My family is wondering which is better for us to eat, butter or margarine.

The debate is still as hot today as it was when the question first arose. Let’s look at the nutritional facts and determine which is better for you.

Butter—saturated fats and cholesterol

Butter is an animal fat and contains both saturated fat and cholesterol, which raise our blood cholesterol level. Saturated fats raise our bad cholesterol levels (LDL). Cholesterol, on the other hand, has little effect on blood cholesterol in most people. But for some, even a little dietary cholesterol can cause a rise in blood cholesterol levels.

Margarine—trans fats

When margarine was first introduced, it was loaded with trans fats. Hydrogenation “solidifies” liquid vegetable oil into a spread so it is easier to use. As a result of the hydrogenation process, trans fats are produced. Trans fats can also raise LDL cholesterol and actually lower the good cholesterol (HDL).
Recently, food manufacturers are realizing the negative impact of trans fats. As a result they began to produce another type of margarine—a non-hydrogenated soft margarine. This type of margarine is softer than the first generation margarines. Instead of hydrogenating the liquid vegetable oil, manufacturers now add a tiny amount of modified palm and palm kernel oil to enhance spreadibility. By doing that, soft margarine can be trans fat free!

Butter or Margarine: The verdict?

Since both saturated fats and trans fats can raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you decrease intake of both. They recommend that you choose a non-hydrogenated soft margarine as a healthier alternative. Many brands of soft margarine do not contain trans fat any longer. Check the Nutrition Facts label and choose one with zero trans fat and no more than 2 g of saturated fats per Tbsp. Here are some bands of soft margarine that I would consider good choices: Benecol, Blue Bonnet Soft Spread, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, Promise, and Smart Balance Light.

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