Butter or Margarine – Which One Is Better For My Health? (2023 Brands Update)

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

The debate on whether butter or margarine is better for our health is still as hot today as when it first arose. To determine which one is better for heart health, let’s look at the fat content of both butter and margarine.

Butter Has Saturated Fats and Cholesterol

Butter, as an animal fat, contains both saturated fats and cholesterol – the two dietary ingredients that increase blood cholesterol. Saturated fats can raise LDL cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol), which raises total blood cholesterol as well. Cholesterol in foods, on the other hand, has little effect on blood cholesterol in most people. But for a small portion of population, even a little dietary cholesterol can cause a soar in blood cholesterol levels.

Butter versus Margarine 2023

Margarine Has Trans Fats (…..in the past)

When margarine was first introduced to the marketplace, it was loaded with trans fats. The trans fats were created through hydrogenation – the very process used to solidify liquid vegetable oil into a spread. Just like saturated fats, trans fats increase LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and lower HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).

By now, both United States and Canada have banned the use of artificial trans fat in our food system. Therefore, margarine nowadays are non-hydrogenated margarine. Non-hydrogenated margarine contains no trans fat, and it’s softer than the first-generation margarine stick.

Instead of hydrogenating liquid vegetable oil, manufacturers now add modified palm and palm kernel oil to enhance the spreadability of margarine, creating a softer texture. In addition, some products may have been added with diary or cream to create a creamy texture.

 (per 1 Tbsp)
Soft-Tub Margarine
Stick Margarine
Calories102 kcal60 kcal101 kcal
Total Fats11 g6 g11 g
Saturated Fats7 g1 g2 g
Trans Fats0.3 g0 – 0.5 g3 g
Cholesterol33 mg0 mg0 mg
Table 1. Nutrition Facts of Butter vs Margarine

Note: Butter contains natural trans fat, as with all dairy products.

Butter or Margarine: The Comparison

BOTH saturated fats and trans fats can raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Therefore, try to minimize the intake of both saturated fats and trans fats.

When we add up the numbers, it’s clear that butter contains the most saturated fats. If used as a toast spread everyday, butter may not be an ideal option. For daily use, choose soft margarine instead.

3 Steps In Choosing Non-Hydrogenated Margarine

Indeed, the American Heart Association recommends the use of margarine as a substitute for butter.

  1. Check nutrition facts: Choose one with no more than 2 g of saturated fats per tbsp, if possible.
  2. Check ingredient list: Choose one with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient, not palm or palm kernel oil.
  3. Check the type of vegetable oil: Some brands use olive oil or avocado oil as the main ingredient; this will help boost up the heart-friendly monounsaturated fats.

2023 Update: Non-Hydrogenated Margarine Brands

  • Becel
  • Benecol
  • Blue Bonnet
  • Canola Harvest
  • Country Crock
  • Earth Balance
  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
  • Imperial
  • Melt
  • Promise
  • Smart Balance


butter, cholesterol, margarine, non-hydrogenated margarine, saturated fats, trans fat


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2 thoughts on “Butter or Margarine – Which One Is Better For My Health? (2023 Brands Update)”

  1. There is a product, Mazola Soft Margarine, which states that it uses “non hydrogenated palm oil”. I know that non hydrogenated oils are better, but I don’t know if I can trust the aforementioned product, because it is not on the list given here. The first ingredient in Mazola Soft Margarine is “pure corn oil”, by the way. Should I be able to use this product as a healthy choice, or not. I cannot find any of the other products in my country (Saudi Arabia).
    Thank you,
    Jacques James


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