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Butter vs Margarine

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

Long standing debate, which one is really better for you, in the long-term

Here's a list of comparative facts about margarine & butter...


The Truth:  There are other spreads that are loosely called Margarine but may, for example, be part vegetable oil or a fat-free Margarine product. 1.  Both have the same amount of calories. Truth! A tablespoon of butter is 100 calories. A tablespoon of Margarine is 100 calories. 2.  Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study. Truth! We didn't find the "53%" study, but Harvard School of Public Health has published a report on this.  It says that more than 30 years ago research indicated that saturated fat (such as in butter) was bad for the heart and people were told to switch to margarine. A Harvard study of women between 1980 and 1994 found a significant reduction of heart disease risk by reducing smoking, hormone treatment, and dietary improvements including reducing or eliminating saturated fat (such as in butter.) Further research has shown, however, that margarines contained trans fat, which was even worse for the heart than saturated fat. The report cautions us not to make decisions as a result of just one study but to consider the body of recent research about an issue like butter versus margarine. New study indicates that women who consume margarine after their heart attack have a significant increase in having another heart attack. 1.


3. Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams compared to 5 Grams. Truth! A tablespoon of butter is 7g of saturated fat.  A tablespoon of margarine is 2g of saturated fat. One tablespoon of stick margarine packs a whopping 3 grams of trans fat and 2 grams saturated fat. 4.  Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few only because they are added! Truth! It depends on what you are measuring. The advantage of butter is that's an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, K, fat-soluble vitamins plus selenium and calcium. Saturated fats are the ones that are solid at room temperature. The disadvantage of true margarine is the trans fat level. The more solid a margarine is at room temperature, the more trans fat it contains, as much as 3 grams per tablespoon. Margarine makers have responded to that by releasing tub or liquid products that have either reduced or eliminated trans fats. Watch for the labels.  Heart doctors recommend butter over normal margarine but recommend trans fat free margarines over butter. It all gets very confusing. There are even margarine products now that say they actually lower cholesterol. 5.   Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for Less than 100 years. Truth! 6.   Margarine is high in trans fatty acids. Truth!

7.   Margarine increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol). Truth!

8. Margarine lowers quality of breast milk. Truth! There are studies on how a mother's eating of trans fats affects the level of trans fats in her milk. One study, for example, comparing Canadian breast milk to Chinese breast milk found that Canadian mothers had 33 more trans fats in their milk than the Chinese mothers. So the quality of the breast milk can be affected by the consumption of trans fats.

9.  Margarine decreases immune response. Truth! We found several references to this including an article by nutritionist Dr. Mary Enig that said that consuming trans fatty acids "Affects immune response by lowering effeceincy of B cell response and increasing proliferation of T cells." 10. Decreases insulin response. Truth! Actually the trans fat can increase blood insulin levels, which increases the risk for diabetes.


11.  Margarine turns into a carenogen when heated for skillet cooking. Truth! No support found for claim. Perhaps whoever wrote this heard a discussion about the "plasticity" of margarine. It is "plastic" at room temperature meaning that the shape of it can be changed when pressure is applied. That doesn't mean it is composed of what we normally think of as plastic. It was originally made of animal fats but increasingly now is made from vegetable oils. 12. Processed oils are loaded with pesticides. Truth! Oil processing starts with the crude vegetable oil and produces various oils, margarine, shortening and so forth. They don't wash the grains prior to processing them, making these oils loaded with pesticides. The steps involved in processing have to do with bleaching, deodorizing, taking all the nutrients out, filtering, and removing saturates to make the oils more liquid. They also add a hexane solvent in order to squeeze the very last drop of oil out of the seeds. Caustic refining refers to very alkaline, very caustic chemicals that are added to the oil.2. Plus most oils are GMO, Canola, Soy and Corn oil are the most GMO foods on the planet adding not only to the pesticide debate but to the disadvantage of being highly GMO, which have been having and increased affect on the population from digestion issues to allergies and asthma.


My opinion

Reducing your consumption of butter is essential and instead add good fats like; olive oil, avocado oil, flax oil in small amounts (as these are still highly caloric) are more beneficial to your heart than any margarine. How to make butter spreadable from the fridge? Add small amounts of flax oil into softened unsalted butter, whip them together and put them back in the fridge. You get the benefit of natural fats that your body knows how to process and whipping it makes you use less of it. You can try this on toast but don't use to cook with. Flax oil is fragile and needs to be consumed cold (ok on toast) use olive or avocado oil with a bit of unsalted butter when cooking.3


Coconut oil is also a saturated fat, true, but there have been many studies indicating that this fat is beneficial to the body. Still to be used with caution when it comes to heart patients.


Although margarine is a trans fat and butter is a saturated fat, we have to realize that only 25% of cholesterol comes from our diet 4., the rest we produce naturally. We need to look to increased activity and improve liver function to decrease overall bad cholesterol in our systems. Plant sterols should come from eating more vegetables and legumes not from supplemented foods. Studies have shown that reducing cholesterol too low can actually cause death.

It's essential that we consume living foods to support our body and not dead foods- how do we know the difference? Place margarine and butter on the table in summer- which one goes bad and attracts insects first? Butter of course, it's a natural product. The hydrogen in margarine, that is added to make it solid, likes to bond with oxygen, which is in cells, so it cozies up to cells to grab the oxygen out of the cell, and kills the cell in the process. Which may seem like it's not a big deal since we have trillions of cells in our body but, each cell has only 7 lives then that cell no longer exists - this is the aging process. Eating processed trans fat foods like margarine increases this rate of cell 'apoptosis' or destruction. 


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1. http://www.nature.com/?file=/ejcn/journal/v51/n1/abs/1600356a.html

2  http://www.ozoneuniversity.com/secrets_of_food_processing.htm 

3. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-full-story/ 

4. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/About-Cholesterol_UCM_001220_Article.jsp#.TymhiUqgmDs


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