margarine vs butter
Where butter contains saturated fats, margarine contains unsaturated fats (monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat), which are “good” fats.

While you choose between butter and margarine, it is always advisable to read the label to know the nutritional contents. Although butter has earned a bad reputation for being high in saturated fats (which increase the risk of heart disease), margarine has not been proven entirely healthy. Nonetheless, margarine has its fair share of advantages.

Margarine contains a higher content of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that help lower the levels of the bad or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. Reduced LDL levels help improve heart health.

The older kinds of margarine or stick margarine also contain trans fats, which are bad for people because they do dual harm to the body by increasing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reducing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol levels in the blood. However, some of the newer, softer margarine varieties are trans-fat-free, high in polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. This makes them a healthier alternative to butter.

Although, margarine is still not “healthier” to consume in abundance since it does contain a considerable amount of calories. Thus, the key is reading the label of the spread and consuming it in moderation. Stanol-based spreads (such as Benecol), olive oil and yogurt spreads may help manage blood cholesterol levels.

According to the American Heart Association, the key to staying healthy is keeping active, managing stress, sleeping well and consuming more whole foods, including whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits. Additionally, limit or avoid processed, excessively salty and sugary foods. Hence, just avoiding butter or margarine is not sufficient for overall health. 

If you maintain a healthy lifestyle, including following a healthy dietary pattern, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake, the margarine versus butter debate won’t even be required.

Which is better for weight loss—butter or margarine?

Weight loss can be attained when you consume fewer calories than what you utilize during the day (the total daily energy expenditure). For weight loss, you can choose either margarine or butter if you do not exceed your calorie consumption beyond what you use or burn throughout the day.

Some varieties of margarine are quite low in saturated fat and provide fewer calories per unit weight than butter. This gives it an edge over butter because you can have a higher quantity for the same amount of calories. Hence, read the label to check the fat content and learn how many calories are in one serving so that you may limit the intake.

You may choose to include lower calorie spreads, such as yogurt or hung curd spread, salsa, hummus and mint and cucumber dips.

Does margarine contain trans fat?

Margarine may contain trans fat, which is typically present in the older or stick margarine. The newer varieties or the soft margarine are typically trans-fat-free. To be sure, you must read the label’s ingredients and fat content.

Is margarine vegan?

Not all margarine products are vegan. The key ingredients in margarine are vegetable oils, salt and water. However, some brands contain animal products, such as dairy, lecithin or whey. Although rare these days, some varieties of margarine could be made from animal fats. Hence, the importance of reading the label again comes into play for knowing whether the margarine is vegan or not.

QUESTION

According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2021
References
Harvard Health Publishing. Butter vs. Margarine. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/butter-vs-margarine

Zeratsky K. Which Spread Is Better for My Heart — butter or Margarine? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/butter-vs-margarine/faq-20058152