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Sep 28, 2006 10:08 AM

Butter/Margerine - healthy replacement

Does anyone know of a healthy alternative to butter or margerine?

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  1. Smart Balance. Although I wouldn't use it to replace fat in baking.

    I got to tell you, moderation is what I rely on. Butter is not that bad. Also, good (non-grocery store) lard is better for you than butter. Less saturated fats and all.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Becca Porter

      My wife and I have gone at least 70% organic including organic unsalted butter. Unsalted butter allows us to control the amount of salt we use in our cooking. Also we no longer used Morton's processed or iodized salt (except to kill snails in the garden) as the processing removes the natural nutrients. Instead we use Real Salt brand because their products are mined and bagged on site without processing which retains all the natural minerals in the finished product.

      1. re: today160

        I just read this post and am amazed at the assertion that "processing removes the natural nutrients" from salt. Sodium chloride is sodium chloride. "Sea salt" is sodium chloride with impurities. That doesn't make it more "real" or healthier.

        1. re: ferret


          Also, why do we talk about not eating processed salt, but still eating butter, which is ALWAYS processed? Butter does not occur naturally in nature, and I've yet to see a cow lactating when it sees a thirsty human.

          1. re: ferret

            Sodium Chloride does remain as sodium chloride however, processing removes other vital minerals and the iodine used in processed salt is not in its natural form. Unprocessed sea salt contains not just sodium chloride but many other mineral salts besides, including valuable trace minerals such as manganese and iodine. Although unprocessed salt does not contain sufficient quantities of iodine, this mineral is found in Kelp, milk, mozzarella cheese, eggs, strawberries, bananas, and other vegetable items including asparagus, radish, mushrooms, garlic, onions, eggplant and potatoes.


            1. re: today160

              Asparagus contains numerous other vitamins and minerals and trace amounts of salt. If you make salt from asparagus, you'll lose all those nutrients. But while doing so removes all the natural nutrients that occur in asparagus, it doesn't remove any natural nutrients that occur in salt. Because salt doesn't have any.

              1. re: today160

                Unprocessed sea salt contains not just sodium chloride but many other mineral salts besides, including valuable trace minerals such as manganese and iodine.

                Then you're just consuming salt+other minerals.

                Whereas if you buy what you call "processed salt" you are just consuming salt+iodine.

                I'm not sure there's any qualitative difference in the long run, except perhaps in your pocketbook.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Unless you buy non-iodized processed salt. In which you're just consuming salt.

                  Me, I don't care for the flavor of the iodized stuff. I'll get my iodine from wakame and shellfish and my asparagus vitamins from, well, asparagus. When I want salt, Morton's plain will do just fine, thankyouverymuch.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    I just think the taste of salt with iodine tastes bad. It reminds me of chewing on aluminum foil. I never noticed it before I stopped using it. It think it is why some processed food tastes funny to me too (that I used to like). I also taste a weird taste in Hawaiian salt (red). You can really recalibrate your palate with salts without realizing it.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Totally agree that you can taste the impurities / additives in salt. I loathe the flavor of iodized salt, but really enjoy the earthy taste of the red alaea salt from Hawai'i. Other impure salts can be subtle or aggressive, pleasant or offensive. But what you're tasting are the additives and/or impurities. Pure salt just tastes salty.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        OT but if you have never read "Salt: a World history" by Mark Kurlansky, you should! It is more interesting than the title would lead you to believe. Salt changed the world.

                2. re: today160

                  As far as "valuable" trace minerals go, Sea salt is far from the sole source. The argument is still spurious, there's no difference to the healthiness between salt+dirt and salt alone. I suspect that if the salt was removed from the "vital minerals" there wouldn't be much of a market for the "vital minerals" alone. As far as iodine goes, it again is an element, it's either there or it's not, "natural form" notwithstanding.

