Butter vs Margarine

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91817881_Butter_202514c There have been a number of debates as to which of these is better for you, is it butter or is it margarine?

In the past butter has been the enemy because of its’ high saturated fat content. Eating too much saturated fat increases the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood, which leads to heart disease. UK health guidelines advise that men and women limit their saturated fat intake to 30g and 20g respectively per day. Butter is made of cream/milk and salt and, on average 100g contains 80g fat of which 53g is saturated fat, that’s 4g in 1 teaspoon! But, studies have now shown that butter can be important in a meal because it adds a natural fat source. Our body requires fat to function and it also provides a feeling of satiety in meals. But, it has to be in moderation.

Margarine is a plant based spread that can contain up to 80% oil. To stay solid at room temperature, the oil is hydrogenated, which creates trans-fatty acids that can raise bad cholesterol. Trans-fats are the baddies and it is this that gave margarine the bad publicity. Most brands of margarine now contain no, or only trace elements of trans-fats as they were largely removed from the UK food chain ten years ago, but it is still worth checking food labels to make sure.

Margarine ingredients vary enormously depending on type and brand. Reduced-fat spreads like olive oil or sunflower are recommended as replacements for butter. During the Second World War, British margarine brands were legally required to add vitamins to their recipes, and this has continued, to re-affirm them as healthy alternatives to butter. They can also contain preservatives, colourings and other additives.

Cholesterol reducing spreads contain plant sterols and omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a healthy diet.  But they are expensive, and ideally diet and lifestyle changes a person can make far outweigh the benefit of eating this type of spread.

Dairy free soya spread, as an example, is mostly water, soya oil, palm oil, with a small amount (less than 1%) of flavouring, salt, vitamins A, E and D and colour. 100g contains 54g fat of which 15g is saturated fat. The fat content in margarines can sometimes be similar to that in butter but the saturated fats are considerably lower.

When it comes to flavour though, you can’t beat the rich, creamy taste of butter and because it is full fat, it is more satisfying and fills us up for longer. Butter is a dietary source of Vitamin A, and also contains vitamins E, K and D, and selenium. It is also considered a more ‘natural’ product.

In reality, a serving of butter or margarine should be minimal, so you won't get that much nutritionally out of the products!

So the answer to the question is that there isn’t one! It is down to individual dietary requirements and preference. But, here, at Fitness Together we believe that eating clean is best and avoiding manufactured and heavily processed foods has got to be the new way forward. It’s butter all the way for us!

BlogClaire Edwards