There seems to be little distinction between butter and margarine, so how can you tell which spread is healthier?
If ever there was a debate among nutritionists, the controversy over margarine versus butter is probably in the forefront. In some circles, margarine is shunned more so while others believe butter is worse for you health-wise. Read on to shine more light on this issue and hopefully wade through the confusion.
There is No Clear Answer
The truth is that neither margarine nor butter is good for you, and it’s really a matter of preference and what you’d rather deal with from one to the other. It’s better to know what each of these spreads are made up of and what this means for you; then you can decide for yourself.
Butter Pros and Cons
Good Source of Vitamins A, D and E – Vitamin A helps the immune system to function properly, as well as improves vision. Vitamins A and D together tackle osteoporosis and heart disease, since they help the body absorb calcium. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals that cause disease.
Contains Iodine – Iodine is very good for the thyroid, which assists with metabolism and hormone control.
Contains Glycospingolipids – These are fatty acids that help the digestive system to function well.
Loads of Cholesterol – Butter is made from animal products, which means that it has cholesterol and a lot of it (roughly 33 mg per tablespoon). The recommended limit on cholesterol you should have daily is no more than 200 mg.
Loads of Saturated Fat (Bad Kind) – Butter is also loaded with saturated fat (about 7 grams per tablespoon). The recommended limit on saturated fat you should have per day is 15 grams. Saturated fat and cholesterol together lead to heart disease, because they clog your arteries, make the heart pump harder and raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Saturated fat in butter raises both the good “HDL” and bad “LDL” cholesterol, though there’s only a minute increase in good cholesterol.
Margarine Pros and Cons
Cholesterol Free – Because margarine is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, it contains no cholesterol. This simply means it doesn’t come from an animal source. It’s been said that the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oil can actually lower cholesterol levels.
Loads of Trans Fat – Trans fat is reportedly even worse than saturated fat and cholesterol, because trans fat raises insulin levels, raises bad LDL cholesterol, lowers good HDL cholesterol, makes the blood sticky and clogs arteries.
Heart disease is inevitable when margarine is consumed regularly because of the high level of trans fats (3 g per tablespoon). The more solid margarine is (sticks), the more trans fats it contains, so it is recommended that you aim for tub margarine that is trans fat-free.
Lots of Saturated Fat – Saturated fat is unhealthy fat and margarine has a lot of it (2 g per tablespoon). See the saturated fat section on butter for more info.
Disease Breeder – Margarine reportedly weakens the quality of breast milk, decreases immunity, increases one’s risk for cancer, and is one molecule away from being plastic.
Conclusion of the Matter
Based on the facts presented here, butter appears to be the better choice because it’s more natural and the good outweighs the bad. The opposite is true with margarine. That being said, trans fat-free margarine is an even better choice than butter, since it is the single most damaging ingredient in margarine.