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Margarine vs Butter

Updated on January 5, 2011

What is Margarine:

Margarine is used as a substitute to butter in many parts of the world. It was developed for the first time in 1813. Today the use of butter has become very rare as many nutritionists, doctors and other researchers stressed the importance of margarine for health.

Manufacturing Margarine:

The prosses of manufacturing margarine consists of blending together a mixture of purified vegetable oil and skimmed milk. The mixture is than cooled and additional colorants and texture improving additives are added. Margarine is white in color as it is manufactured from purified ingredients, to make it more pleasing to see many companies add colors. Margarine available in the market is usually off-white to lime colored. The use of color in margarine production is though banned but many companied do not follow it.

There is another process to manufacture margarine, the one used to convert unsaturated oils into saturated hardened fats. Unsaturated oils contain a large proportion of double bonds in the carbon backbone of the molecules. On the other hand the saturated fats contain no double bond and their chain is already saturated with atoms. When oils are converted into fats they are passed through hydrogen which solidifies oil by converting all double bonds into single bond. This process of manufacturing margarine from vegetable oils is also very common.

To equal the benefits of butter some companies fortify margarine with vitamin A, vitamin D and other essential nutrients.

As the mixture contains vegetable oil and skimmed milk doctors and nutritionists suggested that it is good for your health. They argued that butter contains full cream milk and is dangerous for heart. For many decades the general perception was that you can consume margarine without any fear of heart problems.

What is Butter:

Butter is an animal fat and they contain saturated fatty acids. It contains an emulsion of fats in water. It is manufactured from cow's milk or from other mammals milk. The milk is churned in order to get butter. Salt and other flavoring agents can be added to improve the flavor. Its color is naturally lime to pale yellow but the color can be enhanced by the addition of colorants.

Previously hand mixers were used to blend milk and cream mixture to get butter but it took lots of time. Today a beater can be used to churn milk and cream to get butter.

Health Risks with Margarine:

Margarine typically contains a large amount of trans-fat. This form of fat is partially hardened and is clearly dangerous for health. tans-fat contains LDL and it increases bad cholesterol in the body which can cause heart problems.

Margarine contains a relatively high amount of total cholesterol than butter. It increases LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decreases HDL cholesterol (healthy cholesterol) in the body.

The risks of coronary diseases increases manifold as well the risk of cancer.

Immune system and insulin system get damaged from the use margarine and it has been proved by recent researches.

When hydrogen is added in it in the process of hydrogenation, the structure of oil changes and makes it more like plastic and less like food item. Due to this fact there has been lots of debate about the use of margarine. Though many nutritionist say that being like plastic does not mean that margarine consumption is like consuming plastic. Many naturally occurring food polymers have similar structures like synthetic polymers but this does not make them similar. The bonding of atoms and their arrangement in the chain makes many differences in similar looking molecules.

Remember some 10-15 years back nobody knew that cola and soda drinks are dangerous for health and people loved to drink more than one bottle of soft drink daily but today we know that it is dangerous and try our best to avoid it. Similar is the case with margarine, though people today prefer margarine on butter but margarine is a processed food and like other processed foods it is dangerous for health.

Health Benefits of Butter:

The amount of saturated fat is higher in butter but trans-fats are higher in margarine. Trans-fat are more bad for health than saturated fat.

Butter facilitates the absorption of food nutrients in the body.

Butter tastes better than margarine and it also enhances the flavor of other food.

Margarine vs Plastic:

Many recent research suggests that margarine is only one molecule different from plastic. This has been quite in debate now-a-days and the proponents of margarine say that it does not make it like plastic even if it is one molecule different from plastic but those against the use of margarine say that it does make difference and margarine taste much like plastic . Butter is tasty to eat while margarine has no taste. It has no nutritional benefits while butter is full of nutritions. Butter spoils when kept outside for long time because it has nutrients and bacteria attracts on it. On the other hand margarine stays unspoiled outside and if kept outside for long time will turn into plastic. None of these points are yet proved and a debate is going on and scientists are conducting researches to prove them true or false. 

Fats about Margarine and Butter:

Not all of the information given above about margarine and butter can be final words and we know that daily a new research is conducte and new information comes into light. Some facts are timproven ones and you can check them while using butter or margarine.

Trans-fats are not good foe health and this a proven fact. It increases bad cholesterol and margarine contains large amount of trans-fat.

Butter or Margarine Which one to Use:

While purchasing butter or margarine look for some information on the label:

Always buy an FDA approved brand.

Check for nutritional information on the label. Amount of vitamin A, D and other eseential nutrients.

Many good brands that produce trans-fat free margarine mention it on their label, so look for one that contains least or no trans-fat content.

Olive oil butter and canola oil butter is available in the market. They have the benefits which can not be compared with other oils.

Do not purchase a colored margarine. Margarine, when no artificial color is added, is white in color so buy one which is white. Artificial colorants are synthetic and are not good for health.

Always use butter or margarine in moderation.


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    • profile image

      malikali 5 years ago

      nice article related to foods .But one should also be aware of any risks associated with food .visit my hub

      to get information about heart diseases.

    • profile image

      loloss 7 years ago

      good topic and if u want more info about benefits of butter u can visit my blog thanks and good luck

    • The Pink Panther profile image

      The Pink Panther 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Margarine vs Butter is an age-old debate that I think you've looked throughly into.

      Great hub!