Butter vs. Margarine
Years ago, when my mother was being “the 50s house wife” and raising two children, I was eager to enjoy foods prepared with butter. Rich, creamy and flavorful. Those are the “feel good” flavors that many people enjoy with their memories.
Then the health concerns of butter and heart-healthy features of margarine popped into view. We would die from heart disease and clogged-coronary systems by indulging in the dairy products with high saturated fats. I begrudgingly began training myself to use oleo products, and eventually to olive oil-based margarines.
Over time, the margarine products that I chose to be better than butter, turned out to be less rich in flavor and actually broke down to cause more problems – like carcinogens, producing chemicals that are potentially harmful.
Our health industry has found, through 30 years of research, that maybe some oils are bad when overheated, and yet others are better. Oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and omega 6) are especially unstable at high temperatures.
We have many more choices to consider now: coconut, palm, nut oils, avocado, rice-based, refined olive oil, canola, processed vegetable oil, and more, each with their own benefits.
The confusion continues.
But what makes me decide to return to real butter is the fact that baked goods retain a rich density and flavor that margarines really haven’t supplied. Products brown easier in a sauté pan and even caramelize nicer without over cooking. Crusts are flakier and retain their shape much better.
Butter-flavored olive oil-based margarine is still oil. It doesn’t hold its shape. It loses flavor and tastes like … well … oil. Even though I do want to be as health conscience as possible, the butter on muffins is like honey – a sweet treat.
So, I delved into the controversy to read up on the research. And I was right. It’s very confusing. If you are a foodie, then you probably have your favorites to cook with. If you’re vegan, then you have specific products you stay with. And if you indulge in deep frying, then you should know what oils are less loaded up with chemicals and which ones produce a good batch.
Here’s what The Heart Foundation says on their website:
“While using small amounts of butter every now and then shouldn’t be a problem for most people, the clear, unequivocal evidence remains that there are far healthier fats for our heart. It is better for our hearts to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Making the simple swap from butter to margarine spreads is one way to do this.
“For those who choose not to use margarine spreads, consider avocado, hummus, plant oils (such as olive or avocado oil) and nut or seed butters as good options for a less-processed, more whole food approach. Alternatively, you may choose to use no spread at all.
“Putting aside the butter versus margarine debate, we need to remember that it’s our whole dietary pattern that counts. The total available evidence tells us that a heart-healthy dietary pattern is based largely on minimally-processed foods and includes plenty of vegetables and fruit; some whole grains in place of refined grains; legumes; nuts; seeds; and other sources of healthy fats such as oily fish or olive oil; and may contain non-processed lean meats or poultry and/or dairy. By following this pattern, the fats in our diet will take care of themselves.”
- Choose olive, canola, or rice bran oil for shallow frying or barbequing
- Only use sunflower oil for salad dressing or in spreads (and don’t heat)
- Try to include healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish in your diet
- Products with high levels of saturated fat, such as coconut, butter and lard, should be used only very rarely
- Avoid deep frying foods but if you must do so, avoid oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats because these are unstable at high temperatures
Back to the butter —
I have decided that with all the other things I have given up to be healthy, that I can put butter back into my diet. I won’t go crazy and slather it on everything. I will refrain from globs on my pancakes. But, boy, does real butter melting on healthy red potatoes bring me right back to the good old days.
Thanx Mom for raising me in a kitchen full of great mouth-watering memories.
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