5 tips on fat content of butter and margarine

If you’re trying to decide between butter or margarine the following tips will make your visit to the supermarket dairy section a cinch.

5 tips on fat content of butter and margarine

1. Butter and margarine basics

You may be one of the large and growing number of people who use margarine rather than butter because they think it’s healthier and contains less fat.

Sure – you can’t really beat the taste of butter when it comes to certain recipes, but its relatively high dietary cholesterol and saturated fat levels can be worrying for health.

2. How healthy is margarine?

Doubts were raised in 1993, when Harvard researchers concluded that some types of margarine may actually increase the risk of heart disease more than butter. The things is, not all margarines are created equal. A good rule of thumb is, in general, the more solid the margarine is at room temperature, the more trans fat it contains. These days, many margarine manufacturers are changing their formulations to make products that do not contain any trans fats.

3. How to choose a margarine

Choose soft-tub margarine made with non­hydrogenated fats.
Check labels and select a product with high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; margarines made from canola, safflower, sunflower, olive, and corn oils are all good choices.

Avoid products with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils; they have more trans fatty acids than the other types do.

4. Counting calories of butter and margarine

This may surprise you. Butter and margarine have an nearly the same amount of calories. Both are a major source of fat calories in the Canadian diet.

You can reduce their calorie content by adding extra water, air or both, so anyone striving to cut fat intake should read product labels and select low-calorie items.

5. A question of flavour

We’ve already gone over the butter versus margarine flavour debate. But nowadays it’s harder and harder to tell the difference. Check these facts out:

Whipped or light butter often loses some of its natural flavour; conversely, mixing a little butter with margarine gives it a more buttery taste.

Butter-substitute powders or sprinkles are virtually fat-free, deriving their flavour from the essence of butter. These products won't spread, but they melt when sprinkled on vegetables or other hot dishes.

Salt is used to flavour both butter and margarine; anyone on a low-sodium diet should look for unsalted varieties.

Easy tips for margarine and butter

The key for both of these spreads is to enjoy them in moderation. These tips will help you decide which is best for your diet, cooking and health.

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