The difference between butter and margarine can be discussed in terms of what they contain and how they are made. All of them contain fats, but the types of fats and the fat content is what distinguishes one from the other. These differences are what make people prefer one to the other. In terms of health, one will be recommended for the other. This is because they contain fats that are not good for health. The types and content of fat each contains determines which one is healthier than the other.
Most margarines are made through a process referred to as hydrogenation, which is, the process of turning liquids into solids. In this process, extra atoms of hydrogen are added to liquid oil to make it solid. Generally, margarine is made from vegetable oils. Although the hydrogenated process reduces the saturated fats in margarine it makes margarine have trans fat which is considered more damaging to health than saturated fats. There are however some margarines that are not made through the hydrogenation process (Orchardt, 2003). Therefore, depending on the manufacturing process, margarine can contain saturated fats or unsaturated fats.
Butter on the other hand, unlike margarine, is made from animal fats. It is made through churning of milk or cream. The animal fats used are known as cholesterol. Butter contains saturated fats, unlike margarine which may contain saturated or unsaturated fats. Because of the saturated fats and cholesterol content, butter is considered unhealthier than margarine. Margarine does not contain cholesterol and that could probably explain why most people prefer margarine to butter.
Margarines that are not made through the hydrogenation process are low in fats and are recommended instead of butter in recipes. These are usually soft and are made through adding palm oil. The fact that margarine is made from vegetable oil is what makes it lack cholesterol, so in the absence of hydrogenation process, they do not contain trans fat which is considered more damaging than the saturated fat content in butter.
Trans fat is not just damaging however; it has some advantages. The shelf life of trans fat is longer when compared to that present in vegetables. It is usually at room temperature. However, it has the disadvantage of raising bad cholesterol and lowering the good cholesterol (Orchardt, 2003). In this regard, it would still pose the same risks as butter as far as cholesterol is concerned. The level of raising the bad cholesterol is however not as much as it is in saturated fats found in butter products. Therefore, those who are concerned about their cholesterol levels would still be advised to go margarine instead of butter.
There is more likelihood of developing chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease (Peterson, 2015) for those who consume saturated fats compared those who consume unsaturated fats. Since butter contains saturated fats, it follows then that those who consume butter are more likely to develop the chronic diseases than those who consume margarine. Although there are some margarines that contain saturated fats, the level is not as that of butter. Besides, there are margarines that contain unsaturated fats. Therefore, it is recommendable that one checks the nutritional information while selecting the margarine to buy so as to reduce on the risks associated with saturated fats.
To conclude, it is important to note that butter is natural, coming from churned milk. Therefore, it contains milk fat and milk solids and water. On the other hand, margarine is made by man from plants. It does not contain cholesterol. It however contains fats just like butter. In terms of health, the choice one should therefore make is which one contains more cholesterol than the other and how harmful is this cholesterol to those who take it. In essence, the major difference between butter and margarine is that one, butter, is an animal product, while the other, margarine is a vegetable product (Peterson, 2015).