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Butter vs. Margarine: Which Is Healthier?

At first, margarine was a butter substitute that many doctors recommended because it is believed to be healthier than butter. Recent studies, however, have been uncovering underlying health risks that come with eating margarine. So, which one is better?

What’s in Butter?

Butter is usually made naturally, the main two ingredients being “cream, and sometimes salt,” but there is a downside to using cream (or milk fat) in order to make butter [1]. Specifically, “butter is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can push you past daily limits” [4]. These two ingredients can greatly increase a person’s risk of contracting heart disease, and they are both contained in the natural cream butter is made from. To put it into perspective how much saturated fat is contained in butter, only “a single tablespoon of butter contains 7 grams of saturated fat,” and that amount is almost half the daily recommended amount for a person to eat daily [1].

What’s in Margarine?

This is a tricky question because different types of margarine contain different types of fats. We will go over the different types of margarine, which include stick margarine and tub/liquid margarine.

  1. Stick Margarine: Compared to butter, stick margarine has a lower level of saturated fat, and contains no cholesterol since it is made from vegetable oils. However, “stick margarine still contains about the same amount of total fat and calories as butter” [1]. The vegetable oils that are used to make margarine also go through a process that makes trans-fat, which raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol. It is best to go for softer margarine in order to avoid these fats.

  2. Tub/Liquid Margarine: There is less trans-fat in these types of margarine, as well as saturated fats and calories. This type of margarine also contains no cholesterol. However, this margarine has high levels of omega-6 fatty acids [1]. Omega-6 fatty acids are healthy when paired with omega-3 fatty acids but eating a large amount of only omega-6 fatty acids can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and other diseases [1].

What's The Verdict?

It’s safest to say that neither is a great choice, but margarine can be healthier than butter overall depending on what margarine you eat, and how much. It’s a good step to switch from butter to soft margarine, but the real winner overall would be canola, olive, or safflower oils. These oils contain more heart-friendly fats and a healthy mix of omega fatty acids.

Author: Kayjah Taylor

Editor: Sophia Galvez

Health scientist: Bath Hanff



  1. Ask an expert: Butter vs. margarine – which is better for you? Ask an Expert: Butter vs. margarine – which is better for you? | Providence Oregon. (2007, June). Retrieved November 20, 2021, from

  2. Butter vs. margarine. Harvard Health. (2020, January 29). Retrieved November 20, 2021, from

  3. Common misconceptions about cholesterol. (2020, November 9). Retrieved November 20, 2021, from

  4. Team, H. and V. (2020, December 3). Margarine or butter: The heart-healthiest spreads. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved November 20, 2021, from

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