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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Butter Verses Margarine

Frugal Kitchens 101

In recent years there has been a huge debate over butter verses margarine.  The primary reason has become health concerns because quite frankly butter is higher is saturated fats (7 g vs 2 g per tablespoon) and cholesterol but butter is higher in trans-fatty acids.  At the same time there is a cost concern for those wanting to save a bit of money in that margarine tends to be cheaper than butter.  Then there is the often misspoken quote from purists that margarine is one molecule away from plastic.  Our preference is for butter for a lot of reasons.  In many ways, butter is the more frugal choice but that depends on how you are using it as well.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on the topic of butter verses margarine and some of the myths.

  • the one molecule away argument - I'm sorry but this one really doesn't cut it as an argument.  One could easily argue that wood alcohol (poisonous) differs slightly from grain alcohol (alcoholic drinks) while not a molecule away is very different and quite frankly one molecule can make a difference to begin with.  Many poisonous substances are one molecule away from a non-poisonous substance so really this argument is a moot point.
  • calories - An ounce of butter contains the same amount of calories as an ounce of margarine.  Sorry but in this respect there is not a better choice.
  • cholesterol - Butter is higher in cholesterol but it is important to realize the cause for high cholesterol levels in most cases in not dietary.  In many cases it does not matter if you eat butter or other high cholesterol foods as you will still have a high cholesterol level due genetics.  In perspective, many with a tendency towards high cholesterol inherit that trait so other than choosing your parents a bit more wisely, dietary cholesterol is not going to change the outcome.
  • cost - Oleo, the precursor to margarine became popular during the Great Depression when butter was expensive.  The current price per ounce of butter is still in many cases more expensive than margarine.  Where you save using butter is the flavour.  More flavour means you use less butter similar to using fresh verses dried Parmesan cheese, butter becomes the frugal choice.
  • natural vs manufactured - There is no doubt that butter is a more natural product.  It is less processed than margarine but make no never mind it is still a processed product unless you churn it yourself from raw cream.  What is important to point out though is you can find certified organic butter but not margarine, just something to consider.
  • baking - Hands down, butter gives the flavour that margarine simply does not have regardless of how much manufacturers try to mimic the flavour.  While this is a personal choice the fact is you can get more flavour using less butter than you can margarine.
The short on the butter verses margarine is in my opinion butter is the frugal choice for us.  We are a margarine free home and have been ever since our kids who are now adults were quite young.  We very seldom use butter as a spread but we do use it for cooking and baking.  Butter gives us that rich flavour which means in the end we use a lot less of it so we are at least saving on calories.  The final answer on the butter verses margarine debate is really to do what works best for you.  Eliminating either as a spread is a good idea anyway.  Then go for flavour and desired results.

5 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Good discussion.

I think there is an error in the last sentence of your 'one molecule' paragraph, but I'm not sure which way you intended.

Have a good day! :-)

Garden Gnome said...

Thanks on two accounts Linda :) I appreciate you letting me know about the error as it was and error. I've corrected it. Are you a butter or margarine user?

LindaG said...

Welcome. :)

I used to use margarine, and then I started using Smart Balance. Then I started getting sick after eating so now I pretty much only use butter.

When we retire, we're hoping to have a cow or two and then I'm hoping to learn how to make my own butter.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! Thanks for all your great articles!

Lanita said...

I always use butter. We no longer keep any margarine in the house. Butter taste better and is natural, which I think anytime you have a choice go natural.

Cygnia said...

This is great discussion. Butter (and all naturally-derived saturated fats) have been unfairly blamed for causing health problems that simply aren't true - for an in-depth understanding of fats and oils, I encourage you to read Dr. Mary Enig's book, "Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol" (2001). Dr. Enig is world-renowned as a PhD researcher in lipids chemistry with 40 years of researching and publishing scientific literature on dietary fats and oils.

Personally, butter is hard on my digestion (I think because of the pastuerization), so I use a new butter substitute that just came out - called "Melt" - which is organic, high in Omega 3s, rich in medium chain fatty acids (the good fats) and has the creamiest, richest flavor of all the spreads out there. It bakes up quite well – I have made thin, flaky pie crust using Melt instead of butter with great success. It makes a softer dough (so chill in the freezer before rolling), but otherwise bakes up nicely. It also has fewer calories.