When I was asked to do an article on the health differences between margarine and butter I was a little apprehensive. The thought of margarine makes me cringe and I eat butter like its going out of style.
Personal biases aside, here are facts on butter and margarine. You can decide for yourself.
Saturated and Unsaturated Fats
Margarine contains mostly unsaturated fats. Butter contains saturated fat, which has a bad reputation, especially in relation to heart-health. But our bodies require some saturated fats in order to function properly. Cutting it out of your diet completely is not a good idea. The book, Fats That Heal Fats That Kill by Udo Erasmus has everything you need to know about good fats and bad fats.
Also, recent evidence from Nutritional Bypass by David W. Rowl suggests that saturated fats do not cause heart disease.
Don’t overdo it though, and if you are trying to lose weight use either sparingly.
Trans Fat/Hydrogenated Fat
Some margarine contains trans fats/hydrogenated fats. These are fats created by adding chemicals and hydrogen at high heat. This process creates a completely unnatural product, devoid of any original nutritional attributes such as essential fats. If you choose margarine, avoid any brands that contain these fats.
Margarine contains chemicals including colouring agents, emulsifiers, unnatural fatty acids and flavouring agents. These additives are unfavourable due to their toxic properties and also make margarine more difficult to digest than butter. Butter on the other hand is a whole food, containing just milk fat and sometimes salt.
Butter and margarine typically have the same amount of calories (and fat grams), except when it comes to light margarine, or margarine-like spreads, which have less. Please note that the light spreads typically contain hydrogenated fats and are very processed.
Toxins In Animal Fats
Antibiotic levels are high in non-organic cows and traces of these drugs can be found in their milk products, including butter. Also, toxic build-up from highly fertilized and/or high-pesticide feed is found in high concentrations in the fat of animals. Therefore, if you choose butter, you should buy the organic variety.
The difference between margarine (cheap) and organic butter (expensive) is pretty big.
Stability of Fats
Unlike butter, margarine is not suited for heating. The fat will denature, causing production of toxic materials. Butter is stable enough to be heated.
So there it is, the grudge match between butter and margarine. Decide what works best for you and enjoy it!
Amoree Briggs lives in the Yukon countryside with her family and has just completed her diploma in holistic nutrition.