A question I am commonly asked is: What is better for me, butter or margarine? Some customers tell me they heard margarine is made from plastic. Others say they will not allow their husbands to consume butter because they have heart disease. Who is right?
Let us start by looking at butter and margarine’s nutrition information. Butter contains saturated fat, and when consumed in large quantities, can increase LDL cholesterol (your ‘bad’ cholesterol). Increased LDL cholesterol can lead to heart disease and complications. One tablespoon of butter has seven grams of saturated fat, which is over half the recommended daily allowance. Butter also contains some dietary cholesterol, but it is the saturated fat that is the leading culprit.
When margarine is made from vegetable oil in its natural form, it is a source of good fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. In this case, margarine is better for you than the butter. Unfortunately, some margarine is made with hydrogenated oil, which is worse for you than butter. Hydrogenated oil (a trans fat), is a bad fat that can increase your LDL cholesterol (your “bad” cholesterol) and even decrease your HDL cholesterol (your “good” cholesterol).
For heart health, a margarine made from non-hydrogenated vegetable oils is the best choice. If the ingredient list has “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oil or if the product has trans fat (information located on the nutrition facts panel), stay away from it.
I personally prefer the taste of butter and have it in my household. Butter does not have the added health benefits of a non-hydrogenated margarine, but in moderation can be part of a healthy diet.