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A general term for butter, soft margarines, and low fat spreads which may not be called margarine (the composition of which is legally defined). Margarines were first developed as a cheap alternative to butter. They were made mainly from hydrogenated plant oils. The addition of hydrogen transforms the oils into solid, saturated fats. They were cheap but difficult to spread after refrigeration and not very tasty. Responding to the demand for a more spreadable and tasty margarine, manufacturers produced soft margarines with a higher content of poly-unsaturated fats. These spreads have gained in popularity as people have learned that unsaturated fats are healthier that saturated ones. Some spreads have been developed with the additional advantage to weight-conscious consumers of being low in calories. This is achieved by increasing the water content of the spread or by using fat replacers. Care should be taken when buying spreads because some low calorie varieties have a relatively high percentage of saturated fats.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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