Butter vs margarine: which is healthier?

Our dietitian looks at which is healthier when it comes to margarine vs butter and which of the two you should be spreading on your sandwich... and you might be surprised by her answer.

Butter is natural whereas margarine is processed so butter must be better for us, right?  

But then why does the Heart Foundation recommend that we should be eating margarine instead of butter? Confusing I know!

Butter and margarine are both ‘fats’. They don’t contain much carbohydrate or protein, just good old fashioned fat. So when a product is basically pure fat, we need to look at the TYPE of fats in each of these products.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are the good types of fats and they are found in things like nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish, vegetables oils and you've guessed it... margarine!

Saturated fats

Saturated fats on the other hand are the not so good types of fats in our diet. Saturated fats are found in things like deep fried foods, processed meats, coconut oil, palm oil, cream, fat on meat, cakes, chocolate, biscuits, pastries and you guessed it again butter!

In fact, butter is about 50 to 60 per cent saturated fat, while margarine is only about 9 per cent saturated, which is why margarine is usually the healthier choice.
Egg and toast

But isn't margarine full of trans fats?

Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat that can be found naturally in some foods like butter, beef and lamb, but can also be made by processing or super heating oils or fats during food production.

Trans fats are worse than saturated fat because as well as raising 'bad' LDL cholesterol, they also lower 'good' HDL cholesterol.

Trans fats are found in margarine but in Australia, we’re lucky because our margarine has incredibly low levels of trans fats. So when you’re buying margarine look for margarine that contains less than one per cent (or less than one gram per 100 grams).

The conclusion: margarine vs butter

So which should you be spreading on your sandwich when it comes to butter versus margarine? I’d say margarine. But to be honest an even healthier choice would be avocado. It’s naturally occurring, full of healthy fats, unprocessed, and can be used in place of butter on toast and in sandwiches. You can also whip up a mean chocolate mousse with avocado and cocoa. 

Up next: Coconut oil vs olive oil - which is better for you?

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