Butter vs Margarine

Butter vs Margarine

July 29, 2019 100 By William Morgan


Whether you use it to fry your eggs,
melt and bake potatoes, use on popcorn or simply spread on toast. Chances are
butter has been part of your life and diet. Or is it margarine? What is the difference
between butter and margarine and is one healthier than the other? Butter, made
from cream or milk has been used for thousands of years. But scientists
eventually took notice of its high levels of saturated fat. With more than
35 calories per teaspoon, butter is fattening. When we look at the
molecules of butter we see some of the building blocks of life, carbon, hydrogen
and oxygen. But these carbon atoms are completely surrounded by the hydrogen
atoms. And this saturation level quickly became associated with, and
commonly believed to contribute to cardiovascular disease. Margarine on the
other hand is created primarily from plant oils which have a similar but
different chemical composition. The carbons double bond with each other so
that fewer hydrogen can fit and we call this unsaturated fat. So far so good, a
similar tasting substitute with less saturated fat. Right? Not so fast, unsaturated fat has a lower
melting point and so its natural state is less solid, like vegetable oil. In order to get the consistency of
butter scientists decided to make it a little more saturated. The problem is through this process
called hydrogenation where more hydrogen is added and the oil becomes
more solid, high temperatures are used which cause some troublesome changes. You see, most of these double bonds are in a
configuration known as “cis bonds”, but hydrogenation often flips them into
something called a “trans configuration”. Ah, the dawn of trans fats. And while it may seem trivial, this
simple yet unwitting flip from “cis” to “trans” leads to significant changes in the way
our body processes and metabolizes the molecules. Essentially trans fats lower
good cholesterol and higher the bad cholesterol which increases the risk of
coronary heart disease. So while margarine was initially seen as a healthier option,
it’s own hazards slowly came to light. But the truth is that many margarine
companies claim to be trans fat-free nowadays, and some are. At the end of the
day if we compare them side by side there are pros and cons for each. Butter is
completely natural and typically made from one ingredient, whereas margarine is
processed and has many ingrediants. Butter also has some essential vitamins and
minerals such as vitamin a and e. But margarines now vary so much it is difficult to
make an accurate comparison. Many hard stick margarines are still high in trans
fats and much worse than butter. But some newer margarines are much lower in
saturated fat, lower their calorie count and contain zero trans fats. The bottom
line is to be aware of what you are eating. Margarine can vary so drastically that
looking at the label to understand what is or isn’t and it will help you make
informed decisions. And there are healthier alternatives to
both, such as vegetable oil spreads or using olive oil to dip your bread instead of buttering up. No matter what you choose, the
recommended goal is to limit the intake of saturated fat and avoid trans fats
altogether. This episode of AsapSCIENCE is supported
by audible.com, a leading provider of audiobooks with over one hundred
thousand downloadable titles across all types of literature. If you would like to
learn more about food science I recommend the book “What Einstein Told His Cook” by Robert Wolke. You can download this audiobook or another of
your choice for free at audible.com/asap. Special thanks to audible.com for making these videos possible and for offering you every audiobook
at audible.com/asap, and subscribe for more weekly science
videos.