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Butter v. Margarine

School Of Nutrition Posted Nov 10, 2014 Future Fit Training

Which one is better for you? To determine which is better for your health, we should look at the fat content of both.

Butter v. Margarine

Let’s look at some stats:



Soft-tub Margarine

Portion size

1tbsp (14g)

1tbsp (14g)







Saturated Fat









Here are some highlights:

  • Butter is higher in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than margarine.  Both saturated fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Saturated fats can raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), which raises total blood cholesterol as well. Cholesterol in foods, on the other hand, has little effect on blood cholesterol in most people. But for some, even a little dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels.
  • Both contain small amounts of trans-fats. Trans-fats occur naturally in small amounts in dairy foods and meat; however it is the industrially produced trans- fats which have a similar effect to saturated fat, as they can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood.


OUR WINNER: Margarine!

When margarine was first introduced to the marketplace, it was loaded with trans-fats.  Trans-fats are created through the hydrogenation process used to solidify liquid vegetable oil into a spread. Just like saturated fats, trans-fats increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). For this reason, non-hydrogenated margarines are now widely available. Non-hydrogenated margarine contains no trans-fat, and it is softer than the first generation of margarines. Instead of hydrogenating liquid vegetable oil, manufacturers now add a small amount of modified palm and palm kernel oil to enhance the spreadability of margarine.

The British Heart Foundation recommends the use of margarine as a substitute for butter. Check the ingredients label and choose one with zero trans-fat and no more than 2 g of saturated fat per tablespoon and with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient. Some brands that meet these criteria include I Can't Believe it's not Butter and Benecol.

Written by Victoria Trowse

If you would like us feature specific types or brands of food in our weekly Food Fight, email nicola.white@futurefit.co.uk with your suggestions.


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