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One summer afternoon Henry and I were sitting with friends enjoying a hamburger. We started discussing different recipes and I mentioned my favorite turkey burger.  My girlfriend’s eyes lit up. She is always on the look out for great “low-fat” recipes.  That quickly changed when I told her my secret ingredient – butter.  Butter added to turkey burgers makes them absolutely delicious. Tender and juicy. When I told her about the butter she looked at me mortified (kind of like when some has found out their peanut buster parfait is actually made with ice cream – not frozen yogurt). The discussion of butter versus margarine started anew.

Here are 3 reasons why butter is better than margarine.

1. Butter just tastes better.

For some foodies this is enough. Really imagine sitting down with a freshly roasted cob of corn and topping it with margarine…

2. Butter is a natural food – margarine is not

Margarine was developed by a chemist back in the 1800’s. There was a prize offered by the French government for anyone who could come up with a satisfactory substitute for butter that would be suitable for the lower classes and the army (in other words – cheap). It was originally made by mixing processed beef fat with skim milk. As time went on the shortage of beef fat combined with the advances in hydrogenation of plant materials soon led to the addition of vegetable oils.  Wow nothing about health there…Vegetable oils are generally liquid at room temperature so in order for them to be hardened they had to undergo a chemical modification. This at the time was hydrogenation. This hydrogenation process leads to the formation of chemically formed trans-fats. We now know that trans-fats are a risk factor for heart disease so now there are a number of non-hydrogenated margarines on the market today. These margarines still need to be processed to be solid. Some add things like palm oil and others undergo a process called esterfication. This is thought to be safe but like trans-fats 10 years ago the long term results are unknown.

On the other hand butter is quite easy to make. In fact, if you want, you can make your own butter at home. All you need is a glass jar, some cold heavy cream and some clean small rocks. Put the rocks in the jar followed by the cream and shake. Soon enough you will have butter. Or put the cream in a butter churner. All it takes is agitation. A physical not a chemical process. Butter is a natural whole food.

3. Butter contains good nutrients and vitamins. Margarine has to have good things added to it.

As you have probably seen, the addition of omega 3 and plant sterols to margarine are thought to improve heart health. (They had to compensate somehow after feeding people all those trans-fats for so many years) These bad trans-fats were originally formed from the hydrogenation of the vegetable oils. Chemically formed trans-fats increase the bad cholesterol and decrease the good cholesterol. Therefore increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Anything that contains a hydrogenated product will contain trans-fats. Even if the label says it is trans-fat free.  All that means is that the recommended serving size contains less than 200mg of trans-fats per serving (in Canada anyways). If you eat more than the recommended serving size (20 crackers instead of 5…) you may be getting more trans-fats than you know.

Butter contains vitamin A and it also contains naturally occurring trans-fats. These are actually quite different from the chemically formed ones. Something to think about when you see trans-fats listed on the label of butter. These trans-fats are CLA and vaccenic acid. Recently vaccenic acid has been found to actually have a lipid lowering effect which is the exact opposite of the chemically formed trans-fats.  All this without the addition of omega 3 or plant sterols.

Naturally occurring foods are better. The less processed food in our diet the better. Of course still be reasonable with your butter and don’t eat to excess – that is just common sense with any food.

So butter is a naturally occurring food that not only tastes better than margarine, it is easy to make and it is actually showing health benefits that margarine only hopes to attain.

So really the burger is better with butter.