                  1. re: ferret

                    Trace minerals are critical to the health of human and animals. You can get some trace minerals from some unrefined salts (depending on the salt). So, many people pick the form of salt that not only tastes better to them- but also has the added health benefit of giving them some trace minerals. It's a win-win.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Not disputing the need for trace minerals just the poster's claim that table salt as "processed" is somehow less healthy than sea salt. Salt is salt. Salt packed in dirt may have the additional benefit of trace minerals but that doesn't make table salt bad.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Yes, and it is a bit of an "unanswerable question" in regard to "healthy" food items in general...isn't it? Be it butter or salt, sugar or shellfish or gluten or whatever. What is healthy for one- is not necessarily healthy for another- and could be downright unhealthy for yet another.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          The point is that if salt is acceptable in your diet then praising "natural salt" while vilifying table salt is senseless. It's a meaningless distinction. From a flavor standpoint, sure. But it's like saying organic butter is better for you than store brands. They're both butters so there's no difference from a dietary standpoint. If you believe that organic makes sense from a lifestyle perspective then that's great but it doesn't otherwise transform the end product.

                  2. re: today160

                    Whole societies have existed getting salts from only the foods they ate. So "trace" amounts of anything are usually picked up elsewhere on a natural diet. Thanks for the link but in this day and age one can link to an article to support just about any argument. Like free range chicken is better. Free range can mean 10 million chickens living in a barn with a 1 sq ft hole in the wall. Since they "have" access to a free range means it can be classified as such. So the link to free range chicken being better was debunked.

                3. re: today160

                  The salts considered 'natural' are lacking in iodine. So, it you don't use iodize salt, it's important you use kelp in some form to get the iodine. Otherwise, expect some thyroid problems.


                4. re: Becca Porter

                  I'm not convinced that saturated fats are at all bad for you.

                  For years, people did not distinguish trans-fats from natural saturated fats, and all the research that I've seen that has made this distinction has failed to find any problems with saturated fats.

                  There's also the problem that most saturated fats are from animal sources, and there are serious problems with the food supply with respect to animal fat sources in the US. Many harmful chemicals are fat soluble, so it seems plausible that there could be other explanations, other than the fat itself, for negative associations between saturated fat and health.

                  1. re: cazort

                    People have failed to separate dietary fat from the hormonal and metabolic influences of what's eaten with it, and failed to consider the harm from pro inflammatory high omega 6 vegetable oils' and omega 3 balance, failed to consider the impact of CAFO on fat content and quality of beef....

                5. Skip the margarine and just use butter in moderation. There really is no replacement, IMO. Nothing even comes close.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: debit

                    Absolutely. I believe that the natural stuff, in moderation, is preferable to the substitute... unless you have diabetes and must use Splenda, of course. Situations like that are, obviously, exceptions.

                  2. Who's telling you that butter isn't healthy? They're wrong.

                    Margarine is unhealthy and to be avoided. But not butter.

                    Butter is healthy.

                    20 Replies
                    1. re: scott123

                      Nonsense, the right kind of margarine is much more healthy than butter. For instance Becel, it is low in saturated fats and has no trans fats. On the other hand hard margarine is definitely to be avoided.

                      1. re: exbrit

                        Why should a non-natural food (margarine) be more healthy than all natural one (butter) if you eat it in moderation ?

                        1. re: honkman

                          I'm with you. Here are the ingredients in Becel:

                          Canola and sunflower oils 74%, water, modified palm and palm kernel oils 6%, salt 1.8%, whey protein concentrate 1.4%, soy lecithin 0.2%, vegetable monoglycerides, potassium sorbate, vegetable colour, artificial flavour, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3, alpha-tocopherol acetate (vitamin E).

                          I buy butter fresh from the farm. Its ingredients are:
                          Milk, water

                          I eat butter in moderation. Becel may have no transfat but it has a whole lot of other junk that I don't want to put in my body.

                          1. re: honkman

                            Because non-natural foods come from science and natural foods don't. Although right now our current science is not enough to surpass nature (ie, I agree that natural foods are better for you right now) that is only because nature has a four billion year head start. Science will eventually catch up, and fast enough that it may happen in our lifetime or soon after.

