BUTTER VERSUS MARGARINE
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© March 2015, The Center For Development
In the rush to lower cholesterol, many health authorities recommend eating margarine instead of butter. However, there is more to consider about margarine than just cholesterol.
In fact, ALL margarine, all peanut butter except natural peanut butter, Crisco and other shortening, many commercial bakery products, most French fries, many whipped toppings and icings, instant mashed potatoes and microwave popcorn are all nutritionally horrible. Here is why.
WHAT IS MARGARINE?
Margarine, along with all products containing hydrogenated oils, begins as chemically-extracted, refined vegetable oil. This is a poor quality product because:
1. The oil is extracted at high temperature. This damages the oil by destroying its vitamin E and other nutrients.
2. Solvents are often added to the oil, and residues of these chemicals remain in the oil.
As if this is not bad enough, the oil is then “hardened” to change its consistency from an oil to a spreadable semi-solid. This is done by bubbling hydrogen through the vegetable oil at high temperature, using nickel as a catalyst. Nickel is an extremely toxic chemical that in excess causes lung cancer, kidney disease, depression and more.
Bubbling hydrogen through the oil saturates some of the carbon-carbon bonds of the oil, so that it becomes a saturated fat. The product then becomes hard or solid at room temperature. This means that the ads for margarine that say it is a “polyunsaturated” fat are not true. It always contains some saturated fat or it would be runny and liquid at room temperature.
The final product also usually contains some trans-fatty acids, no matter what the label says. These are man-made fatty acids. Research shows that trans-fatty acids increase inflammation in the body. This can worsen illnesses such as colitis and arthritis. Very recent research indicates that trans-fatty acids in margarine raise LDL levels. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol.
Margarine and some other hardened oil products also contain coloring agents, or they would look like bicycle grease, which many people do not like. The coloring agents are often toxic chemicals, as well. In summary, margarine is a disaster, even so-called health-food margarine.
WHAT IS BUTTER?
Butter is made from cream that is part of the milk of a cow, usually. The cream rises to the top of the bottle if milk is allowed to sit for a few minutes. Butter is made by churning or stirring the cream. This causes a chemical reaction that causes the cream to harden slightly, giving it the buttery consistency.
Raw butter is a fabulous fat that often contains some omega-3 fatty acids, a critical nutrient needed today by everyone. Butter is also an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K. None of these nutrients are found to any degree in margarine. The vitamin content of butter varies seasonally, depending on the diet of the animals from which it is derived.
Also, butter does not contain trans-fatty acids or toxic metals such as nickel. Butter contains some milk solids, giving it a whitish color. Ghee or clarified butter does not contain the milk solids.
Dr. Weston Price identified a factor in butter that is essential for proper growth and development of the bone structure. He called it 'activator X' or ‘factor X’ and wrote about it in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Dr. Price was able to reverse severe tooth decay in children by feeding them one meal a day of highly nutritious food - including butter.
Although many people are sensitive to cow’s milk dairy products, butter is often well-tolerated by these peoople. This is because butter is almost a pure fat, and does not contain many of the allergens found in other milk products. For example, it does not contain milk protein (casein) or milk sugar (lactose). These are the two components of other dairy products that often cause milk allergies.
Butter made from raw (unpasteurized) cream is available in some areas. It is the best quality butter. Organic pasteurized butter is often the next best quality butter. Some brands of regular butter in the supermarkets are also quite good, such as Challenge brand in America.
WHAT IS GHEE?
Ghee, also called clarified butter, is a product used extensively in India and some other nations. It is butter with the milk solids removed. As a result, it is almost clear in color and has less of a buttery taste.
To make ghee, one gently heats butter until the white-colored milk solids separate from the oil. One skims off the milk solids, leaving just the oil. Ideally, this should be refrigerated as it is an oil. Ghee has certain advantages over butter, as follows:
1. For cooking, ghee will not burn as easily because it does not have milk solids. As a result, it can be heated to a higher temperature. However, I do not recommend high temperature cooking, so this is not very important.
2. Ghee is also a little more yang than butter.
3. Some people who cannot tolerate dairy products can tolerate ghee, although I find that most people can tolerate butter, even those allergic to most dairy products.
4. Ghee remains a liquid at room temperature. This may help with certain recipes.
Advantages of butter over ghee are:
1. It is not cooked as much. This preserves some important nutrients. Uncooked and even pasteurized dairy products contain many essential fatty acids, vitamins A and D, and many other critical nutrients.
2. The milk solids in butter contain some added nutrients, which are lost when one makes it into ghee.
Overall, if one has a choice, please use butter and not ghee due to butter’s greater nutritional content and less processing.
IS AVOIDING BUTTER THE WAY TO CONTROL CHOLESTEROL?
No! The observations of many natural health practitioners indicate that a balanced body chemistry is the key to normalizing cholesterol. Dr. William Koch, MD, an eminent physician, wrote:
"Cholesterol ... is no problem when the oxidations are efficient and the diet is sensible. In all our observations, high levels (of cholesterol) drop ... it steadies to a good normal when the oxidations are re-established to normal." (Normal oxidations refers to the efficient burning of food and the generation of adequate energy from food.)
Most cholesterol is manufactured within the body. A very small proportion of one’s cholesterol comes directly from the diet. Cholesterol is the raw material for the adrenal stress hormones and the sex hormones. The body often reacts to stress by producing more cholesterol. This allows the body to make more stress-fighting hormones.
As one reduces biochemical stress through a nutritional balancing program, cholesterol levels tend to decrease without the need for restrictive diets. In fact, eating some animal products that contain cholesterol often helps balance body chemistry.
FAST OXIDATION, FATS AND OILS
In general, fast oxidizers can and should eat more butter and other high-quality fatty foods. Their faster metabolism handles the fats and oils very well. These foods have a calming and slowing effect on their metabolism that is necessary if they are to balance their oxidation rate. These people’s body chemistry acts like cars with 8 or 10-cylinder engines. They burn more calories and thrive on higher-calorie foods, particularly fats and oils. It they do not eat them, they will crave carbohydrates, which the other major type of food that provides calories or ‘fuel’ for the body. This applies particularly to babies and children, but a few adults are also fast oxidizers and require more fats or oils in their diets.
Even those with slow oxidation rates, however, can eat some butter – up to one to two tablespoons daily - unless they are sensitive to it. Butter is an excellent overall food for everyone at all ages.
The only argument in favor of eating margarine and other products containing hydrogenated oils such as most French fries, many commercial bakery products, most peanut butter and others is their lack of cholesterol. Margarine is also less expensive than butter.
However, margarine is a disgusting and filthy over-processed item, even when it is sold in health food stores. It usually contains poor-quality, refined, artificially saturated vegetable oil. It also contains harmful trans-fatty acids, and often residues of nickel, a highly toxic metal. It is also devoid of most of the important nutrients found in natural fats such as butter.
Butter, by contrast, is a natural food and one of the best sources of important fat-soluble vitamins and perhaps omega-3 fatty acids. You will pay a little more for butter, but nutritionally and for its purity, it is well worth it.