Q. From a health perspective, is butter better than margarine?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 22 April 2013.
Tagged: butter, cholesterol, fat, health, healthy eating, healthy heart, margarine, oil

Q. From a health perspective, is butter better than margarine?

It all depends on your health profile.

If you have high cholesterol or a history of heart disease, go for a soft margarine OR a margarine with added sterols (Logicol, Pro-activ) that block cholesterol absorption.

If you need to lose weight, margarine is better simply because it spreads more thinly, so saving you kilojoules. And it's only 70% fat (with some even lower at 60% and 50% as light spreads) compared to butter at 80%.

But if you're in good health and the rest of your diet is healthy (not a lot of take-aways or fatty snacks), then a little butter is fine in moderation. A blended butter-and-oil spreadable product gives the best compromise between butter's taste and oil's low content of saturated fat.

These days, virtually all the margarines/spreads in Australia are now free of trans fats (less than 1 per cent), a situation different to the USA and UK. This move has happened in response to research showing that trans fats (or TFAs) behave in the body in a similar way to saturated fats and raise cholesterol.

The only exceptions are a few of the cheaper or generic margarines which you would recognise as hard margarines with the spreadability of butter. Avoid these ones and go for the softer types and you'll be fairly sure of not buying hydrogenated fats.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.