For over twenty years, margarine has been promoted as better for our hearts than butter. Since margarine was made from unsaturated vegetable oils, one of the good fats I wrote about last week, most people assumed it was better for our long term health than butter, which contains a lot of cholesterol and saturated fat, the bad fat I also wrote about last week.
But, as with other assumptions about fat, this assumption has been proved wrong.
Research shows that some forms of margarine—specifically the hard margarines sold in sticks — are worse for your heart than butter. This is because they contain large amounts of the ugly fats, trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils.
The Nurses’ Health Study, which has been following the health of 120,000 female nurses since 1976, found that women who ate four teaspoons of the hard margarines sold in sticks a day had a 50 percent greater risk of heart disease than women who only rarely ate margarine.
So should you choose butter over margarine?
Whenever possible, you should skip both and use a liquid vegetable oil, such as olive, rapeseed (called Canola in the US and Canada), sunflower, flaxseed (also known as linseed), which are rich in the good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, instead.
At the table, dip bread in olive oil rather than spreading it with butter or margarine.
When sautéing, rather than using only butter, use olive, rapeseed (canola), sunflower or another liquid vegetable oil and just add a little bit of butter for flavour.
If you need something spreadable, choose a soft margarine whose label shows that is not only trans fat free but also low in saturated fat. Several soft margarines are made from a blend of healthy oils.
So today’s 3 takeaway health tips are that you should:
- Avoid the hard margarines sold in sticks containing the ugly trans fats
- Whenever possible use liquid vegetable oils, rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, in our cooking and at the table, instead of butter or margarine.
- Choose a soft margarine which is trans fat free and low in saturated fat, if you do need something spreadable