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Margarine vs Butter: Is Butter Good For You and is Margarine Bad For You?

Margarine vs Butter: Is Butter Good For You and is Margarine Bad For You?

Margarine vs Butter, Which Is Healthier?

The margarine vs butter debate has been hotly contested since the invention of margarine in the 1860s. But, despite the debate and deliberate obfuscation of scientific fact due to industry lobbying and corrupted science, one clear winner has emerged from the margarine vs butter debate, and that is butter.

Butter is Better For You Than Margarine

Butter is unequivocally better for you than margarine. To understand why, this article will outline the history of butter and margarine, what butter and margarine are made from, how they're made and how their contents and manufacturing methods affect human health.

What is Butter?

Butter is a natural dairy product derived from cow's milk. It is primarily composed of fat, but it also contains small amounts of water and milk proteins. Typically, butter is comprised of about 80% fat, with the remaining 20% being water and milk solids.

How is Butter Made?

Butter is made by churning cream or milk to separate the solid fats from the liquid, known as buttermilk. This process transforms the cream/milk into the dense, spreadable form people associate with butter.

Historical records indicate that butter has been part of the human diet for thousands of years, dating back to 2000 BC. Butter is a natural product, so it is made from the same ingredients and uses the same method today as it was years ago. The only difference in how butter is made is the machinery and processes used.

What is Margarine?

On the other hand, Margarine is a man-made substitute for butter and has been since its invention.

The History of Margarine

Margarine was invented in the 1860s by a French chemist named Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès. His invention was in response to a challenge by Emperor Napoleon III, who sought a cheap substitute for butter that the armed forces and lower classes could use. Margarine was initially named "oleomargarine" and was patented in 1869.

What is Margarine Made From?

Margarine was originally made from beef tallow (beef fat), milk, bicarb soda and salt. However, modern margarine is made from a very different set of ingredients and processes to the original, to the point that it bears very little resemblance to the original recipe.

Margarine Ingredients - High in Toxic Vegetable Oils

Today, margarine ingredients are very different to those in the original recipe. Modern margarine ingredients include vegetable oils (which are the primary ingredient), emulsifiers, preservatives, artificial flavours and colours (which give margarine its butter-like yellow colour) and acids.

An old advertisement for Kraft Margarine. As you can see in the advert, this version is made from corn oil.

How is Margarine Made - The Problems With Hydrogenation

How margarine is made is a large part of why it is so harmful to health. Margarine is made via hydrogenation, a process that transforms liquid vegetable oils (like canola or soybean) into a solid fat. This chemical process transforms the unsaturated fatty acids in seed oil to saturated fatty acids, creating trans fats.

An article written by Jen Allbritton for The Weston A Price Foundation explains this problem particularly well; "During hydrogenation, liquid vegetable oils are hardened by the addition of hydrogen atoms, toxic elements (e.g. nickel oxide), emulsifiers, and are subjected to high temperatures (to remove the odours). Dyes and flavours are added to make the product resemble the real thing – butter. An "added bonus" of this process is the production of abnormally shaped molecules known as trans-fatty acids. These man-made trans-fats are toxic to the body, but, unfortunately, the digestive system does not recognise them as such. Instead of being eliminated, trans-fats are incorporated into cell membranes as if they were normally-shaped fats – essentially making body cells partially hydrogenated!"

Trans Fats - Why You Shouldn't Eat Margarine

The problem with trans fats is that when they are incorporated into the cell membrane, they lack the hydrogen pairs needed for chemical reactions to occur. The result is dysfunction and chaos on the cellular level, which catalyses a host of health problems and chronic disease risks.

Why Margarine is Bad For You

Margarine is High in Trans Fats

Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance, skin diseases, infertility, difficulties in pregnancy, problems with lactation and low birth weights, growth problems and learning disabilities in children. Recently, a US government panel of scientists determined that synthetic trans fats (like the ones found in margarine) are unsafe at any level. Small amounts of natural trans fats occur in butter and other animal fats, but they are not harmful.

Margarine is High in Free Radicals

Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause uncontrolled oxidation and destroy cell components. They are created during the high-temperature processing of vegetable oils in margarine production. They contribute to numerous health problems, including cancer and heart disease.

