A long term discussion exists on the topic of butter vs. margarine. That is why when you search this term on the internet, you can easily find a lot of information regarding the two.
However, you may still not get exact clarification of their differences and their health benefits because of some contradicting details. For example, some people say that natural butter is better, while others state that margarine is the healthier option. All this can easily confuse you.
To make the topic clear and see which one provides better nutritional value, we have collected all the information. But before moving on to the butter vs. margarine comparison, let’s first explore what these components are. So you will be able to see their individual characteristics, and the difference between margarine and butter will become easier to understand.
What is Butter?
Butter is the product obtained by churning milk or cream. After churning, the milk solids constitute the butter, while the liquid is the buttermilk. Butter is conventionally prepared from cow’s milk, although it can also be prepared from the milk of other animals such as buffaloes, goat, sheep, and even yak.
The color of butter is usually light yellow, although this can vary with the source animal from which the milk is obtained. Since butter is an animal fat, it is high in cholesterol and saturated fats, which is bad for the heart.
One tablespoon of butter contains 30mg cholesterol and 7g saturated fat (total daily fat intake should be no more than 15g). Therefore, we can say that the nutrition of butter is lower than the fats that it contains, and it should be consumed sparingly.
Even the public health authorities suggested in the 1970s that people should consume butter in limited quantities due to the large fat content of butter, which is a high-risk factor for the heart. Still, butter is used almost everywhere in the following ways:
- Frying fat
- Cake ingredient
- Sauce component
A few nutrition of butter include:
- Vitamine K2
- CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
But remember, these benefits are obtained mostly from the grass-fed cows’ butter.
What is Margarine?
Margarine is a substitute for butter. It is not a dairy product. So, it does not contain any animal fat. It is made from vegetable oil, water, salt, and other additives.
Since there is no animal fat, margarine is low in saturated fatty acids. On the other hand, it contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are healthy fats. This is a plus-point for margarine over butter.
However, the flip-side of margarine is that it contains trans-fats, which are extremely harmful. However, nowadays companies are slowly lowering the trans-fat content in margarine, and some varieties do not contain any trans-fats at all. This underscores the need to carefully check the nutritional information on the display panel of the package.
To make margarine look like butter, scientists change vegetable oils’ chemical structure because they are otherwise liquid at room temperature. A process called hydrogenation is used for this purpose.
This method is used for the last few decades, and it raises the content of saturated fats in the oil. The unhealthy trans fats of margarine are formed as a side product of this process.
But as stated earlier, new types of margarine have been introduced in the market that contains low or no trans fat levels. These options are achieved with the help of a process called interesterification. On the flip side, these products also include a number of food additives like colorants and emulsifiers.
Being a processed product, margarine has the liberty to include or eliminate various ingredients. That is why different manufacturers keep on experimenting with their products to fit into several flavors and texture requirements of consumers. A few different types of margarine are:
- Stick Margarine
- Light Margarine
- Margarine Containing Phytosterols
Understanding the Differences Between Margarine and Butter
By now, you must have understood the fundamental difference between margarine and butter, i.e., margarine is the processed form of vegetable oils while butter is simply concentrated dairy fats. Let’s further differentiate the two based on their other characteristics.
Butter contains approximately 80% fat, while margarine contains only 35% fat. Butter and margarine are usually used for the same purpose, such as a bread-spreads, cooking and baking. However, butter and margarine are quite different in many aspects.
The major factor is their chemical composition, of which the most important being the type of fat content. Moreover, since butter is made from animal fat, while margarine is made from vegetable oil, this influences the taste, texture, and palatability of the products. For this reason, butter is tastier than margarine.
Butter vs. Margarine: Which Is the Healthier Option?
Finally, we are at the vital point of discussion, i.e., is margarine healthy in comparison to butter, or is it the opposite? While the answer to this question highly depends on your dietary needs, we can still compare the two based on their individual effect on your heart.
It is important to limit the intake of saturated fats and to avoid trans-fats altogether. It should be noted that margarine containing trans-fats lower the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol and raise the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol, thereby increasing the risk for coronary heart disease.
However, nowadays, margarine is available that is fortified with plant sterols and stanols (collectively called phytosterols). Margarine with phytosterols are capable of reducing the levels of LDL, and therefore, can help to prevent cardiovascular diseases (Kozłowska-Wojciechowska et al., 2003).
Moreover, if margarine-containing stanol/sterol esters are consumed regularly, it reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels that allow the reduction of the dose of cholesterol-lowering medicines (Vorlat et al., 2003).
Tonstad et al., (2001) found that margarine designed to meet nutritional recommendations for patients with high cholesterol are more efficacious than butter in reducing LDL levels thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (deposition of cholesterol of the walls of the arteries). Another study (Judd et al., 1998) found that consumption of margarine improved the levels of lipoproteins when compared with butter, therefore greatly reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, from the foregoing discussion, it appears that margarine is better for your heart than butter.
Still, several studies are conducted every year based on the nutrition of butter and margarine nutrition to see which one is better for health.
How Can We Help?
Arbro Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. has NABL accredited and FSSAI approved laboratories with state-of-the-art instruments as well as highly trained technicians. The fat content of food samples, including that of butter and margarine, is carried out regularly with utmost precision.
If you would like to use our testing services, please feel free to contact us through the contact form or call us now on +91-11-45754575. We will be happy to provide you with a proposal for the estimation of the chemical composition of fats in various types of food samples, including butter and margarine.
- Which spread is better for my heart – butter or margarine? Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/butter-vs-margarine/faq-20058152
- Kozłowska-Wojciechowska M, JastrzȩbskaM, NaruszewiczM, Foltyńska Impact of margarine enriched with plant sterols on blood lipids, platelet function, and fibrinogen level in young men. Metabolism 2003; 52(11): 1373-1378. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0026-0495(03)00286-5
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- Butter vs. margarine. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/butter-vs-margarine