Smart Balance Buttery Burst: Too Good to be Food?

Nutritionist Keri Glassman investigates

Smart Balance

Nothing tastes quite like a warm piece of bread slathered with melted butter.  Smart Balance offers a calorie, fat, and sugar-free butter-spray that you don’t even need a knife to spread. Just spray! You may have seen this bottle in the refrigerated dairy section…right next to the real butter. But this sounds tempting. Zero calories, zero grams trans fats, zero carbs for the taste of buttery goodness?  But is it Too Good To Be Food?  Let’s take a look at what’s inside this buttery bottle.

What’s in it:


WATER – H20. No surprises here!

SOYBEAN OIL - Oil extracted from the soybean. This inexpensive secondary product of soybeans is widely used in food products to add moisture and improve mouthfeel.  Soybean oil is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fats, which contain essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These unsaturated fats may reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, lowering your risk of heart disease.  Keep in mind, if you are concerned about GMO’s like many, almost all soybeans in the US are genetically modified for hardiness and pest-resistance.

BUTTERMILK - Buttermilk is a tart, low-fat milk byproduct that, contrary to its name, is not made with butter!  Buttermilk is high in calcium, riboflavin and protein, and also contains probiotics – healthy bacteria that may strengthen your digestive system.

SALT - Salt, simple and natural, acts as a preservative and enhances flavor. Watch the quantity, though! Dietary guidelines suggest 1500 mg per day or less for adults and salt content in packaged foods adds up very quickly!

SOY LECITHIN- Soy lecithin is an emulsifier and stabilizer derived from soybeans that keeps foods from separating. This ingredient mimics the binding effects of eggs, and gives dressings and sauces a consistent texture. 

POLYSORBATE 80 - Ingredient that keeps foods from separating, but can cause non-immunologic anaphylactic reactions (code for massive allergic reaction without a pre-existing allergy). Any ingredient with a number after it reminds me of a science project that would be assigned to my 9 year-old. This ingredient is used as a solubilizing agent that can cause allergic reactions.

XANTHAN GUM - It is a colorless paste derived from plants and is a safe fat replacer, thickener and stabilizer when used in small amounts. Xanthan Gum is a natural, sugar-like compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with certain kinds of bacteria.  It is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent.  Xanthan gum has also been used to help lower blood sugar and total cholesterol in individuals with diabetes.

LACTIC ACID – A common additive that acts as a flavoring agent or preservative. Lactic Acid is produced by natural fermentation in products such as cheese, yogurt, soy sauce, sourdough, meat products and pickled vegetables.  When found in food products, lactic acid is used as a preservative and enhances flavor.  No problems here.

NATURAL FLAVOR – A flavoring produced in laboratories to give more flavor to processed foods that have lost their natural flavor due to process of freezing, dehydrating, and canning. It is made from chemicals (a collection of gases). Be wary when you see this.  They are a blend of natural chemicals to produce desired flavors, but which ones? Who knows! Steer clear.

ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR – Artificial flavors are not derived from any natural source. In other words, these taste compounds are chemical cocktails mixed to mimic real food flavors. Avoid artificial flavors whenever possible!

BETA-CAROTENE (COLOR) - An ingredient added to impart a yellow color to this product and to keep it from going rancid.  Beta-carotene is very safe and your body converts it to vitamin A, which is beneficial for eye health.

POTASSIUM SORBATE – this is a preservative added to foods to prevent the growth of yeasts and molds. It generally recognized as safe, and is widely used in food products and fermented beverages like wine and beer to prevent re-fermentation after bottling.

TBHQ - TBHQ stands for tertiary butylhydroquinone…what a mouthful! This controversial chemical is added to maintain freshness. It is considered safe when used in regulation-level doses, but has been found to cause life-threatening side effects when consumed above the suggested dose. TBHQ is derived from butane, which is the main component of lighter fluid. Yuck! While the FDA allows it to be used sparingly in food, 1 gram of this stuff can cause nausea and vomiting, among other unpleasant side effects. This stuff is just bad, bad, bad.

CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA - A preservative that is often used in canned and carbonated soft drinks for flavor retention.  This product is on the FDA priority list of food additives to be studied for potentially dangerous effects on health.  To top it off, ingesting this stuff may cause intestinal upset, muscle cramps, and kidney damage!  Need I say more?

Bottom Line:

A butter spray that has zero calories and fat is sort of like looking for spinach with no nutrients. Butter is fat and should contain fat just as spinach should contain vitamins and minerals. This stuff is without a doubt... Too Good To Be Food.  There isn’t much in here that hasn’t been processed.  To top it off, it contains two really scary food additives – TBHQ and calcium disodium EDTA, which may cause serious health problems. You are way better off using a small amount of real butter to get your fix and even some health benefits.


Nutrition Info:
Calories: 0
Total fat: 0 g
Saturated fat: 0g
Trans fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0g
Sodium: 0g
Total Carbohydrate: 0g
Fiber: 0g
Sugar: 0g
Protein: 0g