Butter vs. Margarine? Ending the battle of which is the greater evil
Butter or margarine? That is the question.
It’s common knowledge that there are good fat and bad fat. Obviously, you would want to cut down on bad fat, and increase the good fat.
But why is there a debate between whether butter or margarine is healthier?
The answer lies in the type of bad fat that is in them. Introducing: saturated fat in butter.
Saturated fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol) levels in the blood, and can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. They are commonly found in:
That’s why butter was commonly frowned upon as the choice of fat. But is margarine any better? No and yes – let us explain.
Trans fat, the worst kind of fat, can be found in margarine. It is a by-product of hydrogenation: a process where unsaturated fat is turned into solid, saturated fat to prolong shelf-life. There are no known benefits of consuming trans fat and no healthy consumption level! Trans fat not only raises your bad cholesterol, it also lowers your good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol), and is associated with inflammation in your body leading to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
But before you throw away all of the margarine in your house, Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs), the source of artificial trans fat, has been banned as an ingredient in Singapore since June 2021. This includes even imported foods as well.
There are 4 categories of food products that contained PHOs:
- Snacks (e.g. potato chips)
- Baked goods (e.g. cookies, cakes and pastries)
- Instant/prepared meals (e.g. frozen pizza, instant noodles)
- Fat spreads (e.g. peanut butter)
So even though margarine was originally touted to be worse than butter due to its trans fat content, this is no longer the case.
Whether you choose to buy butter or margarine from now on, depends on your own discretion. Here are some tips:
1. Always look at the ingredient list and nutrition information
Compare and choose the one with lower saturated fat. Just because there’s a big fat (pun intended) label boasting “reduced fat” on the front of the food package doesn’t mean it’s actually lower in the bad fat! Remember that good fat (polyunsaturated & monounsaturated fat) is essential in your diet.
2. Look for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)
Products with HCS are generally lower in saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and higher in dietary fibre, calcium, and wholegrains compared to similar products within the same food category. For butter and margarine in particular, look out for the taglines “Lower Saturated Fat” or “Trans Fat Free”
The key to healthy, balanced eating is reading the labels on the foods that you buy from the supermarket. Yes, we know — it’s a bother, but it’s worth it. A smart consumer makes for a healthier body.