Let’s be honest: margarine is extremely unappealing. It’s a human-made spread that used to be loaded with hydrogenated oils, more commonly known as trans fats.
But the times have changed. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned these oils in 2018, margarine has become considerably “healthier.”
Prior to the ban, margarine was heavy in trans fats that raised “bad” LDL cholesterol and reduced “good” HDL cholesterol. Eating these types of fats increased the risk for heart disease and type-2 diabetes. They were not naturally occurring fat, like what you find in butter, meat, or olives, but constructed in a lab.
But when manufacturers were forced to remove hydrogenated oils, they used unsaturated fats to replace them. Unsaturated fats are typically touted as healthier options than saturated fats, which are found in butter and meat.
A quick way to tell whether a fat is saturated or unsaturated is what happens to it at room temperature. If it is solid at room temperature – like a stick of butter or the marbling on a steak – it is saturated. If it is liquid, like canola oil or olive oil, it is unsaturated.
So back to margarine’s improved status. A new study, which received no funding from margarine manufacturers, found that margarine is a healthier option than butter. So, although that might not catapult it into “superfood” territory, it does offer a potentially “healthier” alternative to butter.
Which can be useful this time of the year. If you plan on buttering up a holiday turkey, for example, maybe margarine could be the way to go.
The researchers also found that a tub or squeeze margarine had less saturated fat than stick margarine or margarine and butter blends.
Of course, if you really wanted to maximize the health value of fats, you’d be using an oil like extra virgin olive oil – a legit superfood – canola oil, sunflower oil, or avocado oil.
These oils can be seasoned and spiced to add flavor to favorites like toast, mashed potatoes, or even turkey.