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BellaOnline's Nutrition Editor


Margarine or Butter Ė Which to Choose?

This was the great debate at my house. Margarine was created during the Second World War as a cheap substitute for butter. My father was Scotch and preferred cheap. He claimed there was no difference. But Mom was committed to quality and had no problem paying for it. She could tell the difference and chose butter.

Now days we have a lot more access to scientific information about ingredients and processing than we did back then. Therefore, itís possible to make a more knowledgeable choice. So who do you think was right, Mom or Dad?

Margarine marketers do a pretty strong sell on their product. They claim that, because itís made from unsaturated oils, itís better for your heart. The ads got away with this sales pitch for many years, but today we know that thereís a lot of damage done in the processing of those oils. Weíre aware of all of the concerns about hydrogenation, trans-fats and the additives used to give the oils a longer shelf life.

But, you may say, butter is a saturated fat and thatís not good for you. This is only partially correct. While itís true that you shouldnít eat a lot of saturated animal fats, itís also true that you need some fat in your diet. And yes, most people eat way too much of the wrong kind.

However, if youíre on a good whole foods diet and you keep your fat calorie intake below 30%, there are certain nutrients in butter, such as vitamin A, that are important to your health. Butter is also much more stable than the oils used in margarine. Thatís why it doesnít need preservatives or processing and it maintains itís molecular structure much better when used for cooking.

For me, the bottom line is that butter is a natural product. Margarineís not Ė itís just a look-alike want-a-be. And, as the saying goes, ďItís not nice to try and fool Mother Nature!Ē (Sorry Dad, Iím taking Motherís side this time.)

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