"Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;...
and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man."
~James H. West

Lisa's Blog

Butter or Margarine: Which is better for you?

Lisa Cutforth - Saturday, January 09, 2010

Which is better for you butter or margarine?

It is the age old debate, whether to choose the "less processed", purer but saturated fat of butter or the processed, trans fats from margarine.  The two schools of thought are as divided as the "Love it or Hate it" Marmite campaign, it would appear.  Until now...

Having been brought up in a family that despised margarine and wouldn't hear of the downside of butter, I definitely grew up with a taste for it, and so naturally was pleased when I was able to find all these health benefits.

Health benefits of butter:
Butter really is rich in beneficial nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and beneficial fatty acids.  
Butter may be protective against cancer with antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium and anti cancer agents like vitamin D and conjugated linoleic acid.    

However it is our heart health we are concerned about when avoiding butter, so let's look at the facts. 
Butter which is high in saturated fat raises cholesterol, but it actually raises the good with the bad.  Elevated cholesterol levels have been implicated in heart disease.

Dietary guidelines for saturated fat recommend no more than 10-15g a day.  One tablespoon of butter contains 7g of saturated fat, so that's a lot.

What about margarine?
Margarine on the other hand is made with plant oils and is generally unsaturated, containing more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils which help to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) without raising total cholesterol.  Unsaturated fats are usually healthier and they tend to be liquid at room temperature.  When we consider margarine, it is first necessary to consider how margarine is made. 

Basically the process involves taking a generally healthy plant oil which is naturally in a liquid state and converting into a solid.  It is this process that produces the undesirable effects associated with some margarines.  Very often this process involves hydrogenation, which is the addition of hydrogen to vegetable oils to form a more "solid" fat, which makes it more spreadable and less likely to spoil (or oxidise and taste rancid).     

The problem with this hydrogenation process is that trans fats are formed.  Trans fats affect cholesterol with a double whammy, they both increase the bad cholesterol and DECREASE the good and have actually been found to make blood platelets stick together. 
One tablespoon of this type of margarine will typically give you 3g of trans fats and 2g of saturated fat.  Arguably, not actually better than butter, when you consider that butter will also increase good cholesterol.

However, now it is possible to buy margarines that are trans fat free (this may mean they contain 0.5-2g of trans fats per serve.  These are usually the ones recommended by the Heart Foundation and are found in tubs or liquids rather than in wrapped "blocks". 
(They get around adding the hydrogen by adding water in the process). 

So, when buying margarine you need to be sure you read the labels and be sure you choose varieties that read: trans fat free and no hydrogenated oils.

The Solution:

Here is what I do, which I believe gives you the best of both with the least "processing":

I mix half butter and half olive oil and make a delicious and very spreadable spread. 

The recipe:

250g good quality pure butter (no salt added)
1 cup olive oil

Leave the butter out so it becomes soft, then using a beater blend the two together until the oils are mixed and the texture is smooth.  (No need to overdo, this may lead to oxidation of the olive oil).  Turn the mixture into an airtight container and store in the fridge.  The fridge will set it so that it firms up.

Recent Posts


four questions you must ask your doctor before taking medication health with 10 % effort drugfree alternatives performance life choices weight loss quizz breakfast 10 % principle Nutritional Therapist fun breast cancer awareness video hot guys fresh start I don't get hungry dangers of multitasking while you eat delicious health anxiety keep focused is chocolate bad for me fruit love, loneliness making time to relax Dr Randy Pausch on Oprah best exercise control reasons to eat foods in season life lessons dancing childrens lunch boxes maintain a healthy weight, underweight have fun in the kitchen make stress work for you nutritious fruit and vegetable shortage recipe wrong type of exercise, exercise and results motivation food sensitivities comfort pig fresh cooking with allergies how to avoid doing the right thing and getting the wrong results muscle wasting the power to choose mobile phones and brain cancer, Dr Teo cooking class in brisbane increasing energy mood food allergies nutritionists diet diary lunch what is healthy food health pioneers soft drink and behavior problems healthy cooking demonstration ways to improve prostate health fussy eaters relationship with food recipies corporate wellness salad high cholesterol trans fats how to check your breasts diet diary of a nutritionist Laughter and stress detox heart foundation tick explained fun healthy shopping skipping meals healthy cooking party benefits of sleeping how to love exercise sensitivity to milk image relax heart disease recipes for allergies empty your mind gift foods in season, seasonal recipes new year's resolutions are frozen veggies any good how to get more of exercise ask my doctor organic vegetables herbal toothpaste quick eating solutions indigestion sugar and adhd taking responsibility muffins skip meals strength what is movember health one step at a time avoiding a choice christmas breast cancer awareness assertiveness health for busy people the tummy beast happiness course nutritionist weight weightloss 7 steps to detox cholesterol lowering diet diet diary music overindulge benefits to keeping a diet diary Lisa's Diary how to say no nutrition healthy wine, healthy beer, healthy alcohol options quick recipes low cholesterol feels good should I eat organic veggies support your body alzheimers seasonal quick and tasty recipes success and you healthy fast food, healthy take away time management and healthy living allergies Alan Pease how to avoid injury during exercise Sensational immune system dance hunger and stress have more energy soft drink and behaviour problems immune boosting tips taking a break getting fit Nina Simone gluten intolerance healthy shopping list homocysteine nutritionist in brisbane how to be happy Cancer natural toothpaste Egg allergy natural alternatives to drugs Add new tag sustainable living, rural development, organic gardening, rampumps, biogas prostate cancer improve your memory comfort eating cheap fruit and vegetables, what's in season in autumn in australia 7 Tips to Lower Your Cholesterol and Protect Your Heart leaky gut, gut health, symptoms of leaky gut sugar and add soccer, role of team sports in longevity, role of exercise and community in longevity go for 2 and 5 real food obesity healthy cooking parties sexy salads stress, keys to managing stress, benefits of stress focus benefits of strength training, why you should strength train what is a good breakfast celebrate life life low calorie meal plan which is better for you butter or margarine Lactose intolerance happiness workshop are grains healthy ability to respond sexy salad food intolerances Happiness is sugar bad libido love food memory addicted to chocolate brain health breast cancer prevention low calorie diet nutritious cooking pop-eye and spinach calorie controlled diet great second hand books simple 7 day detox plan to know and not do is not yet to know fatigue reducing coffee I've Got Life blood pressure energy do i have to drink milk; where do i get calcium from; non dairy calcium sources comfort foods