Tip Tuesday: Butter or Margarine?

Butter and margarine

When you are given a choice between butter or margarine, what would be your preference? Well, first of all you should know what butter and margarine actually are.

Butter is made from animal fat (cow’s milk or cream). It contains at least 80% of milk fat. There are several types of butter on the shelf, which can generally be categorized into two, high in saturated fat (denoted by the terms such as “original”, “rich”, and “cultured”), and low in saturated fat (indicated by the words “whipped”, “light”, or “vegetable oil blend”). The intake of too much saturated fat has a negative impact on cardiovascular health.

On the other hand, margarine is made from vegetable oils. In the old days, the industry hydrogenated the oils to turn it into solid form. The hydrogenation process converts the unsaturated fatty acids in the oil into trans fatty acids. It is well-studied that trans fat acids have detrimental effect on health when regularly consumed.

Fortunately, there is a new method known as ‘inter-esterification’ to replace the conventional hydrogenation nowadays. Inter-esterification employs enzymes to do the work, which does not produce the harmful trans fatty acids. You can differentiate margarines by checking the ingredient list on the label. The combination of “no trans fatty acids” and “partially hydrogenated oil”, or the absence of the word “hydrogenated”, shows that the margarine is made by inter-esterification. Anyhow, the margarines sold in Finland contain very little to none of these trans fatty acids, here is the link to the official news release: http://www.evira.fi/portal//en/frontpage/frontpage+news/?bid=1824.

So how do you make a choice between butter and margarine? The former has a stronger aroma and made from a natural source, whereas the latter sounds healthier but is a processed food. It is strongly recommended to opt for the product with least saturated fat and zero trans fat.


The information provided here is served as a general guideline.

Nutritionist of The Froodly Team,

Wan Lih Ching


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