Which One Do You Choose: Butter or Margarine?

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Blog Post - Which One Do You Choose: Butter or Margarine

There is a serious debate about butter versus margarine. In fact there are hundreds of thousands of sites if not millions bashing one over the other claiming animal fats will kill you and plant fats will save you. I personally have had both and like both, depending on what I’m eating or cooking. So, out of curiosity, I decided to do a little poking around because I wanted to understand more about the debate and see if one really was that much worse than the other. To start, let’s go back a few hundred years.

How Was Margarine Created?

Now, there’s this weird story around about how margarine killed a bunch of turkeys and was then unleashed on unsuspecting consumers who don’t know that it’s just one “step” away from making plastic. Let’s just step back from that crazy train and go back in time. The discovery of margaric acid in the early 1800’s by a French chemist, Michel Eugène Chevreul was a precursor to the creation of margarine. The acid was found to be a combination of natural fatty acids. Another French chemist, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriè came up with a butter alternative in the 1860’s called oleomargarine because the Emperor of France something that could be used by the military and the masses, not turkeys :). Oleomargarine was made from both animal (primarily beef) and plant fats.

Over the years the ingredients of oleomargarine changed as certain types of animal fats became scarce. With that shortage, it was made exclusively from plant fats and oils. In the 1950’s and 1960’s companies fought with each other trying to create the type of margarine that tasted more like butter. That market demand caused manufacturers to create margarine from dairy products as well as plant products. Over the last three decades, in an effort to cater to the more health-minded public, most if not all companies have done away with the use of “partially hydrogenated oils,” have fortified margarine with essential vitamins and minerals and have turned to more natural fats such as olive and sunflower oils to create healthier products.

Why Does Margarine Have a Bad Reputation?

According to some, margarine has a bad rep because, well, it’s bad. But let’s take another look. Margarine is a semi-solid mixture of refined plant oils and fats. The refinement is called hydrogenation, which means that an element of a substance is treated with hydrogen. During this process, trans fats may be produced. Trans fats used to be very prominent in a variety of foods because it does help to extend shelf life. However, research showed that trans fats  raised LDL cholesterol and lowered HDL cholesterol, increasing the risk or coronary heart disease. Some companies decided to move away from that practice and created margarine that were based on omega-3 fats from nuts and seeds.

There are additives in margarine and that’s probably the source of a lot of the bad feelings. When people think of additives, they may think of artificial flavors and coloring. In some margarine, that may be the case. One additive is annatto, which is a seed that has a nutty flavor and a yellow to deep orange color, depending on how much is used. Another additive that may be a source of controversy is palm oil. Palm oil has been used for centuries as a food additive. It’s naturally trans-fat free and loaded with vitamins A and E and even decreases the symptoms of malaria…in it’s natural form. The question is if the palm oil is the unrefined, natural form or is it the refined, more readily available but nutritionally compromised version? Some products are required to clearly label products so that people can make more informed decisions.

What About Butter?

Butter is made by churning fresh or fermented milk from cows, goats, sheep, buffalo even yaks. Unlike margarine, it’s solid in the fridge and softens at room temperature. Because animal fats may contain dangerous bacteria, it’s pasteurized to kill those microbes. Being more natural, butter has a limited shelf life and needs to be refrigerated. Throughout the world butter is made from the milk fat of different animals, like cows and sheep, and is considered a staple in many cultures as it can be churned manually by anyone who knows how.

Butter is high in animal-based saturated fats and up until recently, doctors, dietitians and other medical professionals have been telling people to switch from animal fats to vegetable fats. However, according to a February 2013 analysis of research conducted in 1966-1973, patients who switched from animal fats to omega-6 polyunsaturated fats like those found in margarine (made from plant fats) had increased mortality from cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease than those who had diets rich in saturated fatty acids. It is a well-known fact that some forms of omega-6 increase inflammation in the body, which is a major detriment to cardiovascular health.  Revisiting this 40 year old study is turning a lot of heads and raising a lot of questions about what people have been told, how products were made then versus now and will more than likely lead to other research studies along the same lines for years to come.

So, What Does This Mean to the Butter versus Margarine Discussion?

Bearing in mind the age of the study, it could be seen as a significant step towards validating those who in favor of more natural foods, i.e. butter, but it does give a little boost to some forms of margarine as well. Remember, margarine was originally made with animal and vegetable fats so we could see a resurgence of those types of butter alternatives. We could also see some kinds of vegetable oils removed from margarine altogether while others are used more frequently. Margarine made exclusively with vegetable fats is a preferred choice of vegans, vegetarians and people on special diets so it won’t go away.  Not to mention the fact that there are die-hard fans of either one who will refuse to switch regardless of health studies and long-term tests.

