This is an interesting question and at the same time very difficult to answer too. You may say butter is butter and margarine is margarine. Butter is butter; this is easy to believe than margarine is margarine. Do not forget our food industry and the profit they want to make. It is better to be careful to be with margarine too.

The benefits of margarine include:

• Made from vegetable oils and so contains no cholesterol
• Rich in good fatty acids – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This combination helps to reduce the bad LDL-cholesterol and increase the good HDL-cholesterol. We know well the importance of these oils in our body functions.

The nutrients in Butter include:

• Cholesterol – it is of animal origin
• Saturated fatty acids which can increase the bad LDL-cholesterol. But, we should not forget our body needs saturated fatty acids too to function properly.

Does this means that margarine is better than Butter? It can be, but may not be always and depends the way of production of margarine. Yes, margarine can contain large amount of trans-fat which can increase the bad LDL-cholesterol and lower the good HDL-cholesterol. Plant oils have no trans-fat. What is the source of trans-fat? Plant oil cannot be spread on bread and they must be made to a solid form. The classical way is hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation to make the margarine solid to use as spreads and also to improve the shelf-life. During this process huge amount of trans-fat is produced. If the margarine is very hard it means that it contains lot of bad trans-fat. It is better not to use it.

In developed countries different processing techniques are used in some of the margarines so that the amount of trans-fat is reduced. Water or other oils are used to make the plant oils as bread spreads. Only the industry knows what chemicals are used in these processes.

Select always soft margarines and these contain less trans-fat.

One tablespoon of butter weighs 11 g and out of that 7 g are saturated fats and contains 33 mg cholesterol. Healthy persons till 49 years old can use butter without any problem. If you are above 50 and have some problems with blood pressure or cholesterol the recommended amount of daily intake of saturated fats are 16 g. Then one tablespoon butter can be used.

Direct recommendations are not very useful as we have three or more meals in a day which also contain all these fats. Moreover, your job – office or physical work – and lifestyle play a vital role here. Consult with your dietician once to have a clear idea before using butter and margarine.

Everything in excess is bad for our health and this is applicable not only to saturated fatty acids, but also to unsaturated fatty acids. Man-made trans-fat is very bad.