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BUTTER VS MARGARINE: WHICH IS THE HEALTHIER CHOICE?

If this was a race, which of these competitors do you think would win?

Audrey Wendy Woode
Audrey Wendy Woode

If this was a race, which of these competitors do you think would win? There are a lot of uncertainties about the health effects of butter and margarine with regards to which of them is a healthier choice even though both of them taste great and are delicacies that quite a large number of people love to indulge in or otherwise known as “indulgent foods”. Let us do some comparisons between the two, shall we?

When we see butter, the common usage of it that would immediately come to mind would be its use for spread, frying, as an ingredient for baking, for sauces inter alia.

Butter is generally a natural dairy staple made by churning cream with the other ingredient being salt. According to Wikipedia, churning is the process of shaking up cream or whole milk to make butter. Do you see how simple it is? In case you’re one of the wondering minds as to what churning meant.

Looking at how its made from milk, it is quite clear that it would be a concentrated source of milk fat thereby, containing saturated fats. Now, a lot of studies have associated the high intake of saturated fats with an increased risk of heart diseases since too much-saturated fat can clog the arteries of an individual. Let me break it down for every tom, dick and harry to understand better. Saturated fats are bad types of fats that contain a high level of fatty acids and therefore are considered to be less healthy.

How about margarine? I remember when I was a child, I didn’t know that there was a difference between the two. Any spread was either butter or margarine to me and I’m positive many people can relate to this.

Butter is generally natural, but on the other hand, margarine is processed in an attempt to taste and look similar to butter. It is mostly recommended as a heart-healthy replacement because it is made from vegetable oils that contain polyunsaturated fats(one of the healthy fats) which can lower the “bad” cholesterol when used instead of saturated fats.

I’m positive that the understanding of what these two ingredients are and what they are all made up of is very clear. Now, let’s look at some of the benefits and detriments of each of them to aid and make our comparison easy.

BENEFITS OF BUTTER AND MARGARINE

Butter

Butter can be grass-fed or grain-fed. This difference has to do with whether the cows used to produce the butter were fed only with grass or with grains respectively. Butter contains several nutrients that are not found in many other foods. E.g.

· Butter made from a grass-fed cow may provide Vitamin K2, which is associated with improved bone health and may prevent serious diseases like cancer, osteoporosis and heart diseases. In an actual sense, butter from grass-fed cows appears to be more nutritious and a better source of nutrients as opposed to butter from grain-fed cows.

· It also contains Omega 3 fatty acids and has fewer Omega 6 fatty acids, which is highly beneficial because we are already consuming a lot of Omega 6 fatty acids because a lot of the foods we take in daily are a source of it.

· Butyrate can also be found in butter from grass-fed cows. This fatty acid produces bacteria in the intestine which can help fight inflammations, improve digestive health and may help prevent weight gain.

· Lastly, it also contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid(CLA) which is a fatty acid that has anti-cancer properties and helps lower your body fat percentage.

Margarine

· Margarine is much lower in saturated fats as I have already mentioned since its made from vegetable oil hence containing no cholesterol. The health benefits of margarine will depend solely on the type of vegetable oil used in making it. An example of good oil-based margarine will be margarine produced with soya bean oil as it contains a substantial amount of polyunsaturated fats.

· Vegetable oils contain phytosterols which help in reducing cholesterol levels

The above points are points that spell out the benefits of butter and margarine. Howbeit, just like a lot of things which have benefits, they also have their detrimental sides and in other to aid you to make the right choice as to which of these two you decide to consume in your daily living, permit me to spell out some of these detriments in the subsequent points. It will be better to know their cons than for you to just jump on their pros and make a decision. Let’s delve right in.

DETRIMENTS OF BUTTER AND MARGARINE

Butter

· Just as I have already emphasized, butter is made from cream (milk fat) which contains both saturated fat and cholesterol. A single spoon of butter contains 7g of saturated fat which is a third to a half of the recommended amount to be taken in a day. Just a single tablespoon of butter contains about 100 calories, so imagine using about 2-3 tablespoons as a spread in your bread?

Margarine

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Margarine comes in different forms just like butter. Two types of margarine are stick margarine and tub/liquid margarine.

· The stick margarine contains about the same amount of total fat and calories as butter. This is because the vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature and so to make them solid like butter, food scientists change their chemical structure in a process called hydrogenation which is when they add hydrogen to the oil to solidify it in a stick or spread. What this process does is that it creates something called trans fat which raises the “bad” cholesterol level significantly and even more than saturated fat does. It also lowers good cholesterol which prevents the bad cholesterol from building up in a person’s arteries. The harder the margarine, the higher the trans-fat it contains because it means that a higher amount of hydrogen was used to solidify it.

· Margarine also contains high levels of omega 6 fatty acids, nutrients that are beneficial in a balanced diet but may cause problems if they are in high quantities and are not balanced with omega 3 fatty acids

The bottom line dear one is that various medical practitioners have recommended that people limit their consumption of butter and margarine, however, even dieticians understand and are fully aware that some foods benefit greatly from a little buttery flavour or margarine e.g. pastries and so it wouldn’t be practical to suggest that you give up on butter and margarine. Although margarine is considered to be the healthier choice overall, you still need to choose the right margarine. It is recommended that you save the butter for special recipes and occasions and use it sparingly. While, it may not be entirely possible to give up on them, to keep your health in good condition, just reduce your intake and enjoy them once in a while. Stay safe and healthy.

REFERENCES

1) https://oregon.providence.org/forms-and-information/a/ask-an-expert-butter-vs-margarine-which-is-better-for-you/#:~:text=Pros%3A Margarine is much lower,fat and calories as butter.&text=The harder the margarine%2C the more trans fat it contains.

2) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/butter-vs-margarine

Audrey Wendy Woode

A determined, hardworking and result-oriented lady. I love to read, write, swim, etc. I'm a media enthusiast. I love to connect with people.