This month’s discussion on the health benefits, or not, of butter and margarine is formulated from information from an article written on April 22, 2016, in the Doctors Health Press and online at www.mayoclinic.org.
As we said in Part 1, butter is a natural dairy product, and margarine is a heavily processed product made from vegetable oil. It is less healthy than an all natural product. But the question still remains: which is the better choice based on the final outcome on the body?
The following chart will help you see the differences between the two.
We can see that butter is higher in different kinds of fat, but what does that really mean?
To make butter, cow’s milk is shaken, agitated or churned until the fats separate from the liquid, which eventually results in butter.
Margarine, on the other hand, is a man-made, highly processed product made from vegetable oil. It was created in 1869 in France as a replacement for those who couldn’t afford butter’s high price tag. It was primarily used by the military and poor families.
Margarine is similar in taste, appearance and consistency to butter. Unfortunately, these similarities are achieved by adding a variety of artificial ingredients, including emulsifiers and artificial coloring. It is then put through a process of hydrogenation which extends its shelf life but increases the trans fat content.
Originally margarine was considered better. It was believed that butter was bad for heart health as a result of its saturated fats and cholesterol— both of which are found in high levels. In turn, it was thought that butter would raise peoples’ cholesterol levels, which in turn raises their risk of heart disease.
However, there are two types of cholesterol: one that’s good for us, HDL, and one that’s bad for us, LDL. Research has since found that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol raise HDL cholesterol, and that they don’t raise LDL cholesterol. Instead, they actually improve LDL, making it more benign and less harmful. This means that the saturated fat in butter does not increase the risk of heart disease. Many subsequent studies have confirmed this.
From the Mayo Clinic website: “When it comes to butter versus margarine, it may surprise you as to which food is worse for your heart health. It’s the margarine, because of its trans fat content. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease; margarine also contains other ingredients that may lead to cancer and other ailments.”
To sum it all up— the main difference between butter and margarine is that one is all natural and one is highly processed.
I personally prefer the taste of butter and am happy to discover that even though butter is high in both saturated fat and cholesterol, it is low in trans fat which is now the culprit being linked to heart disease. Moderation is always the key to making healthy choices.
As in all my articles, I suggest that you always check with your doctor before deciding to make any changes to your health routine. Let me know your take on this information, there is much more out there on this subject.
Next month we will talk about the stress of holiday seasons and the effect stress has on our health.
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