This weeks question is from a reader, George C. in Oswego N.Y. Georges question, regarding the old debate of margarine vs butter, is a very good one and very relevant to the discussion between heart-healthy foods is heating up.
If you enjoy butter on your baked potato, toast, or pasta, you’ve probably felt a pang of guilt when putting that golden pat on your plate. Or worse, you may feel conflicted and confused as to whether you should stick with butter or switch to margarine or another spread.
Although a staple of the American diet, butter came under a great deal of scrutiny when its high levels of saturated fat were associated with increased heart disease risk. Many people accepted the demise of butter in stride. Ruing the loss of its savory flavor they agreed that its effect on the heart might be too high a price to pay.
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They dutifully switched to margarine, as researchers and nutritionists suggested. Then the hazards of margarine came to light. Its high levels of trans fats packed a double whammy for heart disease by raising levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowering levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Many people felt betrayed or duped.
The truth is, there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. Making the switch was a well-intentioned guess, given that margarine had less saturated fat than butter, but it overlooked the dangers of trans fats.
There are many kinds of margarine on the market today that are completely plant-based. With no trans-fats or saturated fats, these make a healthy alternative to butter or margarine.