Butter vs. margarine

Butter is a natural, additive-free spread, but it is high in fat. Margarine is made with chemicals, but it won’t send your cholesterol through the roof. So which one is better for you?

Butter is a natural, additive-free spread. It has been in the human diet for thousands of years. The process for making butter is simple – you separate the cream from the milk, churn the cream, add some water and salt and voila! You’ve made butter. The obvious problem with butter, however, is that it is made almost purely from fat. Saturated fat is the fat which increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol. The Heart Foundation advocates replacing butter with the healthier polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats found in margarine and oils.

Margarine is low in saturated fats – some brands even claim to actively work to lower your bad cholesterol. Because of work done by the Heart Foundation, the trans-fats levels in most margarines in Australia are some of the lowest in the world, making Australian margarine healthier than margarines found in other countries, particularly the USA. There are, however, concerns about the way margarine is produced. Margarine is made with chemicals, includes additives and, before it is recoloured, is actually grey, not the buttery yellow we are used to seeing in our margarine tubs. Margarine can also contain trans-fats, which are just as bad for you as saturated fats.

The verdict
If you are trying to live a natural, chemical-free lifestyle, then butter is your best bet. Just make sure you use it sparingly, and try using vegetable oils in your cooking as a natural butter substitute. Whipped butter and butter mixed with vegetable oils are both better for you than traditional butter.

If you are worried about your cholesterol or general heart-health, experts suggest looking for a margarine with low saturated fats and no trans-fats. Be sure to check the ingredients list – if your margarine contains ‘partially-hydrogenated oils’ then it still has some trans-fat, even if the label says it is trans-fat free.

Do you have an opinion on the butter vs margarine debate? Would you rather go for the natural butter taste or keep your heart healthy with margarine?