                            -Harry From Marydel, DE

                            1. re: HarryFromMarydelDE

                              "Science will eventually catch up, and fast enough that it may happen in our lifetime or soon after."
                              As a scientists I couldn't disagree more with you

                              1. re: honkman

                                As a scientist, I agree with Harry. Before people were milking animals, they weren't. When we combine foods together in the kitchen, is that really any different than a lab combining atoms and molecules together? Science is a part of nature and an extension of the human brain. Everything that comes from science isn't healthy for you, sure, but neither is everything that comes from nature outside of the human hand. Science will progress as it understands the molecular structures of various healthy foods and how to improve chemical compounds that have come out of nature before science.

                            2. re: honkman

                              It's now 2012 and the premise that saturated fat causes heart disease has been debunked fully. You can eat as much butter and saturated fats as you'd like if you do not eat processed carbs and sugars. This is my understanding of this as it is today. Both Atkins and the creator of the South Beach Diet are cardiologists and were able to see the results in their patients. Eating only saturated fats and in high calorie percentages and showing better cholesterol levels. Pharma is controlling the FDA and the food pyramid because they want everybody on statins (high blood pressure meds).

                              1. re: surfereddie

                                "You can eat as much butter and saturated fats as you'd like if you do not eat processed carbs and sugars" - I highly recommend you the book "Why Calories Count" from Marion Nestle covering the current science about food, calories etc. It might help you to understand that your assessment is not correct.

                                "Both Atkins and the creator of the South Beach Diet are cardiologists and were able to see the results in their patients." - There are number of books (inlcuding the ones from Nestle) and research papers out which show that those diets don't work under settings which are fully controlled (similar to clinical studies) and that "successful" diets and their claims are mainly marketing.

                                "Pharma is controlling the FDA and the food pyramid because they want everybody on statins (high blood pressure meds)." - I work in this industry and there are many things not working fine and much room for improvement but at the same time you simply write things which are completely wrong and not backed by any facts (and mainly come from conspiracy pages)

                            3. re: exbrit

                              exbrit, sorry, but you are wrong. Butter is healthier.

                              1. re: neverlate

                                I believe it is very healthy in moderation. It is easy to make in the food processor with organic cream.

                              2. re: scott123

                                Amen. Lard (not the stuff from meat packing companies but pure rendered pork fat) is also good fr you in moderation. It has many of the same elements as olive oil, there is some in my fridge always along with goose and duck fat.

                                1. re: Candy

                                  Very important people: Lard in the grocery store shelves is a trans fat / hydrogenated oil and not rendered animal fat. HUGH and deadly difference.

                                  1. re: surfereddie

                                    The product labeled as lard in my grocery store is lard. It's filtered, but still rendered animal fat. The hydrogenated oil product is shortening (Crisco).

                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                      The lard in the grocery stores in my area IS hydrogenated - says it right on the label.

                                2. re: scott123

                         Julia would repeat often......In butter we trust!

                                  1. re: scott123

                                    Butter is NOT healthy is you're lactose intolerant! Then, what do you recommend?

                                      1. re: alexander622

                                        I have had some friends that are lactose intolerant that had no reaction when they ate raw milk & butter. It doesn't work for anybody but it might be worth a try.

                                        1. re: MissBubbles

                                          I was lactose intolerant for several years and butter wasn't a problem.

                                    1. I only eat butter, no synthetics in my home.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Candy

                                        Who says butter is healthy? It is 100% animal fat. Animal fat on any level is unhealthy regardless of the form its presented in.

                                        We use olive oil in everything, we do not use butter, and our meals are fabulous. We don't miss butter at all. For bread, we use olive oil, with seasoning and sometimes a little aged sweet balsamic. Yum Yum!

                                        1. re: kdljones

                                          Animal fat in moderation is not a significant health risk for people who are not vulnerable to cholesterol or related issues. Actually, for people who are watching calories more than cholesterol, butter can be a bit of an aid because it has 80% of the calories of oil per unit of volume. And butter has qualities that oil cannot replicate: because it contains water and non-fat solids, it can do things oil cannot hope to do in cooking. That's why many people should happily continue to use buttern in moderation.

                                          To answer the OP's question, the only solid vegetable fat product I can enjoy a bit in place of butter is Olivio. It tastes a lot better than other spreads.

