Butter vs Margarine: Which is Healthier
Butter or margarine? Consumers have been swayed back and forth with respect to which one is healthier. The debate about whether butter is or margarine is healthier is not a recent one. And the argument is still ongoing. Unfortunately, there has yet to be a clear-cut and final conclusion to this debate. Some of the reasons for this situation are poor research and outdated information. This has led to arguments for and against either butter or margarine in several articles. But before we can come to any final conclusion on the subject, we have to juxtapose butter and margarine and analyze the pros and cons of each. This article seeks to do that just and to provide a satisfactory conclusion on the matter.
Margarine vs Butter – What’s the Difference?
What Exactly Is Margarine?
Because of the saturated fat in butter, many people opt for margarine. Saturated fat raises bad cholesterol (LDL). But margarine, in itself, is highly processed non-dairy fat intended to look and even taste like butter with the inclusion of additives. Thus, margarine can be considered as a concoction of substances that have been modified through artificial means. It is composed mainly of refined vegetable oils or emulsion that is made from corn, soy bean or canola oils which have been modified genetically. These vegetable oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids that play a role in inflammation.
Margarine is mainly used for baking and other cooking projects. It is also used as a spread. Aside from corn, soybean, and canola, most of the fat content in margarine also comes from palm kernel, coconut, sunflower, and olive oils. However, genetically modified soybean oil is the most used ingredient. In the past, animal fat has also been used in making margarine. Although presently, vegetable fat seems to be the most preferred option.
Margarine – Pros and Cons
As mentioned earlier, margarine is used mainly for baking and other cooking projects. It is also used for spreading and flavoring. This is because of its versatility of usage. Because it is made from vegetable oil, it contains unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are considered good fats. These fats help to reduce the presence of bad cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein. These advantages made margarine a popular choice. However, the popularity of margarine has dwindled. Here is why. Research has shown that some margarine types may actually contain more trans-fat. The more solid the margarine is, the more trans-fat it may contain. Thus, as compared to tub margarine, thick margarine may contain more trans-fat. The problem with this is, just like saturated fat, trans-fat promotes an increase in blood cholesterol and this increases the chances of heart diseases.
Most improved margarine brands contain artificial ingredients, synthetic vitamins, and artificial colors. Research has shown that synthetic vitamins offer no boost to the immune system. The artificial colors are used to improve the appeal of margarine to buyers. Margarine also affects the levels of trans-fats in human breast milk according to studies. It also decreases immune response as well as insulin response.
What Exactly Is Butter?
Butter is a dairy product which is made from churning fresh or fermented milk or cream. It is high in butterfat content which is solid when it is chilled and liquid under room temperature. During the churning process, the butterfat, which is solid, is separated from the buttermilk which is liquid. Most of the butter available on the market are made from cow’s milk. There are, however, several varieties available made from the milk of goat, sheep, buffalo, or other mammals. Twenty liters of milk is required to produce a kilogram of butter. This makes butter one of the most concentrated forms of fluid milk. Aside from milk fat, commercial butter also contains some percentage of water and milk solids sometimes referred to as curd.
Approximately, butter consists of eighty percent fat, fifteen percent water, and five percent protein. The protein content emulsifies the water and fat content in a single solution. Butter also contains some amounts of phosphorus and vitamins. Depending on the diet of the animal that is used, the color of butter could range from pale yellow to white.
Butter – Pros and Cons
Because butter has a high concentration of fat, it has a creamy texture and a rich flavor which most people consider ideal for high-heat cooking such as pan-frying and sauteing. Butter is also a popular choice for baking because it adds volume and texture to baked food and even dessert. It can be used in roasting, shallow-frying, pasta making, or used as a spread. Fourteen grams of butter (which is equal to one tablespoon) contains 102 calories, 11.5 fat in total, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and vitamin K. Butter also contains some amounts of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin E is good for the heart and acts as an antioxidant against free radicals. Vitamin A promotes good skin health.
A lot of the argument against the consumption of butter is focused on the fact that it is high in saturated fat. It has therefore been linked with heart diseases. It has also been attributed to an increase in cholesterol and clogged up arteries. Butter is also high in calories which can easily result in weight gain if not taken in moderation.
Conclusion – Who Wins?
The decision on whether to choose butter or margarine is dependent on individual choice and taste. In relation to health, both of them have their pros and cons. The most important difference between the two is saturated fat. But as noted earlier, many margarine brands also contain saturated fat. Putting the two together, one can say that there isn’t a truly healthy choice between them. What works best is moderation. Both butter and margarine are capable of causing health issues when over-indulged in. Our bodies need fat to absorb nutrients and function. What it does not need is too much fat. Thus, to repeat, moderation is key. There are a few tips to consider when purchasing either butter or margarine.
- Choose margarine brands with no trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils.
- Choose grass-fed butter brands when available
- Trans-fat hardens in room temperature. Thus, the harder a margarine is, the more trans-fat it contains.