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Why BUTTER is BETTER for your health than Margarine.

Updated on February 20, 2011

The dangers of margarine & hydrogenated fats vs. the health benefits of butter.

Everyone knows how delicious butter is. What tastes better than a nice plop of butter on a crisp-skinned baked potato, or a thick smear of butter across a piece of pillow soft, warm bread? Butter gliding across an ear or corn, melted on top of a stack of pancakes, or hidden away inside a melt-in-your-mouth butter cookie. WOW. Is your mouth watering?

I can remember twenty years ago when I ate fat free food only (totally stupid I know now!). On the rare occasions I would go out to eat I would allow myself to spread some butter on the rolls. Nothing tastes so good! I would eat so much buttered bread that I couldn't finish my meal. I bet you have done this too. Ahhhh, the power of butter!

Okay, so we all know that butter tastes great. Just ask renown cook Paula Deen, who routinely adds a stick of butter to most of her recipes. But, did you know that butter is the better choice (not just for taste) but for health as well? Humans have been eating healthful butter for thousands of years. People around the world have prized butter for it's health benefits throughout history. Heart disease used to be very rare, back when we all ate butter as a regular part of our daily diet.

I can see you recoil in horror and disbelief. ( I am in the Lady-in-the-Window, after all.)

How can it be? Isn't butter a hotbed of saturated fat and artery clogging badness? Isn't margarine better for you? Isn't it lower in saturated fat and cholesterol?

Despite all the "evidence" to the contrary, suggesting that margarine is better because it does not contain saturated fat and cholesterol. There are things far worse about margarine. Lets take a look at margarine.

The mess that is margarine.

Margarine became popular in the earlier part of the 1900s, but didn't overtake butter in popularity until the 1950s or so. By 1960 heart disease became our number one killer. Coincidence? Margarine ( other hydrogenated oils ) is a main cause of heart and atherosclerosis, not butter, as the American Heart Association would have you believe. Because of the trans-fatty acids, margarine is correlated with more heart disease than any other food- including butter.

The trans-fatty acids in margarine (and vegetable shortenings like Crisco) increase LDL cholesterol (the bad one), and lower the healthier HLD cholesterol. This raises the risk of heart disease. What you have been told about margarine being better because butter has cholesterol is a big, fat, lie. I'll explain more about that in the butter section of this article.

Heart disease, diabetes, and other killer diseases are all running rampant and at an all time high, thanks largely to hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils that are used to provide a long shelf life to commercially prepared baked goods, crackers, cookies, frozen prepared foods, etc.

In order to make margarine the vegetable oils need to go through a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is the process of forcing hydrogen atoms into the holes of unsaturated fatty acids. This is done with hydrogen gas under pressure that is bubbled through the vegetable oil with the help of a metal catalyst, such as nickel, platinum or some other metal. When the hydrogen atoms combine with the carbon atoms, the oils becomes saturated or hardened.

When this occurs, this new product ( margarine) no longer resembles the original oil. It is now a dark and rancid mess. Nickel is a toxic heavy metal and some amount will always remain in the margarine at it's completion. To make this unpalatable gloop appeal to the masses ( that would be you and me) deodorants and coloring agents are added to disguise the rancid smell and to hide the disgusting grey color of the unappealing slop. Much like a magicians sleight of hand, this slick trickery of bleaching, filtering and deodorizing goes on behind the scenes, and we are none the wiser.

What remains is a highly artificial fat that contains trans-fatty acids (Trans-fats. You've heard of those, right? That's the bad stuff.) and the same calorie count as butter. All the original essential fatty acids are now gone, and any semblance to nutrition has disappeared. Welcome to margarine, a plastic fat.

So how does use of margarine effect your health? Because the hydrogenated oils (and partially hydrogenated) in margarine are known to cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and much more. They block the bodies ability to absorb essential fatty acids, which are critical for every bodily function. And, if all that weren't enough, they make you gain weight like crazy. Still think margarine is the healthier choice?

A great source of information on the dangers of these products can be found at Shirley's Wellness Cafe, a great natural health themed website that I find invaluable.

Shirley's Wellness Cafe

You don't need to be afraid of butter. In fact, you can freely embrace it's creamy, satisfying goodness.

Butter is best when raw and organic, of course, but that may not always be available. If it is, grab some. Butter has a lovely list of attributes that I bet you aren't aware of. Did you know that butter is a good source of vitamin A, and the other fat soluble vitamins as well?

Butter is also rich in trace minerals, particularly selenium, which is an antioxidant. Iodine can also be found in butter. Fatty acids are abundant in butter. Butter has a perfect blend of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, which render it very stable in cooking. Even at high temperatures it will not break down.

Butter has less cholesterol (11mg per teaspoon) than a cup of low fat milk (18 mg), less than 3 oz of light tuna in water(25 mg), or even 3 oz of beef, lamb, pork or chicken (71-79mg). Calves liver has 477mg of cholesterol per 3 oz serving, and an egg yolk 208 mg. I bet that butter looks pretty innocent now, huh?

And something you may be shocked to hear, dietary intake of cholesterol has no impact on the level of cholesterol in your blood. If you check out the link at the end of this article, you will finds lots factual information on cholesterol that you may not know.

"There's no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we've known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn't matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit." Ancel Keys, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota 1997.

Butter also contains short chain fatty acids that have immune stimulating and antimicrobial properties. In addition, butter also contains the correct balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Fatty acid balance is critical to optimal health. If someone ever calls you a fathead they are right! The human brain is more than 60% fat.

