Marvelous Margarine and Bad Butter…Are You Sure?

There is a lot of information available that is confusing about good nutrition but one premise that is agreed on, across the board, is to eat less processed foods and more whole foods. Whole foods are defined as foods eaten exactly in the form that they were made.  An apple is a whole food.  With that in mind, consider this product:

Ingredients:  Natural Oil blend (soybeans, palm fruit, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed, and canola), water, whey, salt, natural and artificial flavor, sorbitan esther of vegetable fatty acids, soy lecithin, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, B6, B12, lactic acid, beta carotene for color, potassium sorbate, TBHQ, EDTA.

Does this sound like real food to you?

How about:  Sweet cream; salt?

The first is margarine, the second, butter.

Which would you prefer to put in your body?

But wait!  Isn’t butter bad for you?

This is an interesting question.  Why do we think it is bad for us?  Is it the calorie count? Is it the saturated fat?  Is it the cholesterol? Is it all of those things? Or do we just have this vague notion that margarine is better and we should fear and avoid butter at all costs?

Let’s consider the details:

  • Margarine: Of the various brands I checked at the store, they ranged from 30 calories per tablespoon to 50 calories.
  • Butter has 100.
  • Margarine’s fat content:  Some of the brands had a blend of saturated fats with monosaturated fats.  The label listed above had some Omega 3’s because of the flaxseed that was added.  Unfortunately, flaxseed Omega’s are not as bio-available as animal product Omega’s and some people are unable to absorb them at all.  In addition, canola is often a genetically modified plant product and should probably be avoided.  One margarine product I found had zero fats in it.  I could not find the nutrition label on line but I have to wonder, what is this product? How can a fat not have any fats?
  • Butter is 100% saturated fat.  It also has a blend of Omega 6 and Omega 3’s.  Butter contains 12-15% short and medium chain fatty acids.  These are different than long chain fatty acids, found in other animal saturated fats and margarine, because they get absorbed directly from the small intestine to the liver and are converted into quick energy.  These fatty acids also have antimicrobial and immune supporting properties.
  • Margarine has some nutrients added in like Vitamin E and A.
  • Butter has Vitamin A, D, E and K, all fat soluble vitamins that our bodies need.  Butter also contains trace minerals like manganese, zinc, chromium, selenium and iodine.  All these minerals are important in supporting our endocrine system. Butter has other health benefits that are too lengthy for this article.
  • Margarine gets its color from a natural source, beta-carotene.  What color was it before?  Why does it need color added?  Have you ever thought about the manufacturing process of margarine?  Can “real” food be “manufactured”?
  • Butter has nothing added to it.  It gets its golden color from the nutrients in the grass the cow has eaten.

Note:  Please keep in mind that many of the benefits of butter listed above are from organic, grass-fed butter which you can find in stores like Whole Foods.

So keep in these things in mind when you stand in front of the refrigerator section at your store.  In an attempt to save a couple of calories a day,  would you rather eat something that has naturally occurring health benefits or eat a food that is largely empty calories?

I know this information is different than what you have been taught and some of you will continue to eat margarine.  If you choose to eat margarine, please be sure to avoid any label that has hydrolyzed oil in it.  These are trans fats and are not good for your health.  Choose a label with as few ingredients on it as possible.

If you choose to eat butter, I hope you choose the organic, grass fed kind.

Reference:
Fallon, S. E., M., PhD. (2001). Nourishing Tradition (Revised Second ed.). Washington, D.C.: NewTrends Publishing, Inc

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