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Jun 12, 2004 09:35 PM

margarine - brand suggestions for new diabetic

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I haven't had to deal with margarine since WWII's butter rationing,but now my dear spouse has been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Please help me find the most flavorful brand.

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  1. ...why does she need to use margarine instead of (presumably) butter? Is this for baking purposes, or on toast, or such? I'm not being a smart-aleck - I just have never heard of this being an issue for diabetics. Margarine has so many negatives going against it...what did the Doc say?

    4 Replies
    1. re: peg

      I have a relative with Type II diabetes and her doctor, like most doctors, recommends margarine over butter.

      In 1994 Harvard published a report saying the adverse effect of trans fats was greater than that of saturated fat. Proponents of Atkins and other low-carb diets have used that study to proclaim that 1) butter is healthier than margarine and 2) saturated fat isn't really bad for you (because the real culprit is transfat).

      However none of the medical research (including the Harvard report) ever said that. The issue is that one tablespoon of butter has 7 grams of saturated fat (and no transfat). Stick margarine has at most 4 grams of transfat (and usually 2 grams of saturated fat or less). Tub margarine usually has less of both fat types.

      Both saturated fat and trans fat are generally considered in the medical community to contribute to heart disease and cholesterol problems (increasing bad cholesterol and decreasing good cholesterol). The Harvard research indicates that trans fat can be up to twice as harmful in affecting cholesterol as saturated fat. However, the FDA's view is that saturated fat is the primary culprit for cholesterol problems, mostly because Americans on average eat 4-5 times as much saturated fat as trans fat.

      So I think most doctors would say that the idea that butter is better than margarine is a myth. Also, there are margarines available that are free of trans fats (which would make them better than the old Parkay stick or regular butter).


      1. re: cornflower

        One of the brands that is trans-fat-free, and very low in saturated fat, is Earth Balance, and it tastes fine on toast, etc. I am someone that usually always reaches for butter, but chooses this to eat on everyday things for health reasons. You can also bake with it -- something else I would imagine you're modifying, too.
        --Good luck with the new diagnosis. Sometimes the amount you have to learn and do feels overwhelming, so be patient with yourselves.

        1. re: messycoook

          I second the recommendation for Earth Balance. It's not bad at all, especially melted. It's also vegan and it might be kosher parve.

          1. re: Grace

            Answers to my simple request PLUS encouragement, education and suggestions for advanced studies! I am well pleased. Thank you for your responses!

    2. Promise and ICBNB both make trans free fatty acid margarines. Buy in the tub.

      1. I’ve been diagnosed type II for about 10 years. I’m no doctor or nutritionist, so don’t take my word as anything more than a lay opinion – but let me make two points:

        1) The saturated vs. trans-fatty controversy is the same for diabetics as for all others. The “party line” generated by years of collusion between the food prep companies, particularly the corn and margarine folks, and the FDA and Universities, has doctors still telling us that saturated fats are worse than TFA’s. There’s a growing response to this - I’m particularly concerned with the number of studies that are ultimately sponsored by those with interests in keeping us consuming these prepared foods, and the huge number of regulators (FDA) that actually came from the industries that they’re suppose to be regulating.

        Politics aside, here’s a quote from Mary Eng, in her book, Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol: “Research has shown that dietary trans fatty acids have adverse effects in diabetes, including interference with insulin binding. There is no proven mechanism for any adverse effect from consumption of saturated fatty acids.”

        She goes on to say, “People who have poor control of their diabetes are very susceptible to the potentially damaging effects of oxidized lipids. When polyunsaturated fats and oils are not carefully protected, the levels of oxidized lipids is increased. Diabetics should avoid oxidized fats and oils.” Remember that polyunsaturated fats are oxidized (turn rancid) much quicker than saturated fats which are stable and have no free particles for oxygen to bond. So keep that margarine (including the no-TFA stuff) in the fridge. Personally, I’m just not sure that these things that come out of chemical labs can really be considered fit for human consumption.

        2) As an experienced Type II diabetic, let me suggest that the issue of controlling what type of fats you eat is much, much less important than controlling carbs and exercising. These are the mechanisms for successful management of the disease. Losing weight is important – and for many of us losing it could mean being free of the disease. So controlling the quantity of fats and overall calories is important. But the difference in effects between using saturated vs. unsaturated fats, within the limits of a good diet, is not a major concern. I’m not saying that you can go eat gobs of butter or pounds of bacon. But as you eat your breakfast of eggs, a grapefruit, and a piece of toast, you’re not going to find any difference in your blood sugar, short or long term, whether you use butter or margarine.

        I recommend Mary Eng’s book, and also Sally Fallon’s cookbook – also with a ton of nutritional info – Nourishing Traditions. Order them through the Amazon link on the home page. Another good set of books for controlling your blood sugar is the New Glucose Revolution and its companions, especially the pocket guide to Diabetes. Also available at Amazon, or go to the link below.


        2 Replies
        1. re: applehome

          Among the dietitians and certified diabetic educators that I have talked to recently (post-2000), most refuse to get into the great butter vs. margarine debate anymore. Instead, they are are expressing that in general, most diabetics would benefit from the general reduction in fat in their diet. They are also stressing the importance of DAILY exercise and reasonable carbohydrate intakes as critical for the proper diabetic management.

          Reasonable carbohydrate intake varies from person to person but should not be interpreted as the elimination of carbohydrates as some in the Pro-Adkins camp.

          Personally, in the early 80's working as a food service director in a large urban hospital, I always had comflicting messages on butter. The dietitians and medical staff wanted butter OUT OF THE HOSPITAL while the USDA was shipping me 5,000# of butter a month as we serviced an indigent population.

          1. re: applehome

            As a Type II diabetic let me say that whether it is butter or margarine is not the major choice. Watching the carb intake & exercise is. When you start watching your carb intake you will be surprised how much your butter intake just decreases. No second & third piece of bread(I know it's warm & smells sooo good but a slice of bread has 20-30 grams of carb), small servings of pasta & rice (with nothing to soak up that butter sauce, why toture yourself by even having it?), and we're not even gonna talk about that evil carb carrier "The baked potato". To save on your fat intake look more to the leaner meats and less deep frying.
            The best bit of advice is to have a good long talk with your spouse's Dietician educator - if your spouse doesn't have one, call the doctor's office and find out why not. This person is a vital member of a diabetics care team.