Q: Is there a difference between butter and margarine?
A: Yes! A quick look at the nutrition facts tells us there is a big difference between butter and margarine! The debate focuses on the types of fat found in these products and stick butter has the most saturated fat per tablespoon (7g), giving it the most unhealthy characteristics.
When it comes to eating a heart healthy diet, you want to minimize intake of artery-clogging trans-fat and saturated fat, both of which can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol level. Keep trans-fat consumption to a minimum and saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories. (That’s 20g saturated fat for a daily 2,000 calorie diet!)
Years ago, hard margarines were made with unhealthy hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenation is the process of taking unsaturated (healthier) fats and adding hydrogen atoms to obtain characteristics of a saturated fat. For example, hydrogenated oils are firmer and easier to spread, but this causes the loss of health benefits associated with unsaturated fats. Trans-fatty acids also form during hydrogenation and pose a double risk to heart health by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Thanks to better technology, soft margarines and spreads can now be made from a blend of unhydrogenated oils, such as soybean and canola oils, which are mostly unsaturated and, therefore, more heart healthy than butter.
While whipped butter has less saturated fat per tablespoon that stick butter (see below), soft margarine and spreads are clearly the way to go to save on calories and saturated fat grams! The bottom line? Check the ingredient list to make sure the product is not made with partially hydrogenated oils and look for spreads that are trans-fat free and low in saturated fat!
Butter, stick (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (7g saturated)
Breakstone’s whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 7g total fat (4.5g saturated)
Land o’ Lakes whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 50 calories, 6g total fat (3.5g saturated)
Land o’ Lakes soft margarine (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (3g saturated)
Land o’ Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread, soft (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)
Fleischmann’s Original Soft Spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, original soft spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)
*Smart Balance Original Buttery Spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 9g total fat (2.5g saturated)
*Promise buttery spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)
*Made with no hydrogenated oils