12 October 2019


1. Is it true that both butter and margarine have the same amount of kilojoules?
In most cases, a tub of margarine has fewer calories than a tub of butter when it comes to medium and low fat spreads. All fats, however, have the same amount of energy (gram for gram).
To illustrate, see the kilojoule contents for both butter and a couple of margarine products per 20 g serving below:

Butter: 608 kJ
Flora Regular Medium Fat Spread: 482 kJ
Flora Light: 371 kJ
Flora Extra Light: 266 kJ

2. Which one is healthier, butter or margarine?

Both butter and margarine are sources of fat that help the body to absorb essential nutrients (butter contains cholesterol that is healthily balanced). Scientists agree that a high dietary intake of meat and dairy products raises the level of total and bad cholesterol in the blood, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Margarine (such as Flora) contains no bad fats, is cholesterol free and has a lower saturated fat content.

Margarines are also sometimes fortified with other vitamins. Flora is a source of vitamins A, D and E, whereas Rama is a source of Vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B6, niacin and folic acid. Additionally, soft tub margarines contain essential fats and Omega 3 & 6, which are the types of fats that your body can’t produce and you need to take them in through your diet.

3. Can eating margarine increase the risk of heart disease?

Soft tub margarine, like Flora, contains Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. This is because margarine is made from vegetable oils like sunflower oil, linseed oil and rapeseed oil, which naturally contain these fatty acids. There is supporting evidence that Omega 6 can actively reduce bad cholesterol when used to replace carbohydrates or saturated fat. Reducing total and bad cholesterol levels in the blood reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, plus there is also evidence from health studies showing that Omega-3 fatty acids can also considerably lower the risk of heart disease.

4. How can consumers be assured that it’s okay to eat margarine?

Consumers can take the advice of leading international health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Organisations like these stress the need to reduce our total fat consumption, especially those who indulge in high fat  diets. For heart health, leading health groups like the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa recommend margarine over butter, because most margarines have a lower amount of total fat in comparison to butter.

These organisations encourage people who are still consuming too many bad fats, to improve their diets and focus on maintaining healthy, balanced eating plans and lifestyles that aim to improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

5. Is it true that butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years?
This question clearly indicates the period of time in which these types of unsubstantiated viral messages have been in circulation. Margarine was invented in 1869 and has, thus, been around for more than 100 years. New inventions should not be seen as potential health concerns as science is constantly evolving. In contrast to butterfat, which has remained constant, the composition of margarine has been adjusted to the latest nutritional knowledge that has been obtained over the years.

6. Is it true that margarine increases the risk of cancer, lowers the quality of breast milk, decreases immune response, and decreases insulin response?
No, this is not true. There is no body of evidence (from scientific studies) to suggest that the above is true (WHO/FAO, 2003). Good nutrition is what really matters when it comes to preventing chronic diseases. A healthy diet is one that is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, includes lean protein, good and essential fats and regular physical activity that aims to improve heart health.

7. I keep reading that margarine is one molecule away from plastic, how can this be healthy?
Similar to butter, the major ingredients in margarine are fat and water. In an attempt to find a healthy alternative to butter, the production of margarine uses many of the steps that are also used in the process of making butter. Soft margarine is a nutritious and safe product that has been part of suggested healthy diets and healthy eating plans for years. International health organisations such as the World Heart Federation, as well as many national health authorities, recommend it.

Butter and margarine are very similar when it comes to what they contain. Margarine however, contains healthier fat molecules in comparison to butter, providing more rounded nutritional benefits. Click the link for more healthy living tips and advice.

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