They should provide a good basis on the bread and of course not harm our health. Butter or margarine: who gets more points in a duel? It depends on.
At the breakfast table, with the slice of bread on the plate, everyone has a favorite: some need the soft taste of butter on the sandwich. The others prefer to use margarine as a plant-based alternative. Butter or margarine: which is healthier? "The question is not easy to answer," says nutritionist and author Burkhard Jahn ("The Healthy Man"). And the qualified ecotrophologist and lipid metabolism therapist Silke Lorenz-Gürtler says: "I would answer according to who asked me."
But let's start at the beginning: In terms of calories, the two competitors don't do much. A level tablespoon (10 grams) of butter has 75 kilocalories (kcal), margarine 72 kcal. Butter is a natural product that is usually made from cow's milk. Apart from the natural coloring beta-carotene, it must not contain any artificial additives. And what about cholesterol levels? "It is about 240 milligrams in 100 grams of butter - about as much as in a single egg," says Silke Lorenz-Gürtler.
Margarine, on the other hand, is an industrially manufactured product. Liquid oils and solid fats are used to make it spreadable. For example, sunflower oil is hardened or naturally solid fats such as palm kernel or coconut fat are used. "Since the composition can be very different, the health assessment is also very different," says Lorenz-Gürtler. She refers to studies by Prof. Werner O. Richter. He is scientific director of the Academy for Differentiated and Integral Lipid Metabolism Therapy.
In any case, one thing is clear: fat people don't have it easy. "No other nutrient has such a bad reputation," says nutritionist Burkhard Jahn, who teaches at the Universities of Oldenburg and Hanover. For decades, fats themselves have been blamed for many diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and an increased risk of death. "They also had to be used as culprits for high cholesterol levels and obesity," says Jahn.
In the meantime, however, there is a greater differentiation - because fat is not just fat. According to Jahn, at least the saturated fatty acids have now been "acquitted". Good news for all butter fans: because they make up around two-thirds of it. In margarine, the proportion of saturated fatty acids is usually lower. Here, too, the respective margarine products differ.
The same goes for trans fats. They are made from vegetable fats, usually oils. Namely when heating, with temperatures of up to 350 degrees being involved. "But the fat structure changes, it becomes abnormal, if you like," warns Jahn.
Our body can handle and process natural fats. "Trans fatty acids, on the other hand, do not belong in our organism and are associated with many health problems," says Jahn. They are mainly found in frying fat, but also in margarine.
And yet the nutritionist himself - like vegans - prefers margarine to butter. On one condition: He doesn't buy cheap margarine from a discounter, but an organic product and looks very closely at the ingredients. His tip: "If you buy margarine, buy a high-quality one made from rapeseed or coconut oil and possibly also contain some carrot juice and almond butter."
But it's not easy for those who want to do without hydrogenated and omega-6 fats: "You won't read anything about omega 6 in the ingredients," says Jahn. Because these would often hide behind sunflower oil. His conclusion: "For the sake of simplicity, you should prefer butter when you go to the supermarket. You'll have a hard time finding good margarine there." In any case, for health reasons, you can use butter with a clear conscience.
If you want to support the species-appropriate husbandry of cows, you should choose butter with the note "from pasture husbandry". But it can also be the case that people prefer margarine for ethical reasons: "But then you should familiarize yourself with what's on the label and it's best to buy it in a health food store," says Jahn.
People with elevated blood lipid levels should pay even more attention to the choice of spreadable fat. Silke Lorenz-Gürtler points out that butter has "a fat composition that is not so favorable for health" in the case of lipid metabolism disorders. And margarine can also have "unfavorable health effects" due to certain fats and oils. Coconut fat, for example, increases the risk of fatty liver.
Her conclusion: "If a child asks me if they can put butter on their bread, I would say: Of course! But I would advise someone with a lipid metabolism disorder to use pure sunflower margarine." But no matter what the experts prefer, butter almost always scores in one criterion: taste. But margarine wins in every price comparison.