The butter versus margarine debate still exists. Who do you trust more, cows or chemists?
A little history
The origination of butter scales back thousands of years to the early domestication of animals. Margarine, on the other hand, was first developed in the 1800s as an affordable substitute to butter. Fast forward to the 1900s and margarine’s ability to spread on toast boosted its popularity ranking among food lovers. After World War II, a butter shortage further increased the presence of margarine in kitchens. By the end of the 1970s, partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils became more and more common in foods, especially margarines, because they extended the shelf-life of this popular “health food.” See http://www.soyinfocenter.com/HSS/hydrogenation1.php for more information about the history of hydrogenation.
The confusing complaint
The popularity of margarine grew as people were convinced that the saturated fat and cholesterol in butter was causing heart disease. Since margarine is made with vegetable oils (partially hydrogenated, also known as trans fat), no saturated fat or cholesterol is present, then therefore it must be healthier for our hearts. The problem here: saturated fat and cholesterol are not as harmful to our heart as partially hydrogenated oils are. This is when knowing your ingredients becomes more crucial than reading advertisements. It is proven that the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils found in margarine (due to their plant-based oils) are good for our hearts however, the package they are delivered in is not so fantastic. Poly- and monounsaturated fats can be obtained naturally in the diet from foods void of partially hydrogenated oils such as olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and olives.
Believe in Butter
Still a little unsure about butter? Consider these facts for a moment:
- Butter comes from cows and margarine comes from a laboratory.
- Butter contains one ingredient, milk (unless it is salted then it contains milk and salt). Margarines often contain over ten ingredients, some of which can only be pronounced if spoken slowly.
- Butter contains cholesterol which is necessary for cellular function. Margarine contains no cholesterol because it is derived from vegetable oils.
- Butter contains vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which are required for optimal health. Additionally, these are fat-soluble vitamins that are only absorbed when consumed with the fat that butter provides. Margarine contains none of the vitamins unless a synthetic form is added.
- Butter has a natural balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids whereas margarine contains a higher concentration of omega-6 fatty acids.
- Butter contains zero partially hydrogenated oils. Margarine does. Partially hydrogenated oils increase LDL cholesterol while lowering HDL cholesterol and completely ruin the marketed benefit of using margarine for heart health.
Your best butter
I recommend choosing butter from grass-fed cows because it contains a higher levels of cancer-fighting CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), vitamin E, beta-carotene (vitamin A precursor), and omega-3 than butter from cows raised in factory farms. Additionally, grass-fed cows are free of antibiotics and hormones. Remember that when choosing a Real Food diet, the closer your food comes from nature, the better.