Ditch the Margarine & Back to Butter?

Jan 5, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

For decades we have had to deal with the choice butter or margarine. It would be hard to find someone who says margarine tastes better than butter. Fresh fried fish, cream sauces, or simple toast might need butter. Some will never sacrifice the taste of butter and always go for the real thing. Some prefer margarine for various reasons such as it is extremely affordable, has a long shelf life and spreads very easily. There is also a belief out there that margarine is the healthier choice. However, if you are purchasing margarine for health benefits you might want to reconsider.

Decades ago, butter came under fire because its high levels of saturated fats were associated with increased risk of heart disease. Researchers and nutritionists got behind the study and suggested the world start using margarine instead of butter. Corporate America and food companies supported the switch as well; and margarine it was.

However, then the processes to produce margarine and the effects it can have on your health came to light. Older forms or margarine were jam packed with high levels of trans fats which raised your bad cholesterol and lowered your good cholesterol. By this time nobody knew what to believe. When the negative studies on butter were reviewed and new studies came to light, we realized there was never any good evidence butter, or its saturated fats increased the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Harvard university has switched their tune and concludes there is no evidence to switch to margarine products from butter. There is emerging evidence it is healthier to stick with butter if you are consuming it in moderation.

Stick margarine that is hard to touch, should not be used because of trans fat content. Newer soft margarine are still high in calories but the trans fats are often removed. The key is to look at the label. Foods you are eating should have zero trans fats. The issue with margarine is the oils used to make them, and the refining processes used to create them. While using margarine will save some calories, you are consuming high amount of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAS). These fats are extremely susceptible to oxidation in the body once consumed. PUFAs contain two or more double bonds, and it is these double bonds which are prone to oxidation. Consequently, the risk of oxidation increases with the number of double bonds present in the fatty acid and with PUFAS comes more of these double bonds. PUFA derivatives can initiate and exacerbate inflammatory responses Contrary to popular belief consuming polyunsaturated fats does not mean better heart health. In fact, more experts strongly believe PUFAs are contributing to poor health. Some doctors have now committed to spending their careers convincing us to consume less PUFAs. With fast fried foods being readily available and processed foods having vegetable oils as stabilizers and preservatives the average North American is consuming way too much unhealthy oil compared to past generations.

If you are looking for healthier options to margarine or even butter, try nut oils. Olive oil is a great option but should be used at low heats. Also be cautious of spreads claiming to have olive oil. Usually, they are just margarine with some olive oil added. Avocado and peanut oil has a high smoke point although they are more expensive. Nut butters are also great options for spreads and are now available at most grocery stores. If you are trying to limit vegetable oils, watch your peanut butter. Most popular brands contain high amounts of added oils and even refined sugars to improve taste. Watch the mayonnaise as well as the first ingredient is likely a vegetable oil. Try other options like guacamole, Greek yogurt, and flavored Dijon mustards.

Too much of a good thing, like butter can still be unhealthy. Keep it in moderation, although going with a natural fat is best. If you want to go a step further most grocery stores in Dauphin sell organic butter and Nutters in Dauphin even sells grass fed butter. You can see and taste the difference in my opinion. You can't beat it unless you are milking the cow and making it yourself.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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