If you are a food connoisseur, you know that the debate between margarine vs butter has been going on for decades.
Some might say use margarine instead of butter as it is a healthier option. While fans of butter will insist that it is always better to stick with the original.
Is one option healthier than the other? Can both options have their place in our diet?
Let’s find out.
What Is Butter?
Butter has been used by many for cooking, baking, as a spread or something you drink your coffee with. It is made by churning the milk of a mammal.
The majority of butter is made from cow’s milk though there are some parts of the world that consume butter made from goats, buffalos, camels and sheep.
Butter is one ingredient that is very hard to substitute or replicate due to its luxurious, creamy and savoury taste. Plus it smells so good when fried or when used in our daily cooking and baking.
How Is Butter Made?
As mentioned earlier, butter is made from milk. The milk is first heated to 50 degrees Celcius to pasteurize and kill any harmful bacteria in it. On that is done, the heated milk is placed in a.
The centrifuge will spin at a high velocity which will cause the cream to separate from the milk. This is how olive oil and fish oil is made as well.
To make butter from the cream, the cream is repeatedly churned to remove the buttermilk from the cream.
Additional processes are carried out to totally remove the buttermilk from the butter and whip the butter to the desired consistency.
Salt can be added to the butter at this point before it is packed for shipment.
What Does Butter Contain?
As butter is made from animal milk, it has a high saturated fat content of almost 67%. Butter also contains CLA which is a type of fatty acid that can help to prevent cancer.
It is also rich in vitamin A, D and E for healthy bones and eyes.
What Is Margarine?
Margarine share a number of similar properties with butter. In fact, if you place them side by side, I doubt many people can tell which is which.
Margarine is generally seen as the healthier option to butter as it is made from vegetable oils. However, it was originally made from animal fat before it took a healthier turn.
Vegetarians and vegans will use margarine for cooking and baking instead of butter to avoid animal-based products.
How Is Margarine Made?
The process of making margarine differs from that of butter and has to follow strict government quality standards.
Oil is used from safflower, corn or soyabean which is treated with caustic soda to remove free fatty acids. The oil is then mixed with hot water, separated and left to dry.
Any liquids used in the process is pasteurized to kill off any bacteria and impurities.
The oil then goes through a process whereby hydrogen gas is added to it. This is called hydrogenation which helps to ensure the right consistency for margarine.
Once this oil is cooled, it becomes what we know as margarine.
What Does Margarine Contain?
Margarine is also high in fat content as it is made from oil. However, it has a much lower saturated fat content compared to butter as it is made from plant matter instead of animal matter.
Saturated fat content is about 7% and it has vitamin A,D, K and E.
Margarine contains omega-3 fatty acids which can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure.
Which Is Heahltier? Butter Or Margarine
This topic has been debated countless times by nutritionists and food scientists over the years. Let’s take a look at the health risks of butter and margarine before drawing a conclusion.
Health Risk Of Eating Butter
Being made from animal matter, butter is high in saturated fat. Some studies have shown that a diet high in saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease and ailments.
This is why doctors tend to advise patients with a history of heart problems to watch their saturated fat intake like red meat and butter.
Saturated fat can increase the bad cholesterol levels in your blood also known as LDL cholesterol.
Butter is also high in cholesterol and a diet high in cholesterol can also lead to heart ailments. However, it has been shown that your body tends to produce lesser cholesterol if it feels that the current levels are too high.
If you are eating a sensible diet you don’t have to worry about this. But if your diet is too high in cholesterol that even your body can’t reduce it enough, you are at a greater risk of heart disease.
For cat owners, don’t be surprised if your cat loves butter due to the high fat content. However, butter should not be fed to cats on a regular basis.
Health Risk Of Eating Margarine
Margarine is known to be high in trans fats. This is formed through the process called hydrogenation which changes some of the unsaturated fats to saturated fat.
This allows margarine to be at a solid state like butter at room temperature.
Too much trans fats in your diet have been a catalyst for chronic illness. Trans fats is also found in processed food like potato chips, fast food, dairy products or anything yummy and unhealthy.
To combat this, manufacturers are starting to produce a type of margarine that doesn’t contain trans fats.
Margarine contains healthy dietary fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-3 has good anti-inflammatory properties amongst other health benefits.
It is recommended to eat the same quantities of Omega-3 and Omega-6. However, as margarine is made from vegetable oil, it has a much higher concentration of Omega-6.
Too much Omega-6 in your diet can lead to obesity and chronic diseases.
How Much Butter Or Margarine Can I Eat?
The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 7% of calories from saturated fat. This means that if your total calorie intake is 2000, you are only allowed about 140 calories from saturated fats.
That is about one tablespoon of butter and slightly more for margarine.
You will also need to consider the rest of the food that you eat. If it is high in processed food, red meat and dairy products, your calories from butter or margarine need to be even lower.
What Are The Healthier Alternatives To Butter And Margarine?
If you are looking for a healthier alternative, try olive oil which is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and rich in antioxidants.
If you need a replacement when it comes to baking or cooking, you can try applesauce, pumpkin puree, and nut butter.
The debate as to which is a healthier option will probably still carry on for years to come given the conflicting studies.
At the end of the day, a lot just boils down to moderation and command sense. Everybody is different in terms of biological make-up and lifestyle.
If your family has a medical history of heart disease and strokes then it would be wise to watch your saturated fat intake.
If you are trying to lose weight, chances are you will be eating less processed and unhealthy foods which will lower your saturated fat intake.
Make a healthy lifestyle and you’ll be fine with either butter or margarine.