial effects by consuming 1.5-3g per day. It’s not recommended to take more than 3 grams in a single day, however.
Benecol Light spread has very similar ingredients, only that it doesn’t contain buttermilk and instead it contains whey powder and modified starch, to make it less fattening. It also contains preservative potassium sorbate which is not found in Benecol Buttery spread.
Benecol Olive Oil spread, on the other hand, contains 11% of olive oil, as well as some of the other ingredients found in other Benecol, spreads such as rapeseed oil, buttermilk, plant stanols and others.
Benecol Buttery Spread contains 54 calories per 10g serving (2 teaspoons) and has 5.9 grams of fat, including 1.1 grams of saturated fat. It has no protein and almost no carbs.
In one serving of Benecol spread you will find 0.7g of plant stanols and to reap its full benefits, you would need to consume 3 servings a day, which will give you 2.1g of plant stanols.
Other important nutrients in Benecol Buttery Spread include Vitamins A and D3, both of which are important for healthy vision, bone growth, and a strong immune system.
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids are also present in Benecol spread which are important for heart health.
Health Benefits of Benecol Spread
The main health benefit of Benecol Buttery Spread is its ability to reduce cholesterol levels. Plant stanols work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, which can lead to a decrease in LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Studies have shown that consuming 2-3 grams of plant stanols per day can lower LDL cholesterol by up to 10%.
And because lower LDL levels can reduce the risk of heart disease, Benecol is a great way to maintain heart health.
Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids found in Benecol Buttery Spread can help reduce inflammation and are also beneficial for heart health.
Finally, Benecol is a low-calorie, low-fat alternative to butter and other spreads that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
Benecol Buttery Spread vs Butter – Comparison
Traditional butter is a dairy product made from milk or cream, containing around 100 calories and 11 grams of total fat (7g of saturated fat) per tablespoon. It also contains important nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and E.
Benecol Buttery Spread, on the other hand, is a plant-based spread made from non-hydrogenated vegetable oils and a unique ingredient called plant stanol ester, which is proven to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. One tablespoon of Benecol spread contains only 50 calories and 5.4 grams of total fat (0.7g of saturated fat).
A significant advantage of Benecol Buttery Spread lies in its exceptional cholesterol-lowering feature. Plant stanols and sterols found in the spread work to block the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract, lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Studies have shown that incorporating 2 grams of plant stanols or sterols into your daily diet can help lower the LDL cholesterol levels by 10%, reducing the risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, consuming butter, especially in large quantities, can contribute to higher cholesterol levels and is not recommended for those with existing heart problems or high cholesterol.
How effective is Benecol Buttery Spread at lowering cholesterol?
Numerous studies have examined the impact of plant stanols on cholesterol, and it has been established that plant sterol-enriched products, including Benecol, can decrease LDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol) by approximately 10%.
However, the effectiveness of these products varies depending on several factors, such as an individual’s baseline LDL levels, food carrier, and frequency and timing of consumption.
Incorporating plant sterols into fat spreads, mayonnaise and salad dressing, milk, and yogurt is more effective than using croissants, muffins, orange juice, non-fat beverages, cereal bars, or chocolate.
It is also worth noting that consuming plant sterols as a single morning dose did not significantly affect LDL cholesterol levels.
Overall, scientific evidence suggests that consuming Benecol spreads is quite effective at lowering cholesterol levels in individuals, however, you need to make sure you are taking the right amount of Benecol spread to reap the full benefits.
Also, it is important to remember that plant sterols should be included in a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to achieve the maximum cholesterol-lowering effect.
Potential Drawbacks of Benecol
Although Benecol is a great way to lower cholesterol levels and is generally safe, it is important to note that there may be some potential drawbacks to consider.
Firstly, some people may experience gastrointestinal discomforts such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea when consuming plant sterols in large amounts. Additionally, consuming too much plant stanols or sterols is not recommended, as it may interfere with the absorption of other essential nutrients.
Secondly, it is important to note that Benecol spread is not suitable for individuals with a rare genetic disorder called sitosterolemia. This condition causes high levels of plant sterols to accumulate in the body, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Lastly, it is important to remember that Benecol is not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity is the best way to maintain a healthy heart.
Overall, while Benecol spread is generally safe and effective at reducing cholesterol levels, it is important to speak to a healthcare professional before incorporating it into your diet to ensure it is appropriate for you and to monitor any potential side effects.
How to Incorporate Benecol Spread into Your Diet
Incorporating Benecol spread into your diet is relatively easy and can be done in a variety of ways. One simple method is to use Benecol spread as a replacement for traditional butter or margarine on bread, toast, and crackers.
Additionally, Benecol spread can be used in recipes as a replacement for other spreads, such as mayonnaise or cream cheese, to add a cholesterol-lowering boost to your meals.
It is important to remember that the recommended daily intake of plant sterols is 2-3 grams per day, which can be achieved by consuming 3 servings of Benecol spread.
However, it is always best to speak to a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet to ensure that it is appropriate for you and to monitor any potential side effects.
Final Verdict – Is Benecol Buttery Spread Good for You or Not?
Based on scientific evidence, it is clear that Benecol is an effective and safe way to lower cholesterol levels when consumed in the right amount as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
It is important to remember that Benecol is not suitable for everyone, so please speak to a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet.
Additionally, it is important to ensure that the recommended daily intake is not exceeded. If you are looking for an easy way to lower your cholesterol levels, Benecol is definitely worth considering.