Exercise is Medicine by ACSM

June 5, 2024 // Archive

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05 Jun

When it comes to your health, margarine comes out on top as the winner versus butter. The key reason is because margarine is made from vegetable oil while butter is made from animal fat. Because of this, margarine contains the good type of unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) that lower LDL cholesterol which is the bad type. Butter contains saturated fat. This is not to say that margarine does not contain trans fats, depending on which type you pick or purchase. The more solid the margarine, the more trans fat it contains. This means that the stick type is not as healthy as the kind that comes in a tub or container. The reason we want to limit or eliminate trans-fat is because it can raise our blood cholesterol levels and the risk for heart disease. Eating this type of fat lowers the good HDL cholesterol. Label reading becomes important, particularly looking for margarine that contains less trans and saturated fats. Spreading it on thick will thicken the arteries and waistline.

The Breakdown

Butter is a popular spread and is used in many sauces, as well as for baking. It is a source of milk fat. Starting back in the 1970s, public health authorities realized that butter shouldn’t be used at free will. Butter isn’t all bad. It does contain vitamin K12 which is linked to bone health. Just like milk, the better forms of butter come from the type of cow it is derived from. Grass fed cows provide more nutrients than grain fed cows. One small square or serving of butter(5g) contains 36 calories, 4 grams of fat with 2.5 grams being saturated, 11mg of cholesterol, and no carbohydrates or protein. It is truly just a taste enhancing component of one’s diet. The problem is that just using 5g is a rare occurrence. Margarine is usually dished out of a tub, so one tablespoon is about 14 grams. This has about 100 calories and 11 grams of fat, with 1 gram being saturated, and zero grams of cholesterol.

Butter and margarine aren’t usually toppers for the best items on the menu. They’re spread on breads, melted on pastas, melted on pastries and treats, drenched on popcorn, globed on a white baked potato, and of course used in the baking process of many cookies and cakes. Oh yeah, and don’t forget we put them on top of pancakes. Therefore, the more one limits these sometimes foods, the better off they will be avoiding these heart damaging spreads. Vegetables aren’t meant to have butter on them. The little things add up to big health risks when we chose to opt for taste and flavor instead of remembering the big picture of our health.


There are healthy alternatives to consider when trying to substitute butter. Margarine is the better choice, however there are other healthy choices to give a try. Selecting one of these options still involves portion control and doesn’t make the less calories and less fat equate to as much as you want. Instead of spreading butter on toast or your bagel, try a fruit puree. Not only can you have a variety of flavors such as grape, strawberry, or apple, but you will also reap the benefits of antioxidants. Plenty of fat will be saved trying this option. Applesauce can be used instead of butter when baking and adds a sweet taste. Spreading hummus instead of butter on items is also a healthful choice. Roasted garlic is also another butter alternative. Garlic contains antioxidants, Vitamin C, as well as phosphorus. Different oils can also be used for cooking instead of using butter. Vegetable, olive, coconut, or flax seed are a few types. These also contain the good types of fat for the heart which include omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9.

There’s another twist to types of butter. One can either use salted or unsalted butter. Salted butter of course has more flavor, but also is higher in sodium. Most chefs prefer unsalted butter so that the taste of salt doesn’t affect their recipe. Unsalted butter also creates a better consistency when baking. Because unsalted butter would be the healthier choice, it therefore has a shorter shelf life because it is not packed with preservatives.

Keep your eating clean and simple. Adding butter and other condiments can truly derail your best intentions to eat healthy. Spices are great and even just letting yourself adjust to tasting food as is, is a great way to keep your food clean and your digestion system clean. Keep your butter knifes clean and keep them in the drawer. One small change at a time to your eating can add up to big measures of progress over time.