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Butter vs. Margarine – Which is Better?

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Butter vs. Margarine – Which is Better?

Which is best for you? Butter or margarine? The debate is still raging. Discover the eleven areas of debate  and the winner for each round.

2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the discovery of margaric acid, the ancestor of modern margarine. Most of those 200 years have been a struggle between these two ‘foods’, with the battle now fought between two powerful food lobbies and marketing campaigns.

Recently it looked like margarine was a clear loser. Its high level of trans fats got it labeled as “just one molecule away from plastic,” with the ability to quickly block your arteries and cause heart attacks and more.

But, now margarine has reinvented itself, decreasing trans fats and adding new healthy ingredients.

1. Cost
Cost was the driving factor behind the development of margarine and for many price-conscious consumers, it turns out to be a significant factor.

100 grams of margarine in a Canada Safeway costs 35 to 90 cents depending on the quality.
100 grams of butter starts at 90 cents and goes up to $1.50.

In most countries the dairy industry is either regulated or subsidized so consumers end up paying extra either at the till or in their taxes.

Note: Canadians take their butter and margarine seriously. Margarine was banned for 62 years during which time bootleg margarine was smuggled in from the former Dominion of Newfoundland for half the price of butter. 

Winner: Margarine

2. Taste
Although this is a more subjective topic, there is no question of the winner.

Decades ago when margarine seemed to be the latest ‘health trend’ many people dug in their heals to stay with butter on this aspect alone. There is something unique about the taste of butter. Many artificial flavorings try to copy it but are never totally successful.

Just the fact that we have phrases like “melt in your mouth like butter” shows its profound attraction.

Winner: Butter

3. Heart Healthy Saturated Fat Levels

This area was and is margarine’s strongest attempt to look healthier.

Butter has more saturated fats (averaging 50 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams) whereas margarines range from 10 to 35 grams depending on the quality.

Saturated fat for a long time was directly associated with higher rates of heart disease and other health problems.

It turns out this association may be wrong!
Many studies now can’t find a connection between the two. For example a study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that risk of heart disease or stroke were similar between people who consumed the highest and lowest amounts of saturated fat.

Some saturated fats are now known to be extremely healthy for you. Virgin coconut oil, for example, has been shown to increase the absorption of other good essential fatty acids and even helps you to lose weight. When we test for the best oils for individuals, coconut oil often comes up highly recommended.

If saturation is a concern for you please note that all margarine still has some saturated fat and the cheaper margarines may contain significantly high levels of saturated fat, so you have to read labels carefully.

Winner: Margarine (by a slight margin)

Next page: Butter fights back.

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Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Health

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Diana Herrington

Diana Herrington turned a debilitating health crisis into a passion for helping others with healthy, sugar-free, gluten-free, eating and cooking. After testing and researching every possible healthy therapy on her delicate system she has developed simple, powerful principles which she shares in her recent book Eating Green and Lean, and as host to Care2 groups: Healthy Living Network and Healthy Cooking. She is the head chef at Real Food for Life, where she shares recipes and tips. Sign up for the Real Food for Life weekly newsletter or catch her on Facebook or Twitter (@DancinginLife).

170 comments

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6:24AM PST on Nov 9, 2013

The only reason margarin exists is because we've been force fed the myth cholesterol and saturated fats are unhealthy. We now know this to be false and a dangerous marketing ploy. Fats from pastured animals, raw, whole milk and real butter is extremely healthy so this test is irrelevant.

11:45PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

Thank you for info.

11:44PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

Thank you for info.

11:13AM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

I use both, depending on what I am preparing. For margarine, I use Earth Balance, available at your health store. I only use certified organic butter. For frying, I use either extra virgin olive oil or coconut or soy oil which are available at your health store but a mite expensive. Twice the cost of olive oil.

7:17PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

thank you prefer butter over margarine

3:41PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

thanks

7:30PM PDT on Aug 9, 2013

Thanks

4:37AM PDT on Aug 9, 2013

Thanks for sharing. I prefer butter in moderation.

12:43AM PDT on Jun 2, 2013

thanks....great explications....I only use butter as opposed to margarine....but basically olive oil is my staple

4:33AM PDT on May 19, 2013

Thanks for the article.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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