Margarine Versus Butter: Which is healthier to eat?
The debate over margarine and butter has been raging for a while now. Some believe butter to better, while others will argue for margarine. Like many things in our society is comes down to natural verses man-made and personal preference. But when it comes to your health, which one is the better option and is there really that much of a difference?
Let’s start with butter. As we know, butter is a natural product made from cream and has been favoured by many for years. Chefs prefer it and most of us have memories of creamy butter melting on warm bread, corn cobs and other comfort foods. Many will argue that butter is the bad guy because of its high saturated fat content. While it’s true that butter is high in fat (as is margarine), there are other benefits that it has to offer.
Butter is natural and aside from some water and salt, nothing else is added to the cream during the churning process. Butter is also high in fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) which are necessary for healthy skin, eyes, teeth, bones, hair, and nails (vitamin K also helps with blood clotting).
Butter is often preferred by chefs in cooking due to its taste and texture and the way it responses to heat. And many people prefer the creamy taste and texture of butter to eat compared to the taste of margarine.
When it comes to purchasing butter there is a wide range to choose from. One thing to note is that Australian butters tend to be a much richer yellow colour compared to European butters (pale yellow) due to the vitamin A rich milk produced by Australian cows (Australian butter makers do not use artificial colouring in their butters). The range of butter available in Australia includes salted butter (the most common), unsalted, cultured, clarified, butter concentrate, butter oil, and dairy blends.
Margarine is a man-made version of butter initially developed to be a cheaper alternative. Over the years there have been many arguments for and against margarine, depending on the trend at the time. As a man-made product, vegetable oils such as canola are used to make margarine, meaning that in the saturated fat stakes, margarine contains much less saturated fat than butter as it is made with mono and polyunsaturated oils.
One of the biggest arguments against margarine is that when it is developed it is very dark in colour and needs additives to turn it into the pale yellow colour we are used to. This argument has some merit as plants seeds such as canola, do produce oils that are dark in colour. Supporters of margarine will argue that the process of creating margarine and the health benefits derived from eating margarine justify the necessary additives.
Just as there is a variety of butter to choose from, there are also a number of margarines on the market. Salted and unsalted, reduced fat and blends, plus those with added omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are just some of the margarines available in the supermarkets today.
So .. Whats The best choice?
The choice between butter and margarine often comes down to personal choice. Butter is a natural product but is also high in saturated fat. Margarine on the other hand is man-made, highly processed but low in saturated fat.
Margarine can be a more suitable choice especially for those who have heart disease or high cholesterol, where lowering your saturated fat intake is extremely beneficial to your health and your condition. On the other hand, butter is high in fat soluble vitamins that are important to your health and well-being (especially your eyes, skin, bones, teeth and hair).
When it comes to choosing between margarine and butter, you need to consider your personal tastes and any medical conditions you may have. Margarine is the best choice if lowering your saturated fat intake is important, while butter is the way to go if you prefer a more natural product.
Regardless of which one you choose, both are high in fat and have around 100 calories per tablespoon. If you would prefer an alternative that is lower in calories, natural and high in good fats, nut butters, avocado, and hummus are tasty choices. Whatever spread you use, use sparingly, swap for tastier alternatives and you can have your spread and eat it too.