Americans put butter on everything. Butter on vegetables, butter in pastries, butter on pasta, popcorn, potatoes, and toast. We use brown butter for extra flavor, or combine butter it with sugar to make frosting. Upon going vegan, many of us Americans simply switch from butter to vegan butter, usually Earth Balance. The switch is simple, easy, and let’s face it, Earth Balance tastes great!
However, let’s consider a few things. Why did you go vegan in the first place? For animal rights? For health? For the environment? Fact of the matter is, if you are eating Earth Balance you are not helping any of these causes. This is due to the main ingredient in Earth Balance: inorganic palm oil.
In a side by side comparison, palm oil is just as bad for you as butter. According to National Public Radio, while palm oil might not have trans fats like butter, it is high in saturated fats which do very similar things. Similar to butter, studies show that people with diets high in saturated fat tend to have unhealthy levels of LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, we have the obvious fact that palm oil has absolutely no nutritional benefit when compared to healthy fats, like avocado, flaxseed oil, or olive oil. Palm oil, like sugar, is just empty calories.
In regards to the environment, palm oil has been considered one of the leading causes of global warming due to deforestation. For example, in Indonesia, between 1967 and 2000, 28,000 square kilometers were cleared for palm oil production. At this rate, the 2007 report by the United Nations Environment Program stated that most of the country’s forest would be destroyed by 2022. According to Rolf Skar, senior forest campaigner with Greenpeace,
“The fastest and the worst deforestation rate in the history of humankind is taking place in the tropical forests of Indonesia,” Skar says. “That record-breaking rain forest destruction is being fueled by the clearing of land to make palm oil.”
It goes almost without saying, that such deforestation deprives animals of their natural habitat. Of note are critically endangered species such Sumatran orangutan and tiger. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be an orangutan, and to see such devastation across your homeland. If you are worried about human rights, as well as animals rights, palm oil farms have also been accused of depriving native peoples off their land through force and without compensation.
One of the latest efforts to combat these negative effects, is the certification of sustainable palm oil products. Sustainable palm oil certification requires that no biodiverse habitat is cleared for the manufacture of the palm oil, and a reduced reliance on pesticides. Thus, it goes without saying that if you must purchase palm oil, if you can find organic certified sustainable palm oil, this will greatly help. Still, even if the palm oil is sustainable, their is the problem of the negative health consequences.
These last few weeks, I have been on a quest to find good replacements for vegan palm oil based butter. In regards to store bought butter, the best I can find is Miyoko’s cultured vegan butter. Made with a coconut oil base, this butter not only tastes good, but comes without the environmental side effects. In terms of health benefits, it does have cultured cashews in it, thus having a tiny bit of nutritional value.
In regards to homemade, I’ve been trying a lot of recipes, and next post will be all about how to make the best and healthiest vegan butter you can. However, the best substitute for butter in anything, is not vegan butter, but natural and healthy oils and fat heavy foods. For example, try drizzling olive oil or hemp oil on vegetables or baked potatoes. Use avocados to make healthy chocolate cakes! My favorite substitute for butter, is delicious cashew based sauces, like my homemade vegan YumYum sauce. This stuff is amazing, and it’s mainly cashews and nutrient packed nutritional yeast! I’ve used this stuff for everything from salad dressing, to topping potatoes, pizza, and roasted vegetables. It’s so good, I lick the blender when I’m done making a batch!
What do you use butter for, and what replacement could you use to make it not only taste better, but be better for the environment and your own health?
This Week in Updates: Going on a cruise!
This week has felt nuts. I’ve been doing a lot of odd jobs to make extra money for Jesse and my travel, and so my schedule has been all over the place! In the last 1.5 weeks though, I’ve made almost $1000. That’s pretty good, yes? My reward is leaving Sunday for an Alaskan cruise paid for very generously by Jesse’s parents. It’s exciting, and a little nerve racking. Number 1, I still really don’t like cruises and being on boats that can sink and flip over like the titanic. Yes, I was in the Coast Guard, but never on a cutter. Second, I am terrible at relaxing. I’ve been so busy doing money making things, my version of a good time right now would be time to do wedding planning, wedding sewing, and maybe actually something that requires my brain. Dog walking is very nonintellectual. Third, I have a feeling there will be a lot of family time. I do not necessarily excel at family time. Can we just have a nice multiple choice test instead? Or how about I clean something for brownie points?
I am very excited to see Jesse again after he has been away for a week. The glaciers are supposed to be very beautiful, and it is wonderful to see Jesse and his family together. Time with his family all together makes Jesse so happy, and there isn’t anything that makes me happier than when Jesse feels loved and appreciated. It’s also going to be wonderful because Jesse is actually taking real time off from his job. That means waking up every morning, and not having the first thing he has to do be get on the computer to work, and I won’t (obviously) be running around dog walking. We’ll actually have some real time together! Now that is a gift I am very, very thankful for.
But in regards to motivational vacation goals (this is how I operate, seriously…) I think (as opposed to what people usually do) I am going to use the plethora of free food to eat like I want to but can’t afford. Veggies all day every day! Doing my biking/dog walking days means I’ve been eating a lot, and being on a budget means most of that is bread, rice, and beans. When you’re on a food budget, vegetables and fruits become terribly exciting. My other goal is to read the book The Power Broker, a 1000 page monster on Urban Planning. Thus goals are to work out hard, eat crazily healthy, and whip this brain back into shape!
A tribute to the craziness of this week is that I have no idea where my other grocery receipt is…. sorry!
The Recipe: Vegan Yumyum Sauce
This is honestly one of the most delicious things I have ever made. I was actually making vegan cheese, when I discovered how good this stuff is uncooked. Now I just keep $2 worth of cashews on hand so that I can make a batch whenever the mood strikes!
- 1/2 cup soaked cashews
- 1 cup hot water
- 1-2 tbs tapioca starch
- 2 tbs nutritional yeast
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- Throw all ingredients in the blender, blend, and enjoy!