Is Butter Better than Margarine?
This is a question that has been asked since margarine joined butter on grocery shelves. It became quite popular during the early 1900s, especially around the mid-century 1950s and 1960s. As heart disease was publicized then because it had reached number one on the kill list for average Americans, margarine was offered by makers as an alternative to butter. Butter had received some bad press with regard to heart disease, but in fact it seems that margarine was a much worse choice. During the first half of the 1900s, margarine was banned for sale in some countries like Canada, or it was highly taxed as in the U.S. to discourage its sale.
Why is Margarine Worse than Butter?
Margarine contains hydrogenated oils that are a primary cause of heart disease. It contains trans-fatty acids just like vegetable shortenings. These act to raise LDL cholesterol levels in the body while lowering healthier HDL cholesterol levels. Butter does not contain hydrogenated oils. When blood cholesterol is high, it may increase risk of heart disease. Butter does contain cholesterol, but the good HDL type.
Why Does Margarine Contain Hydrogenated Oils?
When food manufacturers plan production of their products, one thing that is very important is called shelf life. This is how long a food product can remain “good” while it is in transit to the store and for sale to consumers. It is desirable for certain items to have a long shelf life. Crackers, cookies, commercially prepared baked goods, some frozen prepared foods and other items go through hydrogenation to increase their shelf life for higher profits. They are prepared with oils that have been hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to increase shelf life. This process also turns the oil into a hardened, spreadable product.
What is Hydrogenation?
Forcing pressurized hydrogen gas through the vegetable oils and into their fatty acids is hydrogenation. A metal catalyst is used to assist this process. They hydrogen atoms combine with carbon atoms and this causes the oils to become hardened or saturated. The hardened oil is now margarine. Some of the metals used in the process of hydrogenation cause the product to smell rancid and look dark. Color and deodorant is added to disguise the unappealing result. After some beautification the margarine is packed and sold to consumers. It now is a mostly artificial fat that contains trans-fatty acids loaded with LDL cholesterol. There is basically no difference in calorie count between margarine and butter.
What is Wrong with Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Oils?
These substances are known to cause severe illnesses like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other problems. They interfere with the natural ability of the body to absorb essential fatty acids, which are required for proper functioning of the body. Weight gain is another big negative factor that hydrogenated oil generates in the body.
Why is Butter Better than Margarine?
Butter is a natural product made from animal milk. It has many excellent and healthy qualities, including fatty acids that are required for optimal health. It has the right balance of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Its short chain fatty acids are needed to stimulate the immune system and to provide an antimicrobial boost. It has important trace minerals like selenium, an antioxidant. Butter contains iodine, an element that is hard to obtain but necessary for health. Butter is a good source of vitamins A, D, E, and K.
For cooking, butter is also better than margarine. It is a stable product when heated; it will not break down at high temperatures like margarine. It has saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids; these are what brings stability to butter.
Comparing Butter to Other Foods
Butter: 11 mg per teaspoon
Low fat milk: 18 mg per teaspoon
Light tuna in water: 25 mg per teaspoon
Beef, Lamb, Pork, Chicken (3 oz): 71-79 mg per teaspoon
Egg Yolk: 208 mg
Calves Liver (3 oz): 477 mg
Is Margarine a Problem?
The increased use of margarine corresponds to an increase in body weight and heart disease in the U.S., since the 1970s. Consumption of butter has been cut from about 18 pounds a year per person to only about 5 pounds since margarine became popular in the 1970s. Today, there are new blended margarines that use new oils like palm or olive oils. This is done in an attempt to avoid label requirements and to make margarine more marketable. Some margarine types are made with rapeseed oil (canola) which originally was industrial lubrication oil; many feel no one should eat products that contain canola due to higher risks of developing diseases that are harmful to health.
Is Butter Better?
Butter should still be used sparingly because it does have a high fat count. The natural product is always better than an artificially created one; butter is natural while margarine has been created and uses trans-fats that are harmful. Butter has cholesterol while margarine advertises none; the type of cholesterol in butter is natural and the “good” type of cholesterol. Moderation in any food quantity is advised; butter remains a high fat, high calorie food that should be limited to healthy amounts. As some point out, margarine will not deteriorate if left out and flies and microorganisms will not be attracted to it as they might to rancid butter. The reason for this, according to those persons, is that margarine is plasticized. Which do you prefer to consume?
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