Which spread is better for my heart — butter or margarine?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Margarine often tops butter when it comes to heart health.

Margarine is a blend of oils that are mostly unsaturated fat. Butter is made from cream or milk. The type of fat found in animal products, such as cream, is mostly saturated fat.

Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fat in plant oils lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, when it takes the place of saturated fat. The finding is very strong for oils made mostly of polyunsaturated fats, such as soybean oil, when they replace saturated fat.

But some margarines are better than others.

Margarine sold outside of the United States may have trans fats. These fats increase the risk of heart disease. Margarine sold in the U.S. is not allowed to have added trans fats.

Depending on the oils and the recipe, margarines have different amounts of saturated fat, salt and vitamins. The more solid the margarine, the more saturated fat it has. Stick margarines often have more saturated fat than tub margarines. So skip the stick and choose soft or liquid margarine instead.

Look for a spread that has the least amount of saturated fat. The best choice is to find one with less than 10% of the daily value for saturated fat. You can find this on the nutrition facts label. You also can check labels to see which spread has the least amount of salt.

Limit the amount of margarine you use to limit the calories.

Dec. 01, 2022