Did You Know...
- By eating a buttery spread (soft or tub margarine) instead of butter, the average person will save a minimum of 1196 grams of saturated fat per year.
- By substituting a buttery spread for butter over a week's time, you can save yourself a whole day's worth of saturated fat.
- A whole stick of butter has almost as much animal fat and cholesterol and double the amount of saturated fat as three popular quarter-pound burgers with cheese.
The Right Choice
Recent research confirms that making simple changes in the diet can make a significant difference in terms of lowering cholesterol levels and one's risk of heart disease. In fact, a simple substitution like using buttery spreads (soft margarine spreads) instead of butter over a week's time can cut an entire day's worth of saturated fat.
Soft, liquid and spray margarine products are now in sync with the recommendations included in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid food guidance system. Soft margarine products were elevated in their importance in that they "help meet essential fatty acid needs and also contribute toward Vitamin E needs" according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report.
Ten scientific studies have directly evaluated the health benefits of margarine versus butter, and all have confirmed that a buttery spread (soft margarine spread) is the healthier tablespread. One groundbreaking study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, involving 46 biological families (226 individuals, 134 children, some as young as six), was conducted by Dr. Margo Denke, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas, and showed that making the simple switch from butter to soft margarine lowered levels of LDL cholesterol by nine percent in children and eleven percent in adults. In some cases, the effect of soft margarine on LDL reduction in this study was even greater than prescription medications.
Americans have made buttery spreads their favorite tablespread for decades. The reason could be related to taste, versatility, spreadability and/or affordability –– but many choose buttery spreads (soft margarine spreads) because they contain no cholesterol, less saturated fat, less total fat and fewer calories than butter. In addition, most buttery spreads are now labeled "zero grams trans fat."
Buttery spreads are a wise alternative for consumers who want a versatile tablespread that offers nutritional advantages over butter. These spreads contain no cholesterol and 0-2 grams of saturated fat (compared to the 7 grams found in butter), and most varieties today are labeled "zero grams trans fat." Not only are buttery spreads a good source of vitamin A, they contain mono- and poly-unsaturated fats as well as essential fatty acids.
Even before "margarine" first became a staple in the American diet in the 1950s, federal regulations (called standards of identity) required that both margarine and butter contain 80 percent fat. Today, many products found alongside margarine and butter in the store have less than 80 percent fat; they are called vegetable oil spreads (or referred to as buttery spreads on this Website). These spreads are the most popular products today and are consistent with health professionals' recommendations to choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
Buttery spreads are clearly the healthier choice over butter say heart-health authorities. Look for spreads that are labeled "zero grams trans fat" and no cholesterol and 0-2 grams of saturated fat per serving. Compare these numbers to butter, which has 7 grams of saturated fat and contains 10 percent of the Daily Value for cholesterol per serving.
Elevated cholesterol levels are a known risk factor for heart disease. Both trans fat and saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels and their intake should be kept as low as possible. Health professionals recommend minimizing the amount of trans fats in the diet while maintaining a nutritionally sensible diet.
Unsaturated fats (such as the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat found in buttery spreads) can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels when included in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. They are also a source of essential fatty acids, which are needed for healthy growth and development. However, saturated fat and trans fat can raise levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Trans fats also have been shown to lower levels of HDL "good" cholesterol. This is why choosing a food low in both saturated fat and trans fat can be part of a heart-healthy diet.
The government's latest Dietary Guidelines report continues to stress that dietary cholesterol intake should be limited to less than 300 milligrams per day, advice which is pertinent to children beginning at the age of two. One serving of butter contains 30 milligrams cholesterol –– that is ten percent of the maximum amount of cholesterol you should eat each day.
Consumers should listen to the advice of leading health authorities such as the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health and its National Cholesterol Education Program as well as the newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans – all of these stress the need to reduce total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in the diet, starting at age two. For heart health, these authorities recommend choosing buttery spreads –– soft and liquid soft spread margarines –– with no trans fat instead of butter. Even the Food and Drug Administration advises consumers to "Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are lower than the amounts in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter."