Butter or Margarine???

What’s the better choice?

Since this is a common nutrition question I’m hoping I can debunk it for everyone. First, let’s remember that whichever you choose, margarine or butter, they are both fats so we want to use them sparingly.
Now to the answer. Like all things nutrition there isn’t a simple black or white answer since fats aren’t all created equal. Some are better for you than others. If you want the most natural form of fat then butter is your choice but it’s made from milk fat which means it’s higher in saturated fat and not good for our hearts in large quantities. If you are a butter lover and looking for a healthier version try whipped butter which is lighter from the added air. Or, try a butter and olive oil blend, like Land o Lakes Butter with Olive Oil which has 3g less saturated fat than regular butter.

If you have high cholesterol or want a more heart healthy, low calorie spread then margarine may be your choice. Margarine’s are made from vegetable oils and usually vegan. If you’ve ever walked through the margarine section of the grocery store you know there are lots of brands and all different phrases used to lure you in to buying a product. Even for me choosing which margarine to buy is a daunting task. The first thing to remember is to avoid the stick margarine’s as they usually contain trans fats which aren’t good for our heart. Once you make it to the margarine’s in a tub section pay attention to the nutrition facts labels. Choose one that is trans fat free such as Country Crock, Smart Balance or Promise. Next, think about what your health risks are. Are you overweight? If so, a “light” margarine may be your best choice since it cuts down the calories. Or maybe you have high LDL cholesterol. Benecol, Promise Activ and Smart Balance Heart Smart all contain plant sterols which are natural plant extracts that compete with the absorption of cholesterol and can result in a decrease of LDL cholesterol by up to 20%. My senior research paper was on plant sterols and after receiving a high LDL cholesterol read 3 years ago I tested this out by taking 2 grams of plant sterols each day for 3 months and my LDL went down by more than 10% and has stayed normal! Other margarine options on the market contain omega-3’s and flax seed oil which may be good to try if you don’t consume fish often.

So, the final answer. If you love butter use it sparingly or try a whipped or mixed blend to make it healthier. If you have heart health history in your family or are vegan go for a tub margarine. I keep them both on hand and use butter for baking, potatoes and a few other dishes, margarine for breads and olive oil for most things I saute.

Check out Twin Cities Live on channel 5 tomorrow, Monday April 25th @ 3pm. I’ll be on discussing this topic with the hosts John and Elizabeth and having them do a taste test of margarine vs butter on toast and baked in cookies! Do you think you’d be able to tell the difference?
(For my new readers I post all my TV segment on the right side under TCL segments after they air)

Nutrition Break Down per serving

                                                                                      Calories          Total Fat         Saturated Fat
  • Stick Butter                                                     100 kcal            11g Fat              7g Sat
  • Stick Margarine                                            100 kcal            11g Fat              2 g Sat + 2.5g trans fat
  • Land O Lakes Butter with Olive Oil          90kcal              10g Fat             4g Sat
  • Land O Lakes Whipped Butter                   50kcal               6g Fat               3.5g Sat
  • Promise Regular Spread                              80kcal               8g Fat               1.5g Sat
  • Promise Light Spread                                   45 kcal                5g Fat               1g Sat
  • Smart Balance Omega-3 Spread                80 kcal              8g Fat               2.5g Sat       (Contains EPA/DHA and ALA)
  • Country Crock Original                                 70 kcal              7g Fat               2 g Sat
  • Country Crock Light                                      50 kcal              5g Fat               1.5g Sat
  • Smart Balance Heart Right                         80 kcal              8g Fat               2.5g Sat       (Contains 1.7 grams Plant Sterols)
  • Smart Balance Heart Right Light             45 kcal              5g Fat               1.5g Sat fat   (Contains 1.7 grams Plant Sterols)
  • Promise Activ Spread                                    70 kcal              8g Fat               1 g Sat Fat   (Contains 1 gram Plant Sterols)
  • Promise Activ Spread Light                         45 kcal              5g Fat               1g Sat Fat     (Contains 1 gram Plant Sterols)
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