Margarine is High in Emulsifiers And Preservatives

Numerous additives of questionable safety are added to margarine. These are linked to gut inflammation and metabolic and hormone disruption, to name a few. The preservative BHT, commonly found in margarine, has been shown to cause endocrine disruption and have toxic effects on the liver, lungs, kidneys, blood system and reproductive systems in animals.

Margarine Contains Hexane And Other Solvents

Hexane is a solvent used to extract edible oils from seeds and vegetables for margarine production. It and other industrial chemicals used in the margarine-making process are thought to be highly carcinogenic.

Margarine Contains Bleach

The natural colour of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (margarine) is grey, so manufacturers bleach it to make it white. Yellow colouring is then added to margarine to make it look like butter.

Margarine Contains Artificial Flavours

Artificial flavours are required to help mask the terrible taste and odour of partially hydrogenated oil (margarine) and provide a fake butter taste. Artificial flavours are known to cause endocrine disruption and compromise brain function.

Margarine Contains Mono And Di-Glycerides

Mono and diglycerides are commonly used food additives that help blend ingredients that would not usually mix well, like oil and water. They are high in trans fats and are commonly found in margarine, but manufacturers do not have to list them on the label, which hides their presence.

Margarine Contains Soy Protein Isolate

This highly processed powder is added to 'low-trans' margarine to give it body. It can contribute to thyroid dysfunction, digestive disorders and many other health problems. Read this article for more information on the issues associated with soy protein isolate.




Margarine Contains Sterols

Often added to margarine to give it cholesterol-lowering qualities, these estrogen compounds can cause endocrine problems. In animals, these sterols contribute to sexual inversion. Sterols in margarine can also pass from the mammary gland into the mother's milk and interfere with the neurological and visual development of the infant.

Why Butter is Good For You

Butter is Rich in Vitamins

Butter is a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K2, all of which are critical to bone, heart, immune, and oral health.

Butter is in Rich in Minerals

Butter is rich in essential trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper and selenium (a powerful antioxidant). Interestingly, butter provides more selenium per gram than wheat germ or herring. Butter is also an excellent source of iodine. The ingredients in butter also help facilitate the absorption of other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin K2, in particular, helps push calcium into the bones and teeth by binding to free-floating calcium in the arteries (which also helps cardiovascular health).

Butter is Rich in Fatty Acids

Butter provides appreciable amounts of short—and medium-chain fatty acids, which support immune function, boost metabolism, and have antimicrobial properties; that is, they fight against pathogenic microorganisms in the intestinal tract. Butter also provides the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Arachidonic acid in butter is important for brain function and prostaglandin balance.

Butter is Rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)

When butter comes from cows eating green grass, it contains high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an anti-inflammatory compound that provides excellent protection against chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis, and heart disease and also helps the body build muscle rather than store fat.

Butter Contains Glycosphingolipids

Butter contains glycosphingolipids, a special category of fatty acids that protect against gastrointestinal infections, especially in the very young and the elderly. Children given reduced-fat milk have higher rates of diarrhoea than those who drink whole milk.

Butter Contains Cholesterol

As we outlined in a



Butter and the Wulzen Factor

A hormone-like substance that prevents arthritis and joint stiffness, the Wulzen factor ensures that calcium in the body is put into the bones rather than the joints and other tissues. The Wulzen factor is present only in raw butter and cream; it is destroyed by pasteurisation.

How is Butter Good For You?

The important vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in butter mean that butter plays an integral role in a number of bodily functions, and actually helps protect the body against poor health and chronic disease. Listed below are some of the main ways in which butter promotes health.

Butter Protects Against Heart Disease

Butter contains many nutrients that protect against heart disease including vitamins A, D and E, lecithin, iodine and selenium. A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.

Butter Protects Against Cancer

The short—and medium-chain fatty acids in butter have strong anti-tumour effects. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in butter from grass-fed cows also provides excellent protection against cancer.

Butter Protects Against Arthritis

The Wulzen, or "anti-stiffness," factor in raw butter protects against joint calcification, artery hardening, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland. Calves fed pasteurised milk or skim milk develop joint stiffness and do not thrive. Their symptoms are reversed when raw butterfat is added to the diet.

