Butter versus Margarine: What You Should Know



Whether you use it to fry eggs, to make baked items or spread it on bread, chances are you use either butter or margarine in your every day diet. There has always been a health debate on which is healthier between butter and margarine. A lot of consumers will buy one or the other without even knowing the truth about either one.

What is the difference between the two and which one is healthier?

Butter is made from churning the cream that rises to the top when milk is allowed to sit for an extended period of time. Butter has been used for thousands of years. Raw butter contains a number of natural fatty acids that are excellent for the body. Butter is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K.
Although many people are sensitive to dairy products, butter is well-tolerated because it is almost a pure fat, and does not contain many of the allergens found in other milk products such as milk protein (casein) or milk sugar (lactose). But because butter is made from animal fat, it contains cholesterol and high levels of saturated fats. The link between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease has been disputed severally with scientists claiming that there is no solid evidence to prove that they cause disease. Certain fatty acids in butter are used faster for energy than those in other oils, which can help in weight loss and can raise metabolism.

Margarine is made from chemically extracted, refined vegetable oils. Vegetable oils contain unsaturated fats. However they do have a lower melting point and that is why most of them appear in a liquid state, like sunflower oil. To make the vegetable oil reach the same consistency as butter it is hardened by bubbling hydrogen through the vegetable oil at high temperature and pressure in a process known as hydrogenation. The product then becomes hard or solid at room temperature. The problem with this process is that it requires high temperatures which denature the vitamins present in the oils. The final product also usually contains some trans-fatty acids. Trans fats lower good cholesterol and higher the bad cholesterol, which increases the chance of heart disease.
Hydrogenation also used toxic catalysts like nickel and cadmium which have been linked with lung cancer, kidney disease, arteriosclerosis and so on. At the end of the hydrogenation process, margarine is actually GREY in color. It has to be artificially flavored and dyed before it can be consumed.

The argument for eating margarine and other products containing hydrogenated oils are their lack of cholesterol.  Margarine is also less expensive than butter. However it’s worth paying a little more for good butter.

Healthier alternatives to butter or margarine include olive oil and other vegetable oil–based spreads, which contain beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Next time you want to eat a yummy scone or loaf of bread, consider dipping it in olive oil rather than coating it in butter.

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