I get this question a lot – which is healthier: butter or margarine. It’s not quite so simple. Let me explain with these facts…
- All fats have the same number of calories. Butter, margarine, and oil all have about 100-120 calories a tablespoon. “Light” spreads post fewer calories on their label because it’s diluted with water.
- It’s recommended that total fat intake be kept to 30-35% of your calories. That’s what the American Heart Association recommends (most people eat more than this). Keep in mind that even a very lightly buttered piece of toast falls in this range.
- Not all fats are bad. Health authorities agree that unsaturated fats (specifically, monounsaturated fats) are healthier than saturated fats and trans fats.
- Trans fats might be twice as bad as saturated fats. Most trans fats are formed when liquid oil is changed to a hardened shortening or stick margarine.
- Butter is high in saturated fats (and cholesterol), but people started to switch back to butter when they heard that margarines have added trans fats.
- Most “tub” margarines are now trans-fat-free. Manufacturers have changed the way margarines are processed – and have removed most of the trans fats (government guidelines allow manufactures to list levels below 0.5g as “0”.)
- Most of us are getting plenty of saturated fats from meat, milk, cheese, and eggs – we can’t “afford” the additional saturated fat content of butter.