Friday, January 30, 2009

Butter Vs. Margarine – Which is worse?

Eat This Not That

I start this entry with the theme you will hear over and over again…Why can’t food just be food?

I grew up in the era of margarine. Margarine was created about a century ago but not really popular in the US until about the 1960’s when the first tub margarine and vegetable oil spreads were introduced to the American public. Like most, I used it in place of butter because butter was always considered bad for your health due to high levels of saturated fat, which is associated with increasing cholesterol levels in the blood and heart disease.

However, margarine may be even worse than butter. Most margarine is processed using a method called hydrogenation, which results in unhealthy Trans fats. In general, the more solid the margarine, the more Trans fat it contains — so stick margarine usually have more trans fats than do tub margarine. Like saturated fats, Tran’s fats increase blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. But Trans fats can also lower "good," cholesterol levels, increase your risk of cancer, and decrease your immune system response.

So what do we do? My opinion is to eat butter in moderation. At least it is natural. Butter is usually made from cream (dairy milk) and salt. Margarine on the other is made from such a complicated process that I can’t even explain it all except to say it starts out as an oil, is treated with caustic soda, bleached, mixed with charcoal, hydrogenated, emulsified, agitated and then somewhere in there they have to make it look yellow… like butter. Have I lost you yet? I almost did not even want to write this because it is so complicated!

So, really, none of it is very good for you. I personally would throw out the margarine and use butter in moderation. Read your labels to make sure it is just cream and salt and stick to the serving size or less. I like Land O Lakes Whipped Butter.

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