December 15, 2021
Since margarine was first invented back in the 1860s as a cheaper alternative to butter, debates have been waged on which is healthier.
Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods like margarine, trans fat – which is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil – was a major health concern.
Trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol while lowering the "good" high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. It also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Now that these oils are no longer used, which is really healthier for you?
One recent study compared the fatty acid contents of 83 margarine and margarine-blends to butter. The researchers found that margarines without trans fat are better for your heart health and are therefore the healthiest.
Why is that? It comes down to the levels of saturated fat in the food product, nutritionists say.
Too much saturated fat, which is typically solid at room temperature, can also elevate your "bad" cholesterol – increasing your risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
Margarine and butter blend products have less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat than regular butter, Cecily Weber, a dietetic intern at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, told U.S. News & World Report.
Tub and squeeze margarines are the best options because they contain less saturated fat than stick margarines, she added. It is the saturated fat that gives margarine a firmer form at room temperature.
Weber and her colleagues found that after the ban, margarine and butter blend products not only had no man-made trans fat, but they also had significantly lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Weber emphasized that margarines sold in the U.S. today are healthier than they used to be, but they should still be consumed in moderation because they contain some saturated fat and a high amount of calories per serving size.