                                          1. re: kdljones

                                            Mother nature is never wrong. So you're saying all of mankind throughout history has been unhealthy? Olive oil has probably been around for 3,000 years and only available world wide the last 60 with all of the hydrogenated oils. Many of the oldest living peoples have never had olive oil and only saturated fats. We have been lied to for the last 40 years. It took somebody outside of medicine to debunk this myth. Nobody from the medical community has been able to refute his findings that animal fats good for us. The medical community cannot let go but slowly they must as the evidence i overwhelming.

                                            1. re: kdljones

                                              Butter is healthy, animal fats are really healthy. But the animals should be grass fed. Studies have demonstrated time and again, reducing carbs and replacing them with fats, including high saturated fat, improves all risk markers, especially for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you don't want to eat saturated fat, that's your business, but it has no basis in objective science in which the influences of fats have been tested apart from a high glycemic load.

                                          2. Butter is an all natural food, just as God intended it.

                                            I use Olive Oil and other oils for salads and frying, and butter sparingly for the table and cooking. There is no replacement,however, for butter in baking.

                                            Animal fat like butter,lard,goose fat etc, are not unhealthy used in small quantities in a varied diet . The French eat all of those and have a much greater life span than we do, half the heart deisease, and less than half the cancer.

                                            Margarine is hydrogenated fat, 100% chemical and not natural at all.

                                            16 Replies
                                            1. re: Fleur

                                              There are now lots of trans-fat free margarines on the market.

                                              Personally I'd rather use something closer to a natural product, like butter, lard, or vegetable or nut oil.

                                              1. re: Fleur

                                                Hey im sorry but des no way i agree wit u! Incase u never did an ounce of chemistry u should know dat margerine is hydrogenated VEGETABLE/PLANT oils!!!!

                                                Butter has more calories dan margerine and shoots cholestrol right out of da cieling! Please tel me on wat planet is animal fat better dan plant fat?!!!! Certainly not earth!!!!!

                                                Butter may taste nicer to some personally I dont use it at all it tastes purely disgusting!!!

                                                If u wana kill urself go ahead using butter!

                                                1. re: taszi

                                                  Um, butter does not have more calories than most regular margarines. It does have more saturated fat, but no transfats, and transfats are now considered more of a health risk than the saturated fat in butter. And many people do not have a cholesterol problem and don't need to worry about consuming saturated fats in moderation.

                                                  As for calories, a tablespoon of butter has 100 calories. A tablespoon of vegetable oil has 120 calories. Why does butter have 20% fewer calories per unit of volume? Because it contains water, sugar (lactose) and trace proteins in addition to fat-those additional things are what give it properties oil cannot duplicate in cooking.


                                                  1. re: taszi

                                                    Margarine is plant fat like kerosene is dinosaur fat.

                                                    It's not the source of the fat that's the problem, its the processing it undergoes between field and table.

                                                    1. re: taszi

                                                      It's exactly the hydrogenization process that makes margarine unhealthy. It's through hydrogenation that trans-fats are created. Ingesting transfats have been shown to increase overal cholesterol and LDL (the so-called "bad cholesterol").

                                                    2. re: Fleur

                                                      Butter is made from non-human milk. Mammals do not produce milk naturally unless they have young offspring to feed.

                                                      Butter substitutes (good and bad alike) come from science. Guess what, so does butter. Even if you milk the cow yourself and churn the butter, it isn't natural. I've never seen a cow start the lactation process when it sees a person.

                                                        1. re: cherstewart

                                                          Butter is processed, but the single ingredient (milk) is natural, and the technology is so simple that people have been making it for at least 8,500 years.


                                                          The commercial hydrogenation of vegetable oil was developed just over a century ago, by William Proctor and James Gamble, who were looking for a less expensive substitute for lard and tallow (which were controlled by a cartel) in making soap and candles.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Butter is Milk, Water and Curd.

                                                            Curd is curdled milk (a process that is sped up using enzymes) and an acid (usually vinegar).

                                                            Vinegar is fermented ethanol and water. The water used has been processed to remove impurities.

