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The Battle of the Butters- Choosing the Right Product for You!

Updated on December 5, 2011

These days the market place is flooded with butters, margarines, butter substitutes, vegan butters…the list goes on and on. The choices may leave you questioning if they really make any difference at all. Stop right there! The answer is a resounding YES. This article will dive into different types of butter/ margarines that are available, and when they should be used.

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Butter

Butter, in my mind, is an amazing gift from the heavens. Its creamy and smooth texture makes just about everything taste a little bit better. Butter has been around since Bible times, much to the pleasure of foodies everywhere. Its consistency is perfect for baked treats that leave you reminiscing about the butter cookies that your grandmother used to make you for Christmas every year. As an added benefit, butter is actually a source of vitamins A, D, E, and K (which is nice, since these vitamins are fat soluble!).

However, it does have a nasty (but well deserved) reputation of being repugnant to your arteries. In one pat of butter, 13% of your daily saturated fat grams have already been used. It’s also high in cholesterol…the bad kind. So, it can clog your arteries and increase your bad cholesterol all in one fell swoop.

So, what should you use it for? I’m going to stick with unsalted butter for a lot of my baking needs. Nothing can make a better cookie than actual butter. The water content in margarine leaves my cookies depressed. I’m also going to use butter at times that I want my dish to scream “DECADENCE.” For example, I make yeast rolls that drip with carbohydrate goodness. I’m going to bring out the best butter in the world, to have a perfect pairing of starch and blissful fat. (If you’re curious, I believe the best butter in the world to be Kerrygold Irish butter. Just taste it.)


Margarine

As the world’s arteries moved away from butter, they moved closer to margarine. Now, let’s just be clear. The margarine that stocked the shelves of your grandmother’s grocery store were a far cry from what is available now. Back then, all that was available was super hydrogenated oils. These hydrogenated oils are what we now see on the nutrition label as trans fats. Trans fats = BAD. Your body doesn’t know what to do with these unnatural fats. Not only do they raise your bad cholesterol levels, these villains lower your good cholesterol! So, back in the day, margarine was a double whammy of bad health.

However, today there are margarines in stick form that do not have hydrogenated oils. For example, Smart Balance has a couple different types of margarines that do not have any trans fats. Hooray! You can have the texture of butter without making your arteries give up the ghost!

So, what should you use it for? I use this type of margarine in baking that can handle a more dense texture. For example, heavier cakes are just right for a stick form of margarine. It can also be used easily in biscotti, breads, and brownies.

Spreads

The last product is definitely more of a butter substitute than an actual replacement. The American Heart Association recommends using a soft margarine instead of butter. I agree that this is a great step towards saving your heart. Unfortunately, I love food. I mean, I really really love food. When I started trying to use these spreads, I cried a little about giving up the taste and texture that I love so much. Good news, it can be done! The first step is to taste different kinds of buttery spreads. It’s still important to keep an eye out on those trans fats, but there are a lot of different spreads on the market these days. Chances are, you can find one that tastes good to you and will leave your doctor happy.

The second step is knowing when to use it. NEVER BAKE WITH IT! You’ll be discouraged every time. However, I’m pretty sure that you can get by with flavoring your green beans with it. Also, if you need butter for table use, this is the choice for you. The butter-like flavor can satisfy your cravings and your arteries will thank you.

So, you tell me! What butter product do you use most?

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    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I use butter and margarine and found our article very useful. Thanks for sharing and welcome to HubPages.

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Saw your post on Extreme Hub Makeover. Seems you're off to a good start.

      Why not do some research and do a series of interlinked hubs? Check out Dr. Mercola and Sally Fallon for instance, and butter will likely come out on top, in a good way. Just a suggestion.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      Congratulations on your first hub! I often get asked by my clients which is better - butter or margarine - and you've done a great job of covering the basics here!

    • paradigmsearch profile image

      Person of Interest 6 years ago from SoCal, USA

      Very informative hub. On your poll I selected butter-only. But now I think I'll start using margarines and spreads as your hub indicates.

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