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Butter or Margarine? Good Fats?? Bad Fats???

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Butter or Margarine? Over the years I have always been asked this question. It’s a question that’s been probably around ever since margarine was invented! To understand this better, we will have to look into the different types of fats in our diet. To start off, let’s have a look at the differences between butter and Margarine.

Differences Between butter and Margarine:


  • Been around for thousands of years

  • Derived from the churning of fresh or fermented dairy cream or milk

  • Contains Milk proteins, water and fat

  • Contains ~80% fat, of which 65% is saturated

  • Contains ~4-5g of natural trans-fat


  • Been around since 1869

  • Derived through esterification of a blend of vegetable oils, emulsifiers, water, skim milk and further fortification of vitamin A and D

  • Contains ~65% total fat, of which 25% is saturated

  • Predominantly poly-unsaturated or mono-unsaturated fat

  • Contains little to no trans-fat with esterification method

What we know about the different fats

“Bad fats”

Saturated Fat Saturated fat is known to increase blood cholesterol levels by mainly increasing the bad LDL cholesterol. A high consumption of this type of fat is directly associated to an increased risk of heart diseases. Saturated fat can be found mainly in animal type products such as in ghee, lard, butter, skin of chicken, crackling, etc. Saturated fat can also be found in high amounts in some types of plant fat such as in coconut oil/milk and palm oil. The Australian Heart Foundation recommends consumption of saturated fat to be no more than 7% of total energy intake.

Trans-Fat This type of fat not only increases the bad LDL cholesterol, but also reduces the good LDL cholesterol. These type of fat is usually known as “man-made bad fat”, found in manufactured or processed foods that use hydrogenated vegetable oils. Please note that hydrogenation is no longer a methods used in manufacturing margarine's here in Australia, hence the low levels of trans-fat in our margarine's. This however cannot be said for margarine's coming from overseas such as from the US or the UK.

“Good Fats”

Mono-unsaturated Fat This type of fat have been found to have a cholesterol lowering effect as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular heart disease, when used to replace saturated fat in the diet. Mono-unsaturated fat can be found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, nuts in general, and avocado.

Poly-unsaturated Fat There at two main types on poly-unsaturated fats- Omega 3 Fats and Omega 6 Fats. It is recommended that the ratio of Omega 3 Fats consumed be higher than Omega 6 Fats consumed. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats have.

Omega 3 Fats (EPA, ALA and DHA) Research has shown that this type of fat helps protect against heart disease by lowering the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels as well as blood pressure. We can find Omega 3 Fats in oily fish such as Herring, tuna, cold water salmon and mackerel. Other foods containing Omega 3 fats include eggs, flaxseed, walnuts, navy beans, pecans and grass-fed beef. The Heart Foundation recommends all Australians to consume about 2-3 serves of fish including oily fish per week. It is also recommended that Australians consume a minimum of 1g/day plant-sourced Omega 3 (ALA).

Omega 6 Fats Omega 6 fats have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed in place of Saturated or Trans-fats. We can find Omega 6 fats in safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, sesame, peanuts and soybean.

Bottom line(s) If you have a cholesterol problem, converting from butter to margarine's as recommended by the Heart Foundation and CSIRO would be recommended. If you are not consuming any butters or margarine's at the moment, introducing a special lipid lowering margarine will not be helpful. Margarine's or butters, both should be taken in moderation if overweight or obesity is an issue.

For more information or to make an appointment to see our dietitian, please contact one of our friendly staff on (08) 6162 2616.

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