                                                            I am a food scientist and honestly, I do not see the difference between using nature to produce something such as butter and using more advanced technologies based on the knowledge we have gained to produce something better for the human body.

                                                            Whether or not butter is simple to make is not my point. My point is that it is no way "natural" to drink another mammal's milk. Unless you modify your definition to include human adaptations based on current technology and knowledge. What was the best available adaptation 8,500 years ago is not necessarily the best today.

                                                            1. re: cherstewart

                                                              You don't need to culture milk to make butter. Let the cream separate, skim or pour it off into a container, close the container tightly, and shake it.

                                                              Food scientists spent much of the 20th century telling people that partially-hydrogenated cottonseed oil was healthier than butter, but it turned out that the process produces molecules not found in nature that are pretty seriously unhealthy. Not to mention that the stuff tastes bad.

                                                              Personally, rather than trust the latest advice from a food scientist, I prefer to stick with foods that predate the industrial revolution, and avoid all "foods" containing chemicals not found in nature. I'm no fanatic, I like oil flavored with 2,4-dithiapentane.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                I do not have the time to make my own butter. It's great if you do, but I do not know a single person that makes their own butter.

                                                                Other than the fact that humans and their brains are a part of nature, very few molecular creations are not found somewhere already on earth, in some state and abundance. Molecules and atoms that have been created solely by the human hand (again, still everything comes from things found in nature as matter cannot be created nor destroyed, only change form) are generally unstable and do not last very long.

                                                                Food scientists are not the media. They are not business owners. They weren't telling anyone anything that you claim they were. People trying to make a large profit were the ones doing that.

                                                                I prefer not to eat things that I know do not break down properly in the system, regardless of whether or not humans helped create it.

                                                                All the people I know shopping at Whole Foods and eating nothing that has been touched altered or created in a lab take medicine when they are sick. Meanwhile we are getting overcharged for produce and "natural" foods because people like you have tragically been lost to the same thing that happened that got food companies such large profit margins for creating shortcuts in the first place.

                                                                It's no different. Convince people that something that is ultimately bad for you is good for you. Convince people to pay three times as much for food that costs far less to make by scaring people into believing that humans and their inventions are not a part of nature.

                                                                1. re: cherstewart

                                                                  I'm deeply skeptical of all claims regarding food being "natural" or whatever. I just buy what tastes best to me.

                                                                  The vegetables I get in my CSA box, at my local farmers market, and from our garden taste better than anything I've ever seen in a supermarket. Usually they cost more, occasionally less than conventional produce, I don't really care as it's not a big percentage of my food budget. The CSA produce averages about 30% cheaper than the same or similar stuff from the farmers market.

                                                                  The relatively tasteless produce produced by corporate farms would not be so much cheaper if the corporations were not subsidized and allowed to externalize the costs of unsustainable production methods and pollution.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    Definitely. Everyone should have a home garden. The cost of produce is supposed to double by the close of this summer season. Most people are shocked at the first taste of home-grown veggies.

                                                                    I'm just trying to push that not everything that comes from molecular alteration is bad. Just like not everything that humans don't contribute directly to creating. You just have to know what it is and how your body will process it. But I'm with you on taste. I don't care how wonderful it is. If it tastes funky, I'm not eating it.

                                                                    1. re: cherstewart

                                                                      Whose cost for what produce where?

                                                                      I have no way of guessing how my body might process a chemical not found in food, or how it might interact with other non-food chemicals. There's a century-long history of people presuming new chemicals are safe and then finding out only much later that they're not.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        I assumed given your relative passion for this subject that you would do the research.

                                                                        People also eat/drink things that they find in nature assuming they are safe, only to find out later that they are not.

                                                        2. re: Fleur

                                                          Sparingly only means don't eat so many calories from butter as to become overweight. It's an all natural product that you can use as much as you'd like just don't get overweight. My grandfather is a thin man that has eaten eggs cooked in bacon fat his entire life. Always butter nothing un-natural and has never used olive oil. He'll be 95 this year and is on no medication. He was pre-diabetic and just cut back on his consumption and that is gone.