Butter or margarine?- that is the question.

April 13, 2010 BY: LISA

Butter Vs Margarine 

Advice regarding dietary fat has changed over the past decade as scientific knowledge becomes more specific as to what is health giving and what is not. In the 1980’s the message was little or no fat regardless of the type. We now know that some fats are beneficial to our heart health and should be included in the diet on a regular basis.

Dietary Fats can be broken into the following groups:  

Saturated fat is generally the fat from animal sources, as such is the main fat found in butter, but is also found in palm oil and coconut oil. Saturated fat is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Lowering saturated fat intake can lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Current evidence suggests that it is preferable to replace saturated fats with poly and mono-unsaturated fats rather than carbohydrates.

Polyunsaturated fats:

The omega 6 polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats which are found in polyunsaturated margarines (those made from sunflower, safflower and soybean oils) can lower LDL cholesterol. Other sources of omega 6 PUFA’s include sesame oil, corn oil, walnuts, hazelnuts and brazil nuts.

Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats are found in both plant oils and fish oils and are useful to decrease heart arythmias help to thin the blood and lower triglycerides in the blood. Sources of omega 3 fats include linseed and flaxseed oils also walnuts an oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and sword fish.

Monounsaturated fats are useful for the lowering LDL cholesterol and therefore can improve heart health. Examples include olive oil, canola oil, avocado, peanuts, cashews, almonds and peanut butter.

Trans fats occur naturally in low levels in dairy products, beef, veal and lamb as they are produced by the digestion process in these animals. (rumination). Trans fats are also found in partially hydrogenated oils which are created by the manufacturing industry to increase shelf life and add flavour stability to foods. These partially hydrogenated oils are found in deep fried and take away foods and baked goods such  as pies cakes, biscuits and pastries made from margarines and shortening. Trans fats can increase LDL cholesterol, decrease HDL (good cholesterol) and also increase triglycerides creating an unfavourable fat profile in your blood stream and increasing the risk of heart disease and hear attack. The National Heart Foundation (NHF) Tick is given to products which have <1% trans fats. Trans fats do no have to be on food labels unless they make a statement about cholesterol on the packaging.

….So Butter or Margarine?

 The NHF suggest that replacing butter with margarine will save approximately 3kg of saturated fat per year if you are using it on toast and sandwiches everyday.

The recommendation for spreading margarine or butter is to spread thinly so you can still see the bread underneath.

The trans fat content of margarines in Australia does vary but are generally lower than in other countries, eg USA. Choose margarines that have trans fat levels <1%.

The Dietitian’s Association of Australia (DAA) recommends it is important to choose foods that are low in saturated fat to help ensure good health. Remember to always look at the saturated fat content on labels and choose foods with the lowest amounts.

For more useful information check out the nutrition A-Z on the Dietitian’s Association of Australia (DAA) website.

Article written by Lisa Renn for “Healthy and Heartwise” magazine

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