I know that some of you have already taken sides even before reading this post so you’ve got a ready answer designed to defend your side of the butter knife, so to speak. Others may not have made up their minds about anything. So for you, the readers of the spectrum, what do you think? Which will be more preferred: butter or margarine? 


  1. I wouldn’t choose any actually.. Seriously. Olive oil maximum what I eat… But the topic is pretty relevant. With the coming spring everybody wants to start a diet and starts from something lighter than butter, margarine.. False.
    Evan recently posted..Top 10 One Page WordPress themes best ShowcaseMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      I also completely agree with Evan. Butter which is a byproduct of animal fat whereas Margarine is a byproduct of plant fat are both heavy in nature. But again if we compare both, Margarine is running ahead in the race with respect to cardiovascular health. But personally I do prefer butter over margarine because of its tasty and yummy tastes. Thanks Dianne, for providing us this valuable information and sharing your expertise.

      • Twitter:
        Personally I don’t really worry about it if it is in food in general but I try to stay away from the lot if it is sandwich related. lol

        The only ones I ever use (if at all) are Bertolli ans Becel which are olive oil based.

    • Twitter:
      I know that there are a lot of really great spreads that are olive oil based and those are the ones I tend to use IF I can find them. For me, I have always liked butter because of the taste but don’t eat it as often. All of you have great points and have have proven what I suspected: It’s about personal preference. Thanks Evan, Senorita, & Chris

    • Twitter:
      I love olive oil for some things, but I use butter for others. I rarely use margarine. To me, the argument for olive oil and butter is about being more natural and organic. And the choice of which one to use comes down to flavor. Olive oil is great for some things (toasting bread, frying pasta, salad dressings), while butter is excellent for others (frying eggs, cooking potatoes).

      Health issues aside, there’s no arguing that they have different flavors. There’s just something special, to me, about the smell of an egg frying in a little butter.
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    • Twitter:
      I would choose butter..because I am quite used to the taste..Trying something new sometime does not go well in my case.
      Manpreet recently posted..How to Run / Play Android Apps & Games on ComputerMy Profile

  2. Twitter:
    I would choose butter..because im quite used to the taste..Trying something new sometime does not go well with me
    Suraj recently posted..NBA: Trail Blazers VS Clippers 16/04/2013 ResultsMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      I can relate, Suraj. I am used to butter but there are some really good options out there that are also good. I understand you’re not used to new things. Do what works for you and enjoy it

  3. Twitter:
    I like to have butter. Peanut butter taste better. ;)

  4. I love butter. I can never cook pasta without it! Always go for butter.. :)
    Margaux Allen recently posted..Dry Product Filling Machine Weigh and Fill SystemMy Profile

  5. Wow! That Sydney study is eye opening! I had no idea that Omega 6 fats were related to chronic inflammation. I wonder who benefits by pushing Omega 6 oils? Makes you think twice doesn’t it?
    Jason recently posted..Agmatine and Nitric OxideMy Profile

  6. Thanks Dianne for such informative look regarding this topic. It’s certainly an eye opener and has given me alot to think about regarding what my family eats. However I do prefer butter to margarine
    Karthik recently posted..Free Food Delivery in Salt Lake CityMy Profile

  7. Interesting article! I’ve never heard about history of margarine.
    Anyway, I would prefer olive oil, like first commentator :)
    Ksiusha recently posted..Karaoke en RusoMy Profile

  8. Twitter:
    Yeah, this article seems to be something new and unique thanks for this
    Krishna Parmar recently posted..Nikon Coolpix P520 Features & Specifications (Review)My Profile

  9. Useful debate. In my catering business most clients want butter, rather than margarine. From a personal point of view, I choose neither!

  10. Deepak Mehra says:

    I agree with you. It seems really nice and informative!!

    Thanks for share with me!!