Check out this helpful website than helps explain this better than I can:

Good Fats

There are just so many benefits to butter that I am going to refer you to a website that clearly lists the top twenty benefits of butter.

Benefits of Real Butter Top 20 List

Hard Butter vs. Soft Spreadable Margarine

So now you know that butter is the better choice, right? Maybe you have the same objection as my mother does; that butter is hard to spread when you take it out of the fridge. Guess what? It is perfectly safe to leave butter out on the counter for hours or believe it or not, days. That is, in temperatures that are not in the high 80's or 90's, in which case you would have a puddle of butter, not exactly spreadable. So leave it out if you know you will be having that morning English muffin. That way you always have delicious soft butter ready to use.

Because of the high fat content, butter just does not spoil or go rancid very easily. Keep it covered though. And if you are still worried, buy what is called a "butter bell". Apparently this is a container for butter that holds a well of water beneath it allowing it to stay cooler, yet remain spreadable. Check it out- this looks pretty cool to me and I may have to get one. Awesome idea!

Butter Bell Crock- Butter Keeper

Watch a video about the Butter Bell Crock. It shows you just how easy it is!

Making Butter on You Tube

And here is a wonderful webpage that shows you photos and walks you through the procedure of home made butter.

Making butter tutorial

And now that you have all that homemade butter, you will need some recipes to use it up!

This is a website from the Wisconsin Dairy Producers. Looks good to me.

Flavored butter recipes:

Flavored Butter

Butter Recipes!

Because butter rules!

Butter is pretty awesome on it's own, but occasionally you might want a little change of pace. Although there are lots of savory butter recipes, I'll cover those another time. Right now I'm going to list some great sweet butter recipes.

Have you ever had the honey butter that some restaurants offer with their breads? This is a great treat to offer dinner guests if you are having dinner rolls or maybe a nice fresh bread with your meal. All you do is soften up a stick of butter in a dish and use your mixer to whip in some honey to taste. Paula Deen recommends 1 tablespoons of honey for each stick of butter, but I think a bit more could be even better.

For a tasty butter to go with pancakes, how about taking the honey butter recipe and adding in a 1/4 tsp of cinnamon? And if you like orange, take this a bit further and add in a 1/4 tsp of grated orange peel.

Another great flavored butter is strawberry butter. Oh my, this is good! Take two sticks of butter, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and a half cup of cut up strawberries. You can use a food processor or a mixer to blend this all together. I prefer the food processor so I can get a real creamy texture.

More butter recipes in the future. Enjoy your butter- cause nature knows best.

Reader Feedback

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    • Blonde Blythe profile image

      Blonde Blythe 3 years ago from U.S.A.

      Fantastic article! Very well done!

    • profile image

      shirin-stavematias 3 years ago

      Lie others I've always felt like butter was better, but can you please clarify for me if indeed some margarines which say they are NOT hydrogenated, can be used occasionally..Thanks

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 4 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      You see, I have always known this. I have been going by taste and by the fact that margarine is man made whereas butter is natural as summer rain. Any kind of food that is man made is bound to be bad for the human body. That's the way I saw it and the way I still see it. Especially when I got to college and studied chemistry. My mom still buys margarine because of cost, but I tell her butter isn't that much more than margarine.TonyB

    • Fran Tollett profile image

      Fran Tollett 5 years ago

      Butter IS better, much better for us than margarine. I have gotten rid of margarine completely and only use butter. And coconut oil <3

    • Lady-in-Window profile image

      Lady-in-Window 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you for writing my friend- Butter rocks! And as a chef I know you appreciate the heavenly delights of butter. :)) What you may not know is that almost ALL of canola ( ie; rapeseed plants ) are genetically modified, and this is a health disaster in itself. I'll stick to natural organic butter- not that nasty chemical disaster known as canola. Do some research on canola and you'll get a different side of the story that is pretty much hidden from the public through clever and deceitful advertising from the "dark side". :)) Take care

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Alright so need to bulk up on your knowledge there my dear. You are Correct in that Hydrogenated margerines are far more dangerous then butter. However the majority of magerines made today no longer use that process. And I did say the Marjority there are still some available. Which are very unhealthy. This is where you info is fauthy, a margerine made from a vegetable oil, such as Canola actually contains more of the good cholesteral then the bad. And yes I do know this, I am a chef with a degree in nutrition as well. So I do know food extremely well. But I do agree that butter should not be something that is feared. Just have to be aware of when to use one or the other. Shouldn't put just some of the facts out. I was researching info about cat foods and I wondered how knowledge based you are, and was glad I read this. I am sure you do research but tell the whole story, anyhow you take of yourself now.

    • jejoju profile image

      jejoju 5 years ago

      hi hello Thank you for sharing this lens and I agree nothing tastes better than butter.It seems like milk is bad for you, cream is bad for you and butter is bad for you; so they must all come from bad cows. (oh save us, what is this world coming too.)

    • profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      I love the way you have written this. Lensrolled to Butter vs Margarine and Butter, the Healthy Option and blessed by a butter-loving Squid angel :-)

    • Sue Dyson profile image

      Sue Dyson 8 years ago

      It's nice to see my instincts to choose butter over margarine were correct. And THANK YOU for the butter bell link. A friend of mine had a pottery butter bell. They're brilliant!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 9 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Huh! Well, now I know. Well done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      I had no idea.. thank you for shedding light on this for me..and many others..:0)

    • SilverLotus1 profile image

      SilverLotus1 9 years ago

      Well done!! Silver Lotus