Should you use butter or margarine? I’ll make it easy for you – my personal opinion is that butter is better for your fertility and hormone production.
Over the past few decades it seems that this debate is never-ending. Studies are done and one finds benefits in butter and one thinks margarine is best. What are we to believe?
I used to eat only margarine with my Standard American Diet. I ate low-fat “healthy” foods all the while exercising 5 days a week. Although I was thin, my cholesterol was a whopping 258 (which put me into the extremely high category w/ my ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) being almost 100 points over recommended levels at 191) and my PCOS was basically running in high gear. Fast forward 5 years and I’ve learned a lot about eating more nutrient dense foods.
I gave up processed foods an my cholesterol is now down to a very normal 168 (the LDL now below 100) and my PCOS is under control.
Right now I eat plenty of fat, even saturated fat. I haven’t purchased margarine, or vegetable oils, in many years.
One quick note before I talk about the whole butter vs. margarine thing: Do you know why cholesterol builds up in your blood vessels? Cholesterol is actually acting as a healer for your damaged arteries. One reason is that it’s trying to repair the damage done by unhealthy fats. And back when folks ate (on average) 18 pounds of butter per year, heart disease was extremely rare. From 1920 to 1960 the average dropped to only 4 pounds per year and heart disease rose to become the number one killer of Americans. Many people are beginning to think there is a direct correlation there.
8 Reasons why butter is better
- Butter, especially from grass-fed cows, contains nutrients like vitamin A which is easily absorbed by the body since it is a fat soluble vitamin and butter is fat. Vitamin A is important for the immune system as well as hormone production and fertility.
- Natural fats like butter help to maintain the health of your thyroid and adrenal glands.
- Butter contains lecithin, which is a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other properties of fat.
- It contains anti-oxidants that protect against artery damage.
- It’s also a good source of cholesterol which is needed for progesterone production.
- The saturated fats may actually have anti-cancer properties as it contains conjugated linoleic acid which is a great protection against cancer.
- The vitamin A in butter also ensures proper growth for babies during pregnancy as well as for children. During pregnancy, a diet low in vitamin A can cause narrow faces, small skeletal structures, small palates and crowded teeth.
- Good fats (a.k.a. butter) are also pivotal for sex drive and fertility because your body needs these lipids to produce its hormones correctly.
Now I know there will be many, many of you that still refuse to listen to any of this and think I’m pretty full of it. Maybe I am. But I do know that my body works better now while I eat butter and more fats than when I followed a low-fat diet and ate margarine.
Butter was one of the first switches I made when converting to a real/whole foods diets and it’s a fairly easy one at that. So if you’re ready for the next step – replace the margarine and soft vegetable spreads you have in your pantry! It doesn’t cost much more, and after a while you’ll realize how “fake” margarine really tastes.
Where to find good butter
You can find butter in any super market, but you do get what you pay for. I prefer to buy butter from sources that use milk from cows that were outside grazing on grass. Especially in the spring, this butter will be higher in the all important vitamin K2 which assists the body in vitamin A and D absorption.
I will even buy “grass-fed” butter even if it’s not organic, although organic butter can be a step up from conventional store-bought butter.
If you have access to cream and not butter, you can actually make your own!
How to make homemade butter
There are many ways to make butter at home! You can use the “shake in a jar” method like I describe below or you can use a hand-held butter churn, stand mixer, or hand mixer.
Homemade Sweet Cream Butter
- Cream any amount (I use 2-3 cups), preferably organic and from grassfed cows
- Let the cream warm to about 60 degrees. If it's too warm it may not separate well. (when this happens, I stick an ice cube or two into the jar)
- Pour into a mason jar so it is about half full and shake.
- After shaking for about 15-20 minutes you’ll have a ball of butter and the buttermilk will be completely separated.
- Pour out the buttermilk for another use and then put the butter into another bowl.
