Butter or Margarine? What Is Better?

October 27, 2006

9114985031.jpgI myself have been intrigued by this question: which would I recommend to my patient… margarine or butter?  During medical school, it has been taught to us that margarine as a safer heart healthy alternative to butter. Butter apparently is unhealthy because it contains too much fat as well as cholesterol and therefore bad for the heart.  On the other hand we were taught that margarine  is better since it is being made from unsaturated vegetable oils, and as such it is healthier!

But lately  research has shown otherwise especially with the knowledge we have now of trans fat! Margarine – specifically the hard stick margarine – contains large amounts of trans fats and as such WORSE than butter!  In the study published in Journal of American Medical Associationwomen who ate 4 teaspoons of stick margarine a day had a 50 percent greater risk of heart disease than women who ate margarine only rarely.

So, what ‘s my recommendation ? If you can avoid both…much better.  If you want to use margarine… read the label… use those that are trans fat free or non-hydrogenated and if you chose a soft margarine, chose a product that is low in saturated fat.

Butter or Margarine…Neither!

2 Responses to “Butter or Margarine? What Is Better?”

  1. maxim Says:

    And when we were younger, we were made to believe by the ads that taking Star Margarine mixed in rice would make us taller.

  2. Emma Says:

    Trans fat naturally occurs in some foods, like butter, but are also formed in the processing of some foods where product texture and shelf life are desired. I’ve learned a lot about this subject because I work with the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers. In addition, heart disease runs in my family so I’ve got a personal interest in this subject as well.

    Have you looked at a margarine label lately? It’s very hard to find any soft or liquid margarine that contain trans fat, and trans fat levels of stick margarines have been greatly reduced. Using new technologies, margarine manufacturers have met the challenge and eliminated or reduced trans fat in margarine products, making a good product even better. In fact, the margarine industry has led the food industry in removing trans fat content from its products. Soft, liquid and spray margarine products are now in sync with the recommendations included in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid food guidance system. Soft margarine products were elevated in their importance in that they “help meet essential fatty acid needs and also contribute toward Vitamin E needs” according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report.

    Another benefit to using margarine is that it contains low levels of saturated fat, and no cholesterol when compared to butter. Saturated fat can raise low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C or “bad” cholesterol) in the blood, which at elevated levels increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Substituting intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in margarine, for saturated fat decreases LDL-C and the risk of coronary heart disease.

    When comparing margarine to butter, many margarine products are the recommended alternative as stated by of the American Heart Association, as well as the Federal government’s National Cholesterol Education Program. And yes, it’s still an economical choice for the consumer. For more information, visit http://margarine.org/qanda.html, http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/cholmonth/chol_kit.htm and http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200000.

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