How Did We Get To This? Butter Versus Margerine

No wonder we get confused in the butter aisle, what is best for you butter or margarine? - low fat, no salt, made with olive oil and don't get me started on polyunsaturated!! Years ago we were led to believe, butter was a no-no, with big pushes on advertising to change our shopping habits for the good of the family - to buy margarine, the healthy alternative. With all the hype about the high fat content in butter helping to clog up our arteries we were made to feel guilty for dolloping it on our morning toast! This is when vegetable-oil-based margarine's surged in popularity.

But the butter V margarine debate can be a slippery subject. Some margarine's have unhealthy trans fats and others have confusing health claims. Meanwhile, some say butter is an ‘all-natural’ choice.

The name margarine relates to margaric acid. Oh Yes! Sooo looking forwards to spreading acid on my morning toast - may stick to just marmalade!

How Did We Get To This? Butter Versus Margerine
Margarine is a solidified vegetable oil spread, possibly derived from some GM modified crop. Always be a bit suspicious of food not presented in its natural state - look on the back of your margarine container - if you can’t pronounce it - don't eat it! Compared to butter, which has a simple ingredient list of butterfat and salt, for most brands. The additives and preservatives needed to make a naturally liquid substance (vegetable oil) to mimic the texture and taste of butter makes a very long list.

The problems with margarine are various. When we moved from butter to the modern margarine (which was promoted as a healthier choice), we were deceived into consuming a spread that we now know contained a terribly unhealthy substance for us - trans fats, thankfully now a majority of margarine's no longer contain this.

The odd additives and preservatives occur in processed food to prolong shelf life and margarine and other non-dairy spreads can vary wildly in their components, but are all processed nevertheless. Ingredients the manufactures add, which are supposedly 'good for us' can, by their very nature be found in alternative natural states - we can find our omegas and vitamins etc by other means. This spread does use refined ingredients that have to be made in a factory, using refined oils that are definitely less than ideal. Plus, all of these spreads contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and the over use of vegetable oils can lead to a host of health issues.

Why is it that butter has been considered unhealthy in the past? Possibly due to the lipids (fats) contained within - in the 1950s the theory goes that saturated fats and cholesterol were linked to coronary heart disease. Butter was to be avoided like the plague with calls of 'you'll give yourself a heart attack if you carry on like that' as we all sheepishly avoided the second saturated buttered crumpet. Since the 1950s the (evil) saturated fats have been replaced by vegetable oils and surprisingly at the same time, heart disease, cancer, obesity and other health issues have increased dramatically.

Butter quality does count. Healthy, grass-fed cows, produce a yellowish cream that is made into a yellow butter. That yellow colour is from the high vitamin A content. Unlike the artificial vitamins added to margarine, this is a ‘whole food’ vitamin A, naturally produced by nature. It is also a good source of vitamin E and selenium (another vital antioxidant).

The only people we should 'butter-up to' and encourage to use margarine, are the RSPB who use it clean the waxy residue off birds and cooks who can make a delicious Victoria sandwich!

Butter is the real deal; everything else just tries to mimic it. Repeat again why butter is so bad? Oh, yes, it’s high in fat. Newsflash: we need fat. Good old natural fat, (in moderation obviously!) - nothing better on a jacket spud than a big splodge of butter Mmmmm.