Butter vs. Margarine: The Battle Rages On

If you’re like me, you’re equally overwhelmed and amazed by the huge variety of margarine and butter in the grocery store’s dairy section. Labels boasting terms like light, non-hydrogenated, whipped, tastes like butter, no trans fats, plant sterols, and omega-3 leave you dizzy with healthy, heart-saving options to consider!

We’ve long been told that butter, though natural, is high in saturated fats and cholesterol – the enemy of clear arteries. Meanwhile, margarine has had a bad rap for being over-processed, chemical garbage.

I’ve flip-flopped between butter and margarine over the years. When I’m in a “French Women Don’t Get Fat” mindset, delicious and fattening butter will find its way into my shopping cart. However, with my recent focus on reducing cholesterol at the dinner table, I’ve been bee-lining it for the Becel ProActiv which contains plant sterols that are supposed to lower bad cholesterol.

So which one is better for you? It turns out that the battle between margarine and butter continues to rage on, with new research showing benefits on both sides of the fence. Here are some pros and cons to consider for each.







  • Butter is all-natural and made from one ingredient, cow’s milk, which is churned until it reaches semi-solid state
  • Easy to cook and bake with
  • Tastes delicious … like, well, butter!
  • Rich in vitamins and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid which is essential for metabolism


  • High in saturated fat: a typical serving size of 1 tablespoon contains 100 calories, 11 grams of fat including 7 grams of artery-clogging saturated fat—about one-third of your recommended daily value
  • Contains 30 mg of cholesterol (10% of your daily value)

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  • Lower in saturated fat than butter: typically 3 or 4 grams per tablespoon (even less for light and whipped varieties)
  • No cholesterol since it is plant-based
  • Some have beneficial additives such as omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols


  • Hard sticks contain trans fats which increase levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol
  • Processed, consisting of a long list of unpronounceable ingredients (although many are now replacing synthetic ingredients with water or olive oil)
  • Contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for metabolism; however, it is also contained in many processed products, and over-consumption of omega-6 can have adverse health effects

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Bottom Line

So what's a healthy foodie to do?

If you decide to use butter, try to use light or blended versions. If you decide to use margarine, compare nutrition labels for the lowest saturated fat and no trans fat. Definitely avoid hard margarine sticks. Don’t over-consume; fat is fat is fat.

Perhaps the safest bet of all is to avoid both butter and margarine. For example:

  • Use monounsaturated olive oil or vegetable oil
  • For spreads, consider using nut-based butters which are high in healthy fats


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I'm a Canadian mother of two with a passion for food and cooking. I'm increasingly discovering that delicious food can also be healthy! So, I am sharing my favourite recipes with like-minded home cooks. Along the way, I'll also be writing about food-related topics such as gadgets, books and television. Let the culinary adventures begin!

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