Butter vs Margarine: Which one is healthy?

Butter and margarine are  edible products that are widely used nowadays, whether in cooking, baking, cakes, pastries, frying, sautéing, icing, frosting, or even as a spread on bread. Both children and adults enjoy these, indicating their significance in our meals with numerous versatile uses. However, due to their extensive use, people often forget the differences between them and use them interchangeably, thinking they are the same.

The question arises: Are butter and margarine completely interchangeable? Can we use margarine if there’s no butter, or vice versa? And if so, are they the same? Are there any differences, and if there are, what are they? Are both equally healthy for our bodies?

To answer these questions, and to dispel confusion among people, it’s high time to help them understand these products thoroughly. Emphasizing when to use butter and when to use margarine is crucial. Understanding the reality of what we use the most in our lives is essential for making informed choices about our diet and health.


The word “butter,” derived from the Old English word “butere,” does not have a specific meaning. Butter is a dairy product which is made from the milk of various animals such as cows, buffaloes, goats, and sheep. Each type of butter, depending on the source of milk, has some differences. For example, if we talk about butter made from cow’s milk, it is yellowish in color, creamy, and has a mild taste. In contrast, butter made from buffalo’s milk is white in color, with a slightly sweet taste. When discussing goat’s milk butter, it tends to be tangier in taste and whiter in color compared to cow’s milk butter.

Among all these types, butter made from cow’s milk is generally the most affordable. On the other hand, butter made from the milk of other animals tends to be more expensive. Due to this reason, most people prefer using butter made from cow’s milk.


Now, let’s discuss the process of butter making. Butter is produced both in company factories and at home.

Industrial Butter Production Process:

In factories, butter is created through pasteurization and homogenization. Pasteurization is a heat treatment process used to eliminate harmful bacteria present in milk or cream. The milk or cream is heated, and then rapidly cooled, ensuring the removal of harmful bacteria, thereby extending the shelf life of butter. While this process may result in some nutrient loss, it’s not a significant concern, as further processing in butter production would inevitably cause some loss.

Homogenization is a process where fat molecules in the milk are broken down to achieve a more uniform size. In company facilities, a machine separates cream from milk using centrifugal force. The cream is then churned through a machine, separating the butter from the cream. The resulting butter can be salted, and additional flavors, such as garlic for garlic butter, can be added during this stage. Once the desired characteristics are achieved, the butter is cooled, shaped into cubes or sticks, packaged, and prepared for distribution.

Homemade Butter Process:

When it comes to making butter at home, it is primarily done using cow’s or buffalo’s milk. In areas where cow’s milk is readily available, people opt for making butter from it. However, in regions where buffalo’s milk is more accessible, butter is made from buffalo’s milk.

The typical method in most households involves boiling full-fat fresh milk and allowing it to cool. A thick layer of cream forms on top of the milk, and this cream is stored in a cool place daily. The process up to this point is mostly the same for homemade butter in various households.

Following this initial process, some individuals prefer to put ice in cream then beating the cream until butter separates. Another variation involves storing the cream in a certain amount and adding one tablespoon of yogurt, letting it sit for a day. The cream becomes frothy, and without the need for beating, ice is added, causing the butter to rise to the top. This results in the preparation of homemade butter.

Nutritional Components Breakdown of Butter:

Fats: Butter is a mixture of fats, including saturated fats, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and trans fats. Approximately 80% of butter consists of fats.

Vitamins: Butter contains essential vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.

Water: Butter has an approximate water content of 15%, and its consistency is based on water.

Protein: Butter contains a small amount of protein, around 1%.

Minerals: In terms of minerals, butter contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium

Is butter healthy?

Regarding butter, many claim that it is highly unhealthy due to its high calorie content, leading to heart diseases. However, especially in the case of grass-fed butter, it contains lower levels of saturated fats, which are not harmful to the heart. In fact, butter made from animal milk, like grass-fed butter, contains vitamin K2, which cleans arteries and reduces the risk of arterial plaque formation. This type of butter is considered very healthy for children, promoting good bone and dental health, as well as contributing to their facial features, height, joint health, eyes, and brain.


Margarine, the primary substitute for butter and preferred when butter is unavailable or expensive, derives its name from the Greek word “margaritēs,” meaning pearl. Similar to how butter is derived from animal and dairy products, margarine is extracted from plants, specifically vegetable oils like soybean, sunflower, cotton, and palm oil, commonly used for household cooking.

Margarine produced from soybean and sunflower oil is generally white to pale yellow, with a neutral to lighter taste and a creamy, smooth texture. On the other hand, margarine made from palm oil has an orange color and a nutty taste.

Before delving further into margarine, it’s essential to understand more about fats.


Fats are often labeled as detrimental to health, but, in reality, they provide energy, support brain function, and aid in the absorption of vitamins. It’s incorrect to broadly state that fats are bad for health. However, it’s crucial to understand the three types of fats: saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats. Each type has distinct effects on health, emphasizing the importance of knowing their specific impact.

Saturated Fats:

Saturated fats are commonly found in red meat, cheese, butter, and coconut oil. They are solid at room temperature. Consuming saturated fats has been associated with increased obesity and cholesterol levels, particularly low-density lipoprotein. While saturated fats were traditionally considered unhealthy, some new research suggests they might not be as detrimental as once thought. The current recommendation is to limit saturated fat intake to about 5% of total daily calories.

Unsaturated Fats:

Moving on to unsaturated fats, often referred to as good fats, they are found in olive oil, avocado, and fish. Unsaturated fats are beneficial for health, reducing the risk of cancer and heart diseases, and are good for brain health. They remain liquid at room temperature. Among the three types of fats, unsaturated fats are considered the healthiest.

Trans Fats:

Lastly, trans fats can be either natural or artificial. Natural trans fats are found in small amounts in meat and dairy products, while artificial trans fats are produced through a hydrogenation process. Artificial trans fats are extremely harmful, increasing low-density lipoprotein and lowering high-density lipoprotein, which is detrimental to health. It is recommended to completely eliminate the intake of trans fats.

Is margarine healthy?

Considering this information, margarine, which often contains trans fats in significant amounts, is not advisable for consumption. Butter, while containing saturated fats, is considered less harmful than trans fats, making it a preferable option.


Margarine is made by heating vegetable oil or ghee to approximately 60° to 70°C, and then it is cooled by placing ice it in. After a short period, the oil solidifies, and homemade margarine is ready.


In conclusion, it is recommended to choose butter over margarine as margarine is generally considered more harmful for health, while butter is less harmful and provides some essential nutrients. However, the best option is to opt for saturated fats-free butter or trans fats-free margarine, which are readily available in the markets nowadays. These options allow us to consume them without concerns about the negative health effects associated with saturated and trans fats.

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