The Big Debate… Butter vs Margarine

Both butter and margarine have been competing for a spot on our dinner table for years, and as you know there has been significant debate over which is the healthier option.

Margarine and butter are both used as a spread on bread, used in baking and cooking or as a tasty addition to veggies and meals, soups included.


What’s The Difference?

Butter is a natural dairy product and it has been around for ages and ages (far longer than margarine). Butter is made by churning, shaking or agitating cow’s milk until the fats and liquid separate. The process eventually results in butter. Salt or herbs are sometimes added to enhance the flavor. Butter has high cholesterol and saturated fat content – this is good, nothing to be afraid of! More on this below…

Margarine is synthetic. Period. It’s a highly processed “food” made from vegetable oils. It was initially developed as a “healthier alternative” to butter. Margarine is similar to butter in consistency, appearance and taste through the addition of artificial ingredients, such as artificial coloring (to make it look like butter!) and emulsifiers. Did you know that the first margarines were actually pink in color?!?

Margarine undergoes hydrogenation to extend shelf-life – this increases the trans fat content (that’s bad). Trans fats have been associated with heart disease and some of the other ingredients in margarine have been shown to lead to heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Butter has high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats, both of which increase HDL levels in the body and lower LDL levels in the body. This means the fat in butter is not harmful, it does NOT increase the risk of heart disease.

And! Did you know that butter is rich in a component your body needs – something called a saturated short-chain fatty acid – called Butyric Acid. Consuming Butyric Acid from foods such as butter or ghee (ghee is “clarified butter” which doesn’t contain lactose or casein), or in supplement form, has been shown to aid digestion, calm inflammation and improve overall gastrointestinal health. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease have been shown to benefit from Butyric Acid; and studies show promise when it comes to Butyric Acid helping diabetes and insulin resistance too! Butyric Acid is also known as a potential anti-cancer fatty acid, especially when it comes to colon cancer.


So! Which Is The Better Choice?

Do I even need to say anything else at this point?!? Butter is a far superior healthy choice. Margarine is simply bad for your health.

Both butter and margarine have a high caloric content, remember though – the body needs some good fats to function properly. Butter is a healthy and essential fat source.


Tips To Make Butter Spreadable

  • Keep a little bit of butter in a butter dish on your counter top, so it’s always soft!
  • You could microwave butter for a few seconds on the defrost setting – note, not my favorite option.
  • Add a few chunks of butter to some olive oil or grape seed oil with ¼ tsp of salt in a food processor, blend for a couple of minutes until it’s soft and smooth. Pour into a sealable, airtight container. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until its firm and fully chilled. The mixture is spreadable even after being taken out of the fridge and can last for up to 3 months!



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About the Author:

Hello! I'm Sharon Wright... Nutrition & Wellness Expert in Calgary, Canada. My passion is helping you feel better. With great foods and healthy habits I can help you find the energy and happiness for work, life and play.