Butter and Osteoporosis

Butter's Vitamins A and D are essential for the proper absorption of calcium and, hence, for strong bones and teeth.

Butter and Thyroid Health

Butter is a good source of iodine, in a highly absorbable form. Butter consumption prevents goitre in mountainous areas where seafood is not available. In addition, vitamin A in butter is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.

Butter Helps Digestion

The intestinal tract is one giant fat-soluble membrane. Thus, nutrients appear to be better-absorbed when they are in ingested with fats. Butter supplies this form of fat that helps digestion. Glycosphingolipids in butterfat also protect against gastrointestinal infection, especially in the very young and the elderly.

Butter Supports Weight Loss

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and short and medium-chain fatty acids in butter help control weight gain and can assist with weight loss.

We have also noted that when overweight people swap margarine for butter, they tend to lose weight easily. The reason for this may be that hunger in overweight people is due to a nutrient deficiency, whereby overweight people tend to consume a lot of low-nutrient foods, which leave the body nutrient-deprived. So, when an overweight person switches to a high-fat diet that incorporates butter instead of margarine, their hunger dissipates, and they begin to eat less food, which leads to weight loss.

Butter Supports Growth and Development

Many factors in butter ensure optimal growth of children, especially iodine and vitamins A and D. Low-fat diets have been linked to failure to thrive in children, yet they are often recommended for youngsters!

Butter and Fertility

Many nutrients contained in butter are needed for fertility and normal reproduction.

Margarine vs Butter - Butter is the Clear Winner

To summarise the margarine vs butter debate, butter is the clear winner. The trans fats and synthetic ingredients in margarine are incredibly harmful to health, whereas the nutrients, vitamins and minerals present in butter deliver key health benefits and support important body systems and functions - even helping to prevent chronic disease.


What We Tell Our Clients: Forget Margarine and Eat More Butter

Over the past 30 years of health consulting, one of the most constant battles we have fought is the margarine vs butter debate. Many clients who come to us have been told that margarine is better for health than butter and that butter harms health (primarily because of the supposed risks around cholesterol and weight gain).

The reality, however, is that butter is good for you - so much so that we regularly encourage our clients who are following our tailored health programs to eat more butter! In fact, we sometimes suggest our clients eat butter with every meal. This often surprises people because they have been conditioned to think otherwise.

If Butter is Better Than Margarine, Why Do So Many People Believe Margarine is Healthier?

Despite the fact that butter is better for you than margarine, many people still believe that margarine is a healthier option. That is because, until recently, butter has been a victim of the crusade against high-fat foods (like beef and other meats). The medical-industrial complex and big agricultural businesses essentially worked in concert to demonise saturated fats and cholesterol and promote a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet—much like the one prescribed by the government's classic food pyramid.

Thus, medical and health professionals disparaged butter, and margarine was promoted as a healthier alternative. Many of our Australian readers may also recall that a "heart friendly" tick was applied to margarine labels, which is especially insidious given the relationship between trans fats and heart disease.



The graph from Bloomberg highlights how, after the invention of margarine, it gained popularity and butter consumption sank. Interestingly, the incidence of chronic disease rose while margarine consumption increased and butter consumption decreased.


Margarine vs Butter: A Story of Corruption

As with any other instance of corruption, to determine why this was the case for butter and margarine, we need to look at who benefitted from the promotion of margarine over butter. Three parties in particular benefited the most from promoting margarine over butter, and those are:

  • Big Pharma
  • Big agriculture
  • The sugar industry

Our next article on margarine vs butter will discuss how these three uniquely intertwined entities benefitted from promoting margarine and disparaging butter.

2 comments on Margarine vs Butter: Is Butter Good For You and is Margarine Bad For You?
  • DeborahHannam

    I love butter and eat loads of it. But where can I buy raw butter from in SE Qld or SunshineCoast

    April 26, 2024
  • Gavin

    Thanks for this informative blog Owen, I have always used butter for its health benefits but its good to have them listed and explained in this way.
    I fry a lot with Ghee does it have the same healthy ingredients as butter ?

    April 26, 2024
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