Like any good Irish household butter was a huge staple in the fridge as it was in our house. Butter on freshly boiled potatoes was the business and then margarine arrived on the scene and there was this hype about how much better is was for you. I thought it tasted like Castrol oil.
The reason for this very insightful piece of scripture? I came across an article in the LA Times last week about which is better for baking, Butter or Margarine? Now to be honest I’m not renowned as a Pat the Baker or a Sara Lee, but I can pull together a bit of bread or something on occasion. Hence, I was more interested in reading about the health differences than whether my biscuits (cookies) will be buttery and flaky.
Interestingly enough both have a similar overall fat content and calories but the most significant difference is the breakdown of the type of fats in each. A tablespoon of butter has 3 times as much cholesterol raising fat as margarine, BUT it’s the trans fat in the margarine that’s the killer, figuratively speaking of course. Trans fats are what make margarine solid instead of liquid. The key thing here is that trans fats are worse than saturated fats which are not only bad for your heart but also hits you with a double whammy of raising your bad cholesterol AND lowering the good. Margarine, however is higher in “good” fats — polyunsaturated and monounsaturated — than butter is, but butter on the other hand, is made from animal fat so it contains cholesterol and high levels of saturated fat. So what do you do?
In cooking terms, butter and margarine both tend to make thin, flat biscuits (cookies). Though margarine often has some more health benefits than butter it’s really a personal choice isn’t it? For what it’s worth, for me butter is a natural product that I grew up eating it so I’m going for the butter over the margarine in terms of taste and flavour when I do indulge.
Everything in moderation isn’t that what they say?