Butter or margarine: which is worse for you?

What would life be like without butter or margarine? Would we all be doomed to eat straight vegemite toast forever? Imagine how different cakes would taste!

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that, but if we can’t live without it, we can at least try to make the healthiest choice, right? The only question is, what’s better for us?

Well, according to Lauren McGuckin of the Dietitians Association of Australia, it’s not about which but rather how much. “I guess I view butter and margarine as a level playing field because they are both a fat, full stop,” she told HuffPost Australia. “They’re all very energy dense.”

Despite being higher in unhealthy saturated fat, McGuckin concedes that butter is much more natural, less processed and has way fewer ingredients than margarine. But it’s still something we should only eat in moderation.

“Within the context of someone’s day, if they have quite a high overall saturated fat intake and use a scrape of butter with their toast, the butter is probably the last thing I would pick on – instead it would be the McDonald’s burgers they’re having or the three litres of full cream milk they’re consuming in their iced coffees each week.”

As for margarine, given it is plant-based, it is much higher in mono- and polyunsaturated fats than butter, which are essential for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

A big concern for many is the trans fat content (which can clog arteries) of margarine, but as McGuckin explains, modern plant-based spreads are much better than they used to be.

“They do worry about the trans fat content being very high in margarine but, typically, most of them these days are made solid by a process called interesterification, which does reduce this trans fat component significantly.”

"All nutritional panels for any food that may contain trans fat they should be listed. Most product companies these days are pretty savvy and doing their best to keep that out by changing the processing nature.”

So which is better? At the end of the day, they’re both fats – and bad fats at that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little bit here and there. “It comes down to how much the individual is using. If someone is having a tiny little spread of butter or margarine on toast with Vegemite, I have no problem with that.”

If you’d like to reduce your saturated and trans fat intake however, opt for sources of healthy fats instead, like avocados (which McGuckin describes as “nature’s margarine”), nuts, fish, seeds and unprocessed nut butters.

Tell us in the comments below, do you use butter or margarine?

Article created in partnership with Over60