Butter, margarine, and cooking oils

Which should you use — margarine or butter? Well... neither is ideal, because butter is loaded with saturated fat, and almost all margarines have some saturated fat and trans-fatty acids. However, if you must use one or the other, some margarines may be better than butter.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or margarine.
  • Choose soft margarine (tub or liquid) over harder stick forms.
  • Choose margarines with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient.
  • Even better, choose "light" margarines that list water as the first ingredient, because these are even lower in saturated fat.
  • If you have high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about using margarines made from plant sterols or stanols. These substances, made from soybean and pine tree oils, can help lower your LDL cholesterol by as much as 6 - 15%. The AHA recommends further study for children, pregnant women, and those without high cholesterol, however.

Limit:

  • Margarines, shortening, and cooking oils that have more than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats (read ingredients on food labels) because these are high in saturated fats and trans-fatty acids.
  • Shortening or other fats made from animal sources.

 

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Review Date: 10/31/2006

Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.


The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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