- Grab a spatula and "massage" (rinse) out the rest of any buttermilk under cold water. This gives the butter longevity as the leftover buttermilk will cause it to sour.
I still use the mason jar as it always works!
We’ve made the transition to butter. It definitely is better!! 😀 I’m transitioning slowly with everything else. I can tell that our family is healthier than most with the changes, too. 😀
lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes
I recently made the switch to all-butter… I do miss the spread-ability of margarine.
I suppose keeping butter on the counter would keep it spreadable, but I haven’t reconciled myself to keeping food on our buggy apartment counters! Probably just need to up and buy a bug proof butter box. 🙂
@lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes, My husband and I went back and forth on where to store the butter before we found a solution – a butter bell. It’s a small crock that holds the butter upside in water, the water keeps it fresh but it is still soft and spreadable. You can often find them at ross/tjmaxx type stores for about $5.
We also tried making a spread by whipping butter with just air, or with water, or with some olive oil but nothing really worked well. The butter bell/crock is the way to go!
Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen
@MacKenzie, Yes, we use a Butter Bell too! Very cool!
While I wouldn’t agree that butter is a GOOD fat, it is all natural and our bodies know how to break it down, unlike margarine.
It is better for you that way, but should still be used in moderation.
And olive oil is still far better for you than butter – it IS heart healthy.
I was sold on switching to butter when I heard that margarine is only one molocule away from being plastic. Also when I was told that if you put a container of margarine outside flies won’t even touch it… now that’s telling me that butter is definitely better 🙂
We made the switch to butter a couple of years ago. It is so much more expensive than margarine but I feel good about feeding it to my family! It’s nice to eat things that God made!!!
I think it is the Pioneer Woman who assures her readers that “God made cows”. Hee. I tried making the butter spread recipe on Tammy’s Recipes and it still wasn’t terribly spreadable – I tried it again with a bit more water and canola oil with marginal results. I need to try it again and up the proportions a bit more.
I am a butter believer! We gave up margarine before we gave up premade boxed foods like hamburger helper.
If you have switched you cannot switch back! Has anyone given up margarine and then tasted it later? It tastes like a salt lick! YUCK!
I keep my butter on the counter in a butter crock. Otherwise the cats would eat it. They never ate the margarine.
We use butter here. When I bake though I use both. Butter is expensive so I cut cost when I do this.
I didn’t know that about C. That is interesting.
We started using butter when I was about 15 and my mom got very sick. The doctors told her she would be on meds the rest of her life but she fasted then did a juice diet then stayed on all natural foods and has been just fine!
Honestly, I don’t even notice the cost. If you don’t look at the margerine, you don’t buy it. It’s like white/wheat bread… you just DON’T BUY WHITE. Not an option. Then it becomes habit.
Yes to butter!!! And other healthy dietary fats as well. Just avoid trans fats like the poison they are.
Amy @ Finer Things
I’m not sure, but I think it’s been over 6 months since I last bought margarine. My biggest “hold out” on a completely natural diet is the cost, so we’re doing things slowly. I use a lot more wheat flour now, too.
What do you know about Smart Balance spread? It says non-hydrogenated and that it’s a good source of Omega 3s. How different is it from margarine?
Excellent post! Thank you, Donielle.
I love both of your blogs — and I’m a BIG fan of butter!
I’ve been eating butter and cream for as long as I can remember. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had no trouble getting pregnant — these good saturated fats really help with fertility and hormone balance.
Sally Fallon (author of “Nourishing Traditions”) says to eat bread or toast with butter so thick, you can see the teeth marks.
Julia Child says, “If you’re afraid there’s too much butter in this recipe, it’s OK, you can use cream instead.”
Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
I’m totally with you, Donielle! Yay for butter!
Since switching over to more and more good, wholesome, traditional fats (including lots of good animals fats) my PCOS has definitely improved by leaps and bounds!
Hi Donielle! I’m starting a series in the next couple weeks on making baby steps toward real food. My first post is going to be on butter. Mind if I link to this post?