  11. Twitter:
    Nice post Dianne and I think I go with butter as I really like it and use it in our daily life completely. Thanks for sharing this post.
    Sudipto recently posted..best laptop in 40000My Profile

  12. Twitter:
    I like the taste of butter better IMO
    Leslie Edwards recently posted..How To DJ Safely For Your EarsMy Profile

  13. For me butter anytime. It tastes great and I am more comfortable with animal fats! Period!

  14. Twitter:
    Actually I buy butter, reason being is the taste and the fact it has no chemical additives. I worked for a well know oil and margarine company and I am well aware of the bad oils.
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  15. Twitter:
    Personally I tend to lean towards margarine, simply because I dig the taste much more than that of butter. Although Butter is supposed to be more natural, margarine having less trans fat and sometimes no trans fat, where as butter has large amounts of trans fat. I think I’ll stick with the margarine. They are making butters now with lower trans fat, but it eventually will boil down to taste for me. Thanks for furthering my knowledge on this tasty condiment.
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  16. Twitter:
    hii Dianne
    i am going with butter because i don’t know about margarine .i m familiar with butter and daily i like to eat breed with butter. :-)
    santosh recently posted..Google X smart phone with powerful featuresMy Profile

  17. Twitter:
    I think butter-versus-margarine debate is a slippery subject. Some margarines have unhealthy trans fats, while others have confusing health claims. Meanwhile, some say butter is an “all-natural” choice.
    But i am going with butter :P
    anastris recently posted..Sepatu Nike Versi Angrybird.. wuii..My Profile

  18. Excellent post and my opinion , if you’re willing to share what those are, that would be great! No pressure of course :

    Thanks for sharing

  19. Twitter:
    No Brainer, margerine contains hydrogenated fats, the absolute worst thing in food.
    maggie recently posted..Weigh yourself with Fitbug WowMy Profile

  20. interesting comparison between butter and margarine. enjoyed reading it as it was a new subject for me.
    Jessie B recently posted..Top 10 Hollywood Highest Paid Actors in 2013 | highest paid hollywood actorsMy Profile

  21. Twitter:
    Recent scientific research is now advising that butter is better for yo than margerine
    Cherry recently posted..50 Shades of Grey – Sample the ToysMy Profile

  22. Twitter:
    Difficult choice. At the moment I’m still using both margarine and butter, but tend to lean towards butter as this is more natural and unprocessed suiting my lifestyle better. When it comes to taste though it’s a no-brainer: Butter of course!
    Daisy recently posted..Forex Trading GuideMy Profile

  23. Twitter:
    I love Butter so it is the one that i Will choose everytime.Btw Thanks for this Unique Post.
    Gautam recently posted..Windows Explorer Has Stopped Working-How To Fix!My Profile

  24. I love the taste of butter, but to be be honest, i don’t use butter or margarine in a sandwich or roll.
    In saying that, I buy what is called pro active, which is a cholesterol lowering spread.It tastes like butter and is as soft as margarine with a really nice buttery flavor.

  25. Twitter:
    I love Kerrygold too…I get it at Trader Joe’s usually. Do you have one nearby? I’ve seen kerry gold cheese at target, so it would be nice if they would start carrying the butter too…
    Kishore recently posted..How To Download Temple Run For PC + InstallationMy Profile

  26. Twitter:
    There’s no argument here, it has top be butter every time! it tastes better and is good fat if eaten in moderation. Cant beat melted butter and Marmite on warm toast :-)
    Mark recently posted..What is the Best Chef Knife?My Profile

  27. Twitter:
    I really like Butter it’s the same this i’ll decide on once. By the way Thank you due to this One of a kind Post. Great Work!!. Thanks for sharing this informative and helpful post with us.
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  28. This is really incredible, I can’t believe if it could happens really in real life.. thanks for the post

  29. Twitter:
    This can be genuinely amazing, I can’t consider in case it could possibly takes place genuinely in actual life.. cheers for that submit. Thanks buddy. Great Post.
    Shamsudeen Adeshokan recently posted..Download Whatsapp for PC (Whatsapp for Windows 7/8/XP)My Profile

  30. Twitter:
    There is something about the taste.I love Butter so it is the one that i Will choose everytime.Thank you for aswesome article :)
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  31. Twitter:
    thanks bro. for share with us great post. Nice work . Very useful and informative post nice write up. Great work. :D
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  32. Twitter:
    Dianne it’s always a pleasure to read you. Thank for these greats tips.
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  33. Twitter:
    Well, There is something about the taste.I love Butter so it is the one that i Will choose everytime.Thank you for aswesome article.
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  34. Twitter:
    Well, There’s no argument here, it has top be butter every time! it tastes better and is good fat if eaten in moderation. Cant beat melted butter and Marmite on warm toast.
    Lalita Bisht recently posted..WeChat for PC Download Install on Windows 7/8/XP TutorialMy Profile

  35. I love butter and margarine or not, I’d still go with it.

    I guess it has something to do with me being an Indian. heh…
    Karan Labra recently posted..How to Download BBM for PC – Windows XP/7/8My Profile

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