Butter or Margarine: Which Should You Select?

A soft margarine spread is the healthier choice in the butter-or-margarine battle, says Jo Ann Carson, Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Nutrition and a registered dietitian.

Margarine, made from vegetable oil, is cholesterol-free and higher in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Butter, made from animal fat, contains dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, which tend to raise LDL.

“Instead of being swayed by special claims of omega-3 or vitamins, just look for a soft tub margarine or liquid spread with liquid oil as the first source of fat. Light spreads that include water are good lower-calorie choices,” Dr. Carson says.

Of course, you aren’t required to use butter or margarine. “Another option is to do as the Mediterraneans do,” Dr. Carson says. “Dip your bread in seasoned olive oil instead of butter or margarine.”