@Audrey, Link away! 🙂
@donielle, Thanks! I will let you know when I start the series!
I’m a long time foodie so I have eaten and baked with butter for years although it was primarily for flavor rather than health reasons. We’re just now learning the health benefits and have switched from store bought to homemade with raw cream from the dairy. IMO unsalted tastes the best.
I cook with a lot of olive oil but I also use butter sometimes. Thanks for the information – it is fascinating!
It should also be noted that butter from grass-fed cows has many more benefits than regular ol’ butter from your grocery store. If you can’t get raw butter from grass-fed cows then buy Kerrygold butter. Although regular butter from your grocery store is definitely better than margarine, it’s still not that great.
I never use olive oil for cooking, apparently it’s a really bad thing to do. I do use lots of virgin pressed olive oil for salad dressings and to make mayo but I would never heat it!
I was hesitant to make the switch to butter and full-fat dairy because I was raised in the 90’s during the reign of the low-fat diet, but wouldn’t you know I’ve LOST weight since then! Still trying to find a good source for raw milk and butter, though, which you THINK wouldn’t be a problem since I live in Arkansas and the whole state is rural.
Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen
I haven’t ever been a big margarine or butter user, my family is an olive oil family (I was raised on it, and my husband is from Italy), and it is still the fat we most often use, although I do like coconut oil as well. We do love real butter on buckwheat pancakes and fresh sourdough bread. I like to sautee mushrooms in it as well!
I made the switch a while back too and, while I’m still overweight and I never had trouble getting pregnant, I have lost quite a bit of weight AND been able to keep this baby so far to 20 weeks (granted I did take progesterone supplements, but even at that I found out I was pg after the point at which I would have normally lost it).
Donielle, my mom and I were discussing the whole fat and cholesterol issue the other day and were wondering with someone who already has damaged arteries from high cholesterol or just already has very high cholesterol, does eating full fats help lower existing cholesterol levels?
Thank you for starting this blog I just signed up for email updates. I have PCOS and I am trying to change my diet. This will help so much.
Hey Donielle, love this post! i tried clicking on the link about different types of butter, but it kept bringing me back here. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong? thanks!!
@heather harris, Oops! Old link from when I was back on blogger that broke. Fixed it!
I made the switch to butter after reading “In Defense of Food.” Then I got my parents to make the switch (hubby is still lagging behind but I’m sure he’ll come around eventually….) Butter really is just better in so many ways, better for cooking, better for baking, and better for you!
We LOVE butter! We go through a ridiculous amount — a lb. a week sometimes. Right now I have a small amount (maybe about 1/4 lb.?) in my fridge of raw, homemade butter. It’s so rich and yellow. You can’t buy butter like that. In this country, sigh. When I can’t do that, I buy local, grass-fed, low-temp pasteurized cream and make butter out of that. At least it’s BETTER, right?
We pretty much ONLY use saturated fats here, with the exception of olive oil in salad dressings. And guess what, we all (adults) lost weight. And have no trouble maintaining no matter what else we eat (90% real food, 10% cheating lol).
YAY! I’m so glad some one agrees with me. Isn’t the smell of butter amazing?
I’ve been a butter girl for years now.
Can’t stand the taste of margarine and butter just tastes great which is why I eat it. As for the spreadability, it lives in a container on my bench, so it’s always easy to spread!
I love butter!!
I read some of this recently! Thanks for the tips! I just added your link to my resources section on my stress-free infertility blog. Happy ICLW! (#94)
Good to know…I am glad that we have already switched over to butter at our house!
Totally following now!
I prefer real butter, but somewhere in my brain is this mechanism that says “eat margarine”. I really need to tell it to shut up. Love the site! ICLW #29
Hi Donielle! I think we are on the same wavelength! I just did an article on finding real butter in a plastic world! I love your site and recommend it to all my friends who are trying to conceive! Thanks for sharing such wonderful natural information! My mother was an old english midwife so she gave me lots of tips. If you are ever interested in a few, let me know!
