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Fat Alternatives and Fat Replacers

Also indexed as: Diet Margarine, Margarine (Cholesterol-Lowering and Diet), Oatrim, Oil Sprays, Olestra, Simplesse®


Preparation, uses, and tips

Cholesterol-lowering and diet margarines can be used instead of butter or conventional margarine as a spread on toast and sandwiches. Some brands of cholesterol-lowering margarines are suitable for sautéing and baking. Diet margarines should not be heated, and are to be used only as a spread. Fruit-based fat substitutes can be used instead of fat in recipes for baked goods. Follow the substitution instructions on the package.

Buying and storing tips

Cholesterol-lowering and diet margarines should be stored in the refrigerator and used by the expiration date on the package. Oil sprays can be stored at room temperature. Fruit-based fat substitutes can be stored at room temperature until the original packaging is opened, but should be refrigerated after opening.


Cholesterol-lowering margarine (e.g., Benecol®) is a spreadable margarine product fortified with compounds called phytostanol esters that block the absorption of dietary cholesterol, thereby lowering blood cholesterol levels. In September 2000, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of a health claim on foods containing phytostanol esters that links the consumption of phytostanol esters with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Diet margarine contains a higher content of water and is lower in fat than conventional margarine.

Oil spray (e.g., Pam®) is made of oil combined with lecithin (an emulsifier derived from soybeans). These sprays prevent food from sticking to pans, thereby eliminating the need to add cooking oil to the pan, which reduces fat intake.

Fruit-based fat substitutes are used in baking low-fat recipes to provide a texture and mouth-feel that is similar to fat.

Simplesse® is made from whey (a milk protein) and egg white and provides about one-quarter as many calories as fat. This product is used in place of fat in food manufacturing.

Oatrim (Beta-Trim®, TrimChoice®) is made from enzyme-treated oat flour. Oatrim is used in place of conventional fats in food manufacturing.

Olestra (Olean®) is a non-caloric fat replacement used in the manufacture of low- and fat-free snack foods. Olestra molecules are very large—too big, in fact, to be absorbed in the digestive tract. Consequently, Olestra passes through the digestive tract and is eliminated in the feces without being absorbed. In some people, consumption of foods containing Olestra causes intestinal discomfort, cramps, and diarrhea. Therefore, foods containing Olestra are required to bear the warning: “May cause abdominal cramping and loose stools.”

Nutrition Highlights

Margarine (Cholesterol-Lowering [Benecol®]), 1 Tbsp margarine (14g)
Calories: 80
Protein: 0.0g
Carbohydrate: 0.0g
Total Fat: 9g
Fiber: 0.0g
*Excellent source of: Vitamin E (6 IU)
*Good source of: Vitamin A (500 IU)

Oil Spray (Vegetable), 1/2-second oil spray
Calories: 5
Protein: 0.0g
Carbohydrate: 0.0g
Total Fat: 0.0g
Fiber: 0.0g

Olestra, 1 gram
Calories: 0.0
Protein: 0.0g
Carbohydrate: 0.0g
Total Fat: 0.0g
Fiber: 0.0g

*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

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