Butter v Margarine

“So which is better for me…

Butter or Margarine?”

This is one of the most frequent questions nutritionists get asked!  And it’s  no wonder with all the conflicting reports out there.  We all know that both are forms of fat and so both should be used sparingly, but which is the better choice for the occasional compliment to cooking or as a savory spread? Let’s take a closer look at both forms of flavor!


The two biggest troubles with butter are its saturated fat content and the presence of dietary cholesterol.  Saturated fats increase your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increases your risk for heart disease.  A healthy range for saturated fat is 10-15 grams a day.  Just one tablespoon of butter contains over 7 grams of saturated fat! Cholesterol is found only in animal based products, so you won’t find it in plant-based foods (such as marga­rine). A healthy person should consume no more than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day.  There are 33 milligrams of cholesterol in one Tablespoon of butter.


The controversy with margarine lies with its level of trans fat which is largely a man-made fat.  Trans fats have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol similarly to satu­rated fats and they tend to lower “healthy”

Cholesterol when eaten in large amounts. Trans fats also tend to make our blood platelets stickier.  One Tablespoon of stick margarine containes 3 grams of trans fat and two grams of saturated fat.

Nutrition is not an exact science because researchers are discovering new things about the human body all the time.  But the basic recommendation right now is that margarine is the better choice.  Although margarine contains more trans fats than butter, when you look at the overall fat level, margarine comes out ahead. (butter contains 7.5 grams of trans + saturated fats per serving as compared to 4.7 for stick margarines and 3.0 for tub margarines.)  Switch to tub or liquid margarine.  Also look for spreads that claim “trans fat free or zero-trans fat”.  This means that the margarine contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving.  Some great brands are  I Can’t believe It’s not Butter  spray or soft Shedd’s Spread Country Crock with Yogurt.  Ask your doctor for other recommendations according to your health needs.

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