Pick Your Spread

by / ⠀NatureBox / February 21, 2012

Demystifying the Butter vs. Margarine Debate

by NatureBox Nutritionist Kat Brown, MS RD RYT

We’ve all heard that butter is high in saturated fat, known to raise “bad” cholesterol. So margarine must be better, right? Maybe not necessarily! Over the years there have been conflicting messages out there so it’s time to look at the pros and cons of each choice.


  • Butter is versatile in cooking and baking and tastes delicious. However, butter is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, so if you’re being mindful of these nutrients in your diet it may be wise to limit the amount of butter you use or switch to an alternative.
  • Alternatives to butter abound- there are butter blends with vegetable oil that decrease the amount of saturated fat, and margarines that have little or no saturated fat.
  • One key thing to check out with margarines is trans fat, a man-made fat that’s linked with heart disease and diabetes risk. Due to their effects on health, as of 2006 trans fats had to be listed separately on the nutrition label. Look for products free of hydrogenated oils for a trans-free choice.
  • If you’re not into margarine, consider using a liquid vegetable oil instead. Try using olive oil rather than a spread on your bread, or sautéing with olive or canola oil with a touch of butter for taste.
  • If you are out at a restaurant that serves a bread and butter basket, kindly ask the waiter for a plate of olive oil instead for dipping your bread. Sprinkle the olive oil with a touch of flavored vinegar and pepper for a heart healthier way to enjoy the bread basket in moderation.

Ultimately if you follow the nutritional tenets of balance, variety, and moderation, your butter, margarine or oil choices can all fit in the context of a healthy diet. Enjoy! 

Get more healthy ideas and delicious snacks by joining NatureBox. Enter coupon code FEBPROMO for 50% off your first month subscription!

Kat Brown MS RD RYT is a San Francisco Bay Area based Registered Dietitian and Yoga Teacher. As a nutrition counselor, writer, cook, and yogini she seeks to inspire others to nourish themselves and live balanced, fulfilled lives.

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