I absolutely only ever use butter. I read an article in nursing school about how some physician left margarine out in the sun all day, and it never melted. It frightened me. So, I figured butter was better. Plus, I live in the South…if it doesn’t have butter, why eat it!? 😉
Interesting!! I prefer to use butter, but now I have reason to!
We’ve been real (unsalted) butter people for a long time… a long time ago I used the reduced fat “I can’t believe…” line of margarine, thinking it would help me shed weight (not so) and my cholesterol was also at an all time high.
I’ve even switched my dairy allergic daughter to butter and had no repercussions… we just keep a clean, safe cube inside a closed container for her use to make sure we don’t contaminate with wheat as she has Celiac.
When I fill my kefir jars last night… I seriously considered setting aside the fat from our milk to make some of our own butter with… but it makes me kefir grains so happy I left it in.
Do you make your own butter? Or buy… Raw? Regular? Pasture fed?
Jen @ After The Alter
I always find it frustrating how the studies change so quickly. At one point butter was so bad for you, and now butter is good for you. You just can’t win! I too have now switched over to real organic butter. all the evidence that it is better makes sense so I’m going with it! Thanks for sharing the facts!
I’m in total agreement. Butter is practically a health food compared to margarine. What’s really disturbing is all the people who eat/ate margarine to lower their cholesterol and risk of heart problems and probably made things worse without even realizing it. We have used only organic butter for several years now with no increase in our “bad” cholesterol levels.
Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green
My whole life I have had real butter. My mom always thought something was wrong with the fake stuff. 🙂
My cholesterol is very low. I eat a low cholesterol, low sugar, and heart healthy diet to keep all of my numbers low now instead of switching when I am older. Part of that means I eat margarine. Not too much but in moderation. I use butter too, mostly in baking because I think it tastes better. But I eat butter much less often than I use margarine.
I think another key factor in the margarine vs. butter debate is how much you eat of it and how much exercise you get.
@Condo Blues, Actually, it’s a common myth that eating low cholesterol prevents you from getting heart disease. More often than not it actually increases your risk! Eating diets high in vegetable oils can lead to hardening of the arterial wall among other things.
I was diagnosed with high cholesterol at 23 and did the same thing – ate low to no fats, only margarine, etc. While I was able to lower my total cholesterol about 50 points, I was still in the ‘high’ category. After switching to a completely whole foods diet – including copious amounts of butter, oil, and all sorts of fats, I was able to get it down to 168 and my LDL was under 100 for the first time.
You have to realize to that only 15% of the cholesterol in your blood is from your food. The rest is produced by your liver! The reason your liver over compensates is to counteract the fact that you’re not eating enough, and because cholesterol is actually sent to the arteries to repair the damage done by vegetable oils and processed foods.
You might want to check out the book “Put your Heart in Your Mouth” by Dr. Natasha Campbell (here’s an article written by her -https://westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/531-cholesterol-friend-or-foe.html ) and “Cereal Killer” by Alan Watson.
I know it’s hard to think that everything we’ve ever been told is a complete farce, but think of this – not only did heart disease NOT exist 100 years ago when people ate all butter and whole milk, our modern medicine has yet to lower the rates of heart disease! In fact, each year more and more people are diagnosed with it!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. 🙂
True heart disease rates where lower 100 years ago but they had a much more active lifestyle than we do now. We are must more sedentary. For example 100 years ago laundry day really did take all day because many people still had wringer washing machines. Now it’s laundry 30 minutes for a load to washing in a modern machine.
Another big thing is cutting out High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s processed by the liver and makes it work harder and elevates a blood sugar and had cholesterol levels. In other words, since I rarely eat butter or margarine with the exception of in frequent toast, baked potatoes or baking I’m not really going to give either up because my numbers are extremely low even though I come from a family riddled with heart disease.