Which is Better, Butter or Margarine ?

Butter has been used to add flavor to foods since the beginning of time. Because at one point it was discovered that it may be bad for our health, other “healthier” options were made. One of these is margarine, which is basically the same as butter, only not made naturally. Having the choice of using butter or margarine, it  can be confusing which to use. So which is better, butter or margarine ?



Butter is basically the cream that is found in whole milk, whipped into the consistency of butter. The byproduct of this is buttermilk. The buttermilk can then be used for other purposes, just so it is taken out of the butter as much as possible. Butter can come in different forms depending on how the animal was fed. The two main ways of feeding are through grains or being grass fed. Studies show that consuming butter that is made from grass fed cows is healthier than butter made from grain fed cows.

When you hear the word butter, you think of just plain butter, but there are also many recipes that can be used to give butter a different taste. This includes:

Pear butter:

Feta butter: Made from goats milk

Honey butter:

Lemon butter

Pecan-brown sugar

These are only some different types of butter that can be made. You can also make coconut butter from the dry portion of a coconut.


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This is very similar to butter and is said to be “healthier” than natural butter, but is this really true ? Butter contains saturated fats, which are said to be unhealthy and can lead to heart disease. The term saturated only means that the fat that is in butter has been totally saturated with hydrogen ions. This is why butter should be used sparingly.

Because margarine is made from other fats that are unsaturated such as oils, it is thought to be better for you. These oils are mainly what are known as polyunsaturated. Although the oils used to make margarine are unsaturated, they have to be put through a process called hydrogenation before they can be made into butter. This process adds hydrogen ions to the chemistry of the margarine and makes it no different from regular butter. It is actually thought that these fats, which are known as trans fats, are even more unhealthy for you than the saturated fats found in natural butter.


Types of fats


Saturated fats get this name because they are saturated with hydrogen ions Butter is normally at least fifty percent saturated fat. This increases low density lipo proteins which is the bad type of cholesterol. This can lead to possible heart disease. Although it is not known, it is said that in order to counter act this, your body decreases the amount of cholesterol that it produces. Your body produces cholesterol itself, therefore, no cholesterol is needed in ones’ diet.

Trans Fat:

These fats are transferred from saturated to unsaturated fats, which make the unsaturated fats saturated. This is done through the hydrogenation process. These can be found in things such as margarine or shortening. They are made through hydrogenation so that they can stay at room temperature and last longer.




 Unsaturated fats

Mono unsaturated:

These unsaturated fats have one open space that is not taken up by hydrogen. Good sources of this type of fat are avocado, some nuts, as well as fish.


Poly unsaturated

These unsaturated fats have at least three or more spaces not used by hydrogen. They consist of a carbon ion, and numerous double bonds. Sources of these fats are peanut oil, corn oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil.


 Fatty Acids

There are also different types of fatty acids, all of which have a positive benefit on your health, but they must be consumed in balance in order to work properly. These include omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9 fatty acids. Here is a general overview of each of these fats and their benefits as well as sources. It is even thought that consumption of these healthy fats at a young age can help in decreasing the chances of developing heart conditions later in life. (4)


Omega 3 fatty acids

You hear a lot about different fatty acids and how they are healthy for you, specifically omega 3 fatty acids. They are said to help with brain function, depression, anxiety, heart health, and other health issues. This is a type of poly unsaturated fat which you can not make. These fatty acids can be found mainly in different types of fish. These include mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, oysters, as well as many other fish.

Omega 6 fatty acids

Omega 6 fatty acids, just like omega 3 is essential to your diet since they can not be made by the body. These fats are used mainly for energy. You only need so many omega 6 fatty acids, because consuming too many can lead to things such as inflammation. Some good sources of omega 6 fatty acids include : soybean oil, corn oil, mayonnaise, walnuts, as well as other sources.

Omega 9 fatty acids

These fatty acids are important for your health because they are said to reduce the amount of your bad cholesterol levels. They can be found in mono unsaturated fats. They will also help in decreasing inflammation. Good sources include: almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanut oil, and other good sources of fats.

These previous fats are all healthy for you and are essential for your health. You should have a small amount of each daily in order to maintain good health. Omega 6 fats are normally consumed enough, so you should focus more on omega 3, and 9 fatty acids.





Butter and heart disease: Saturated fat

As stated before, due to the saturated fat in butter, this is thought to increase your chances of having a heart attack, or developing heart disease if it is consumed too much. Just how unhealthy is it though ? There actually may be some positive effects of saturated fat as well. Fatty acids can affect the heart indirectly as well through their affect on insulin within the body (1). Concerning saturated fat and heart disease, it has even been shown that going only two weeks on a diet high in saturated fat can increase ones’ bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease even if they have been on a healthy diet (2). In one study, it was even shown that a diet high in saturated fat may help in decreasing the chances of an ischemic stroke occurring (3), although this may be due to numerous factors within the study and more studies may need to be done. You should still error on the side of caution concerning the amount of saturated fat you consume, using it sparingly.


Margarine and heart disease: Trans fat

Although trans fat’s are not thought of as healthy, they do have a positive impact on the effects of saturated fat on the body. In one study, it was shown that trans fats actually decreased stress responses that were initiated by saturated fats (5). Although this is true, it has also been shown that trans fats can have an affect on inflammation and oxidation stress, which can affect the progression of heart disease.(6) The fact that trans fats can affect your chances of developing heart disease has been well-known for quite some time, and it may even be more of a risk factor at developing heart disease than saturated fats (7). In one study, data from 83,000 subjects looked at data taken over a period of 10 years. Subjects had no previous cardiovascular health issues. After ten years, subjects were followed up. Adjustments were made for age and energy intake. It was concluded that the association of trans fats and cardiovascular disease was higher for the subjects that consumed margarine which contained trans fatty acids. Intake of foods such as margarine, cookies, cake, and other processed foods were positively associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular heart disease (8). Therefore, you should make sure your intake of processed foods with trans fats is moderate to low.




In conclusion, both saturated and trans fats should be used sparingly. Both of these fats are found in butter and margerine. So which is better, butter or margerine ? From studies that were found, if I had to choose, butter would be my first choice since it is a natural substance. All natural foods are healthier than processed foods. All foods that we eat have some form of fat in them, whether it is trans fat, saturated fat, or unsaturated fat.

Both trans fats, and saturated fats should be used sparingly. Although these fats do have their place, because the body produces these naturally, they are not needed in the diet. Other unsaturated fats and fatty acids have very positive health benefits and are needed in the diet due to the fact that the body can not produce some. In order to maintain proper health, a balance of healthy fats must be maintained, along with moderate use of trans fats, and saturated fats.




1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6083561/#

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021040/#

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5945551/#

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5998369/#

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5952403/#

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5856295/#

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1431574#

8. Lancet. 1993 Mar 6;341(8845):581-5.