What’s better, margarine or butter?

Butter and margarine both contain the same amount of calories; about 100 calories per tablespoon. For some time, margarine was considered better because it contained lower levels of artery-clogging saturated fat. But now we know that margarine is also harmful to your health when it contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or “trans fat”, even when it’s made with heart-healthy oil such as canola.

Hydrogenation is a process that turns liquid oil into a solid at room temperature, done so to prevent spoilage. Unfortunately, during hydrogenation, a substance called “trans fat” is produced.

Trans fat is a saturated-like fat that contributes to heart disease. Proponents of butter say that trans-fat is worse than saturated fat because it raises the level of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood and lowers the level of “good” HDL cholesterol.

The bottom line in answering whether butter or margarine is better for you is this – neither. The best advice is to abstain from them both. If this is totally out of the question, then try to decrease your intake of butter or margarine, focusing on either whipped or low-fat products. Look for a margarine product that is “trans fat free” and does not contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list. You probably won’t be able to find a stick margarine that meets these guidelines, but you can usually find a healthy tub or spray margarine product.