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Margarine, then and now…

My friend, Jeanne, loaned me her old nutrition textbook to look over. She knew I would find some very interesting tid-bits in there. What especially caught her eye was the definition of Margarine back then…

First read the present day, more “PC” (politically correct) definition from Wikipedia:

Margarine, as a generic term, can indicate any of a wide range of butter substitutes. In many parts of the world, margarine has become the best-selling table spread, although butter and olive oil also command large market shares. Margarine is an ingredient in the preparation of many other foods. In some regions people may refer to margarine as butter in informal speech, but in several countries laws forbid food packaging to refer to margarine as “butter”. Recipes sometimes refer to margarine as oleo.

Now read the definition from her textbook, originally written in 1940. (Lots of editions since that day, so I don’t know specifically when this part was added…)

Margarine is a plastic food made from one or more optional fat ingredients churned with cultured pasteurized skim milk. It is a water-in-fat emulsion and must contain not less than 80% fat according to the standard of identity for margarine that has been published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Soybean and cottonseed oils, refined and partially hydrogenated to produce a desired consistency, are extensively used in producing margarines.

Doesn’t sound very natural or appetizing does it?

First, it’s made with cultured pasteurized skim milk, not good. And they don’t tell you that soybean and cottonseed oils are made from genetically engineered crops. Also, remember, “partially hydrogenated” means trans fats.

What else? Please jump in with more reasons margarine is gross!


  1. Ummm, plastic? That should be enough right there for anybody to never eat it again!! Plastic food is what my children play with in their play kitchen. Even they know not to really eat it!

    • Um, . . . Christy, “plastic” means that it’s pliable, much like butter is plastic. It has nothing to do with the synthetic material we now call plastic.

      Let’s no overreact here. Remember, the textbook here was written in 1940, when plastic as we know it now was still novel. The term meant something else entirely then—as it still does now in certain material contexts.

      • We’re not overreacting, and anyway, all we need to do is compare ingredient lists. One is a food, one is a factory-made “product”.


        • Magarine IS plastic. My husband is a specialist electrician, in plastics, that is how he gained his initial Australian residency. He worked in a margarine factory for some time and of course, never touched it after that. It is one molecule different and shares about 16 or so ingredients with paint. DO NOT CONSUME IT IF YOU VALUE YOUR HEALTH. By all means if you do not give a crap or believe everything you are told by so called nutrition experts then go ahead, I figure it is natural selection anyway!

  2. I was 15 or 16 before I found out margarine wasn’t butter. My aunt sent her soon to be son in law to the store for butter then made fun of him because he came back with butter.

  3. Um, let’s remember that “plastic” also means “malleable”, which I am sure is the context for theis textbook definition, as at the time, the marketing was that margarine is spreadable. Also, at the time, I’m betting that the soy and cottonseed weren’t GM – my guess is this language was inserted in the ’60s.

    That said, however, fake butter = gross!

  4. interesting……

    the old version is a “just the facts ma’am”

    whereas the new version is a slick marketing piece!



  5. I am not sure what’s the real difference between eating the oil margarine and oil you put in your car. Except that the latter will make you die probably within 24 hours, and the other takes a little more time. Both aren’t meant to be eaten. The main difference I guess is that you can “tolerate” the taste of margarine, whereas car oil you can’t, you’ll throw up right away. They’re both oil but not oils meant for nutritive or metabolic purposes, let alone consumption. The body would probably think when/if it consumes both “What the (expletive) is this? My veins don’t know what to do with this…help!”

    I can’t believe how fake some of the food is that I’ve been eating for years and YEARS. I’m 31 and I’m wondering if my veins are already too clogged to hope for a better life! But seeing a doctor won’t help – they’re the ones that advocate this stuff. Let alone low fat milk, egg WHITES, etc. After reading these kinds of articles I am weary of ever going to a doctor again.

  6. I’ve switched from margarine to butter. I also use olive oil and sunflower oil. Some margarine tastes so good that it’s almost addictive. I’m glad to be “off” the fake crap!!

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