Butter vs. Butter Substitutes – Which is Healthier?

Posted in Dairy Foods

Butter or butter substitute? It’s an age-old debate that remains a very hot topic for health-minded consumers.

The staunch butter backers wouldn’t dream of touching the fake stuff.

Meanwhile, hard-line supporters of wanna-be butters are more convinced than ever that the real thing will harm your health!

The food sleuths at eBrandAid have crossed party lines and learned that whether you’re shopping for butter or a butter substitute there’s plenty of margarine for error!

Okay, so we promise to never repeat that bad pun again…but only if you promise to read on about the “great butter debate.” Be sure to spread the news to your friends and loved ones!

The Great Butter Debate

For the past 50 years or so, butter has been blackballed by the many consumers who believe it causes heart disease or worse, because it contains high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.

lab report for cholesterol with pencil

Margarine was introduced – and accepted – as a healthier alternative with less saturated fat and cholesterol.

Turns out, these wanna-be butters were packed with trans fats (eek!) which we think are actually worse for your health than saturated fats. In fact, as butter consumption ebbed, heart disease boomed!


Fast forward to present day: The dairy cases are jam-packed with “healthy spreads” touting zero trans fats and other smooth-as-buttah claims.

Unfortunately, many of these butter alternatives are packed with additives and preservatives.

The question still churns: Is butter really as unhealthy as we once thought? Let’s take a look.

Reality Check

True, “getting back to basics” is a popular cry of the times. Guess what? Our food sleuths found that adage applies to butter too!


From a flavor standpoint, butter tastes pretty darn yummy! In our book, there is no savory substitute. But should we steer clear of this spread?

The short answer is NO!

Plain butter is an all-natural food that is made up of only two ingredients – sweet cream and salt. Surprisingly, it comes naturally packaged with many nutrients that can help protect us from chronic disease. Butter contains:

A rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A - needed for a wide range of body functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape.

Fat-soluble vitamins like E, K and D – all of which play a role in helping to maintain the proper functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system.

Lecithin – a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fats.

Antioxidants – that protect against the kind of free radical damage that weakens the arteries.

Wow – all that plus it tastes yummy! Okay, that all sounds great, but what about the high calorie content, saturated fats and cholesterol… hmm?

Well, you may not know it, but whipped butter contains half the calories, half the saturated fat, and half the cholesterol of regular stick butter but still provides all the great taste!

But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself.

Case-in-Point: Land O’ Lakes Sweet Salted Whipped Butter


Nutrition Facts: 1 tbsp, 50 calories, 6g fat (3.5g saturated fat), 40mg of sodium, 15g of cholesterol

INGREDIENTS: Pasteurized Cream, Salt.

Bottom line: Butter in moderation is not as unhealthy as once thought. The whipped varieties offer less saturated fats and cholesterol, but retain all that awesome buttery taste. Sometimes meeting in the middle actually pays off!


Your friendly food sleuths haven’t forgotten about the butter substitutes.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow when we churn out our eBrandAid Guidelines for choosing the healthiest butter alternatives that contain zero cholesterol and no junk ingredients. We’ll also roll out our BestBrands list to make shopping a breeze!

Remember, when you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, you’re in control at the grocery store.

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In Our Opinion: The information contained in the eBrandAid e-newsletters is strictly based on the opinions of the eBrand Doctors. We have created a set of guidelines that we believe will help shoppers to better understand and decode food labels on products found in most grocery stores. Our mission is to help shoppers find the healthier brands that have the least amount of chemicals and other junk ingredients.

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