Butter or margarine: which one to favor?

Butter or margarine: which one to favor? If they are often opposed in terms of health benefits, the difference is not so convincing.

The trial made with butter, obtained from the cream of cow’s milk, is due to its richness in saturated fatty acids, which can increase our bad cholesterol level (LDL for low density lipoprotein). Indeed, “the excess of bad cholesterol promotes the deposition of atheroma plaques on the walls of the arteries” , explains Dr. Laurence Plumey, nutritionist, author of Sucre, gras et sel (Eyrolles). A certain moderation is therefore in order. “If we do not exceed 30 g per day, the consumption of butter is part of a balanced diet “, tempers Dr Plumey. In addition, it has been discovered that milk fat, by virtue of its composition (short-chain fatty acids, stearic acid, etc.), seems, against all expectations, to protect against heart attacks and strokes. Three studies published in prestigious nutrition journals show that its consumption reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

Good fat and vitamin A The lipids contained in butter – and which the body does not know how to manufacture – remain necessary for health: they serve as our energy reserve, but not only. “Myristic acid, for example, is a good fat that promotes the absorption of vitamin D and, indirectly, calcium” , explains Dr. Alexandra Dalu, nutritionist, author of the book the 30 Misconceptions that prevent you from going well (The Duke). Among its other assets, let us underline its vitamin A content (30 g of butter cover % of daily needs), essential for vision and good immunity. As for those intolerant to lactose, may they remain calm, “this is only present in trace amounts and has no negative impact on digestion” , adds Dr Dalu.

Phytosterols against cholesterol Margarines, on the other hand, are composed mainly of a mixture of vegetable fats: sunflower, rapeseed, even palm. Their strengths therefore differ according to their composition. “Anticholesterol” is the flagship argument put forward by a number of products enriched with phytosterols, plant lipids which compete with cholesterol of animal origin by reducing its intestinal absorption and, by ricochet, LDL cholesterol. They are therefore intended for patients suffering from hypercholesterolemia. But we still lack serious studies to claim that phytosterols reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. “This is not a miracle solution , relativizes Dr. Plumey. Their consumption must be accompanied by a reduction in saturated fat, weight loss and the resumption of physical activity. » In addition, in large quantities, phy- tosterols reduce the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

Omega 3s for young and old “For daily family consumption, it is better to choose omega 3 margarines, useful for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases” , advises Dr. Plumey. Indeed, these essential fatty acids (which the body does not know how to manufacture), naturally anti-inflammatory, promote the fluidity of the circulation and the dilation of the vessels and arteries. Conversely, products which promote a contribution of omega 6 (polyunsaturated fatty acids) would be of no particular interest, because of their pro-inflammatory action. Finally, note that there are margarines enriched with vitamin A, E or D. In other words, you have to read the labels!

Cooking side At high temperature, the butter turns brown. This so-called Maillard reaction “makes digestion heavier and more difficult, but it also produces toxic carcinogenic compounds” , describes Dr. Dalu. We therefore prefer the use of margarines (those marked “cooking”) and oil (olive, peanut, etc.)

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, British Journal of Nutrition and Food Science & Nutrition.

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