Diet :: Butter or margarine – What is the healthier choice?

A soft margarine spread is the healthier choice in the long-debated butter-or-margarine battle, says Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a clinical nutritionist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Margarine, made from vegetable oil, is cholesterol-free and higher in polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats, which help reduce a person?s ?bad? LDL cholesterol level. Butter, made from animal fat, contains dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, which tend to raise that ?bad? cholesterol level.

But not all margarines are created equal, Dr. Carson warns.

Stick margarine contains trans fats, which are created when oils are hydrogenated to make the margarine solid. Trans fats, like dietary cholesterol and saturated fats, elevate ?bad? cholesterol.

?The best choice is a soft tub margarine or liquid spread because they tend to incorporate water and other ingredients that reduce the potential for trans fats and calories,? Dr. Carson says.

If you?re having trouble selecting which soft margarine might be best, the best thing you could do is look for a product that is low in both saturated and trans fats, she adds.

And, or course, people aren?t required to use butter or margarine.

?Another option is to do as the Mediterraneans do,? Dr. Carson says. ?Dip your bread in seasoned olive oil instead of butter or margarine.?

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