Butter vs Margarine, is one really healthier than the other?
It's been well over a hundred years and the battle still continues to this very day.
With countless studies, it seems that each side has had both positive and negative reviews which still bears the question, which one's better?
As a butter lover myself, I've never really given this issue much thought.
After all, us kids grew up using butter and had never seen a tub of margarine in our kitchen, ever.
But as the years have passed my curiosity has grown. Some of our friends are big supporters of margarine and believe it to be healthier, so who's right?
On and off through the years, butter has been made out to be the villain, the bad guy who causes cholesterol levels and obesity to rise. Until just recently that is, because butter is making a big comeback.
In fact, it has become so popular that people have been adding about 2 tablespoons of butter to their coffee as a dietary morning beverage. Isn't that an incredible change from the past?
The ingredients of butter are simple, a combination of butterfat, milk proteins, water and usually some salt.
Some butters contain only natural ingredients while others may add flavorings, food colorings and preservatives. The butter we are most familiar with in North America is made from cow's milk.
It's considered a dairy product because it's made by churning cream or milk until the butterfat separates from the buttermilk.
It is used in baking, cooking and of course enjoyed as a spread on a variety of foods such as pastas, potatoes and breads.
Even though the ingredients of butter may be 100 % natural, it's made from animal fat and that's why it contains cholesterol. Butter also contains saturated fat, which up until now, has been considered unhealthy when it comes to heart health.
Margarine has been around for a long time (since 1869) and was created as a butter substitute, so people could enjoy a buttery like spread without the cholesterol and fewer saturated fats.
These butter substitutes are typically made from vegetable oils and contain no cholesterol. Some are also higher in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are good fats.
The only problem with margarine substitutes is that unlike butter, margarine is highly processed and contains lots of ingredients that are less than desirable.
Things such as preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, colorings and other ingredients that I can't even pronounce, let alone know if they are unhealthy or cancer causing?
Whether you choose butter or margarine it is wise to read the nutrition label and see if that product offers what you are looking for. Usually the amount of calories, cholesterol and saturated fats are listed to help you decide.
For years, it has been believed that saturated fats are not heart healthy and may increase cholesterol levels. Newer studies in 2014 are disputing this fact.
Saturated fats can be found in both animal and vegetable products and also in prepared foods.
Here are just a few examples: fatty meats, cream cheese, butter, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, chocolate, pizza, chips, baked goods, prepared meats and many more.
Unsaturated fats are beneficial to your heart and may help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good kind (HDL cholesterol).
Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as olives, avocados and nuts.
The more processed a product, the fewer the natural ingredients. Just by looking at the ingredients chart above look at the difference between regular butter and light butter.
To create a butter that offers half the calories (light butter) it becomes more processed to achieve this. The more processed a product the more unnatural the ingredients will be.
That is also why margarine has many added ingredients that are hard to pronounce, because it is highly processed.
But there is one very good reason why some people have avoided eating butter for years and that's because they are worried about their cholesterol.
I can certainly understand if someone is trying to avoid cholesterol at all costs butter is not the right choice and margarine is more suitable.
Through all the research, discussions, old studies and new ones, there still isn't a clear cut answer. We will just have to choose what we feel is best for ourselves and our families.
Just as with everything else, (whether you choose butter or margarine), moderation is the key.
Wishing you health and happiness.