Posted by: Tony Carson | 16 October, 2007

Butter or margarine?

This near age-old question is addressed by the NY Times: The Claim: Margarine Is Healthier Than Butter.

The debate has been around nearly as long as butter and margarine themselves: Is one truly healthier than the other?

The confusion persists for good reason. Butter, which has been used for thousands of years, is made from animal products, making it high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which have been linked to heart disease.

Margarine is made from polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn oil, which do not contain saturated fats. Most people assume that makes it heart-healthy. Not exactly. The process of turning polyunsaturated oils into semisolid table spreads creates trans fats, which are just as bad as saturated fats, if not worse.

But most studies and health experts suggest that margarine, selected carefully, can be a safer choice. Because higher levels of trans fat make margarines more solid, it is best to choose those that are liquid or sold in tubs. Many varieties now contain water or liquid vegetable oil instead of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which can make them virtually free of trans fats. Even better, experts say, is to choose an alternative, like olive or canola oil.


Margarine generally contains less fat and cholesterol than butter, but it is not ideal.



  1. Cardiovascular health is only part of the picture. I switched back to butter after it became imposssible to be sure that any margarine was made from GMO-free oil. I cook for someone who suffers from gout, and ANYTHING that contains soy derivatives, xanthan gum or guar gum could increase his purine load and increase the possibility of potentially disabling or fatal kidney disease

  2. God, it just isn’t easy any more, is it.

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