What’s In Margarine Isn’t What It Seems

Margarine has made its way into pastries, crackers, bread, and sauces as a healthier substitute to butter. Its origins can be traced back to the 1860s, when French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriez developed a cheaper and longer-lasting alternative to butter. This food product is now around 80% fat by weight and has little resemblance to its previous incarnation (per Food Emulsifiers and Their Applications).

Cream, which has a lot of saturated fat, is used to make butter. According to My Food Data, it contains roughly 200 calories and 23 grams of fat per ounce, including 14 grams of saturated fat. It contains dietary cholesterol, much like all animal products. Margarine is identical to butter in terms of nutrients, however it is derived from plant-based substances. As a result, it has less saturated fat and no cholesterol than butter. However, this does not necessarily imply that it is good for your heart and arteries.

According to cardiology dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD (via Cleveland Clinic), the saturated fat in butter can raise your cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease. Although margarine is considered to be healthy, this isn’t always the case. This processed meal could include trans fat, which is far more harmful than saturated fat.

What is the composition of margarine?

The majority of margarines are derived from refined vegetable oils like soybean or palm oil that have been hydrogenated. According to Providence Health & Services, this chemical technique allows manufacturers to transform liquid vegetable oils into solids. However, hydrogenation produces trans fat, a substance that elevates bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol. Butter, on the other hand, is less processed and contains trans fats that occur naturally.

Trans fat is the worst form of dietary fat, according to Harvard Medical School. It’s nothing but empty calories with no nutritional value. It causes inflammation and insulin resistance, in addition to its negative effects on blood lipids. “For every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease climbs by 23%,” the researchers write. Furthermore, according to Providence Health & Services, hydrogenated trans fats represent a larger health risk than naturally occurring trans fat.

Additives, preservatives, and other potentially dangerous compounds may be included in margarine. According to My Meal Data, this highly processed food contains less calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and choline than butter. Despite the fact that it contains more vitamin A, the hazards outweigh any potential advantages. To be on the safe side, Providence Health & Services recommends substituting olive, canola, or sunflower oil for butter and margarine. Another alternative is to use soft or liquid margarine, which has a reduced trans fat content.