Is butter better, or might margarine be what you choose for your health?
“People often wonder whether butter or margarine is the healthier choice, given their distinct nutritional profiles,” says Jillian Kubala, a New York-based registered dietitian of Gya Labs – a self-care brand.
Butter and margarine are both go-to spreads for many Americans, but they aren’t the same nutritionally speaking.
Butter is a dairy product; margarine is typically made from vegetable oils and water, often with added emulsifiers and flavorings.
Before you slather a spread on your toast or slip some into the skillet, take a look at some health specs of butter versus margarine.
What are the health stats of butter?
Butter is a dairy product known for its rich, creamy taste, Kubala explains.
“It primarily consists of saturated fat, which has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease when consumed in excess,” she cautions.
As the nutritionist breaks it down, a typical serving size of butter is one tablespoon, which provides the following:
– Calories: 102 kilocalories (kcal)
– Total Fat: 11.5g
– Saturated Fat: 7.3g
– Cholesterol: 31mg
– Sodium: 86mg
What are the health stats of margarine?
Margarine is designed as an alternative to butter, says Kubala, stressing that its nutritional content varies depending on the brand and type. Many brands are plant-based, though some on the market may contain animal products not suitable for a vegan diet.
Per Kubala, the nutrition specs of margarine for a serving size of one tablespoon are generally as follows:
– Calories: 101 kcal
– Total Fat: 11.5g
– Saturated Fat: 1.9g
– Trans Fat: 0.2g
– Cholesterol: 0mg
– Sodium: 126mg
What about vegan or “plant-based” butter-like spreads?
In recent years, plant-based “butters” have become increasingly popular, and they may be a smart choice even if you’re not vegan or don’t suffer from dairy intolerance. “
“If you’re seeking even healthier alternatives, consider plant-based butter substitutes or using olive oil on bread,” says Kubala, adding that plant-based butters are typically low in saturated fat and olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Plant-based “butters” are typically made from various vegetable oils such as coconut, soy or avocado.
To make them taste more like butter and have the right texture, emulsifiers and flavorings are often added.
Like traditional butter, you can use vegan butters for spreading, cooking or baking.
Of the plant-based alternatives to butter, olive oil is your best bet for your health as it’s the least processed, Kubala notes.
One study published in 2022 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that people who consume more than half a tablespoon (7 grams) of olive oil per day have been found to have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease and respiratory disease.
Researchers also found that people live longer when they replace 10 grams per day of margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat, with olive oil, Fox NEws Digital previously reported.
Bottom line in the butter vs. margarine debate
Like many discussions in the realm of nutrition, there isn’t necessarily a cut-and-dry verdict, notes Kubala.
“When it comes to choosing between butter and margarine, the answer isn’t black and white. Both have their pros and cons. Butter is a natural product but is high in saturated fat, which can negatively impact heart health,” says Kubala.
“On the other hand, margarine is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol but may contain trans fats, which are also associated with heart disease,” she continues, noting that if you buy margarine, opting for one labeled as trans fat-free is advisable.
Whatever you do, Kubala emphasizes that you should always read labels, check for trans fats, and prioritize moderation when using either spread.
“For more personalized guidance on nutrition and dietary choices, consulting a registered dietitian is a wise step toward better health,” she says.
Ann Schmidt contributed to this report.