NDSU Extension - Benson County


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Butter or Margarine?

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

If you are someone who enjoys cooking or baking, chances are you have questioned which is better for you, butter or margarine.  Over the years, both items have marketed themselves to have benefits.  Those using the products oftentimes choose one over the other because of its quality when baking.  With a wide variety of information out there about which is better, it can sometimes be confusing as to what to choose. 


Recent studies on the potential cholesterol-raising effects of trans fatty acids have raised public concern about the use of margarine and whether other options, including butter, might be a better choice.


It is important to keep in mind that saturated fats (butter) raise LDL but do not change HDL cholesterol. Trans fats (margarine) raise LDL and lower HDL.  As a quick review, LDL is “bad” cholesterol and HDL is “good” cholesterol.


It seems that butter would be better, but the answer is more along the lines of, "It depends."

Here are the facts:

  • Some stick margarines contribute more trans fatty acids than non-hydrogenated oils or other fats.  Check the labels to be sure.
  • Most margarine is made from vegetable fat and provides no dietary cholesterol.
  • The more liquid the margarine, i.e., tub or liquid forms, the less hydrogenated it is and the less trans fatty acids it contains.
  • Butter is rich in saturated fat, so it has the potential to be artery-blocking.


The American Heart Association does not recommend that you eat more saturated fats, or that you should substitute saturated fats for trans fats.


When you are selecting margarine, choose a tub or liquid form and most of all, choose a diet that is low in total fat and try to replace trans and saturated fats with healthier monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.


If you are looking for some healthy cookies this holiday season that are low in fat content, try breakfast pumpkin cookies.  They are a delicious treat that are packed with ingredients from the fruit, protein, vegetable, and grain group.  Enjoy!


Breakfast Pumpkin Cookies


  • 1 3/4 cups pumpkin (pureed, cooked)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped)

Directions:  First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, and oil thoroughly.  Blend dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture.  Add raisins and nuts.  Drop by teaspoonful on greased cookie sheet.  Finally, bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Makes: 48 servings.  Each serving contains 103 calories, 4 grams of fat, 74 mg of sodium, 16 carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. 



  • Oregon State University Cooperative Extension Service, Healthy Recipes
  • Utah State University National Nutrition Certification Program, 2016
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