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The Perfect Bite: Which margarine is the healthiest and best tasting?

Hilary Hagerman
The Perfect Bite
May 6, 2013

Many of us use margarine and butter on a regular basis, whether it’s for cooking, baking or just to top off some cooked veggies or a fresh bun. But is margarine actually better for you than butter? And which margarine is the healthiest?

On today’s episode of The Perfect Bite, host Andrea Jenna is joined by registered dietician Samara Foisy. They taste test five popular margarine brands and give you the skinny on what reigns supreme when it comes to health and taste.

Becel with Bertolli Olive Oil

“Nice and creamy,” Samara immediately comments of the texture of this margarine.

Andrea agrees that the texture is smooth, but says the taste is a little salty – although both taste testers agree there isn’t an overpowering olive flavour.

“Consumers may be confused, because as you can see there’s a whole bunch of different kinds of margarines on the market with different property,” Samara explains. “So for example the Becel has olive oil in it. If you look at the blend, it really only comprises eight per cent of the blend, so really the health benefits don’t translate.”

Also see: Which coffee chain has the best brew?

Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread (Samara’s favourite)

“This one’s creamier,” Andrea says.

“It’s got a fruitier flavour to it,” Samara immediately agrees, noting that this margarine was her favourite tasting. “It was very flavourful compared to the other margarines.”

“This is a vegan margarine, so this product here would not contain any animal ingredients, so no milk ingredients, and would likely be coloured with a vegetable colouring,” she explains.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light (Andrea’s favourite)

“It’s not as rich as [the first two],” Andrea says.

“No,” Samara agrees. “But it still tastes like margarine to me.”

Andrea chooses I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter as her favourite taste-wise, but not because it had a strong taste. “Mine I liked because it actually had maybe the most neutral taste,” she says.

And while some “light” products are not actually that much lighter, that’s not the case with this spread. “Usually water is going to be the first ingredient, and it’s going to be 50 per cent less calories, and 50 per cent less fat,” Samara explains.

Also see: The Perfect Bite: Which fast food burger is the most healthy?

PC Blue Menu Celeb With Omega 3

“There’s definitely an after taste on this one compared to the others.” Samara notices.

Andrea agrees that taste wise, she’s not impressed.

But, this option does come with the added health benefits of Omega 3.

“When you’re choosing an Omega 3 margarine you want to look for those that have encapsulated fish oil, vs. Omega 3s that are from plant oils, like canola or flaxseed.”

“This particular product does have the fish oil.”

No Name Margarine Non-Hydrogenated

“This one’s very neutral for me,” Samara comments.

“I was really surprised by the No Name one as well,” says Andrea, noting the taste.

“So this just doesn’t have the added properties that the others do,” explains Samara.

Also see: The Perfect Bite: Which brand of orange juice is the healthiest?

Which is better for you: Butter or margarine?

So what is margarine actually?

"Margarine is a semi-solid emulsion made of water and vegetable oil," Samara explains. "So unlike butter that’s made from milk fat, margarine is made from vegetable fats and it can contain some milk ingredients."

While Andrea and Samara both agree that taste is relative, there’s one thing that’s the same across the board for all of the margarine brands they tested.

Margarine is higher in “good” fats – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – than butter.

“They’re all unsaturated fats so they’re all healthy, from that perspective,” Samara says. “I think it’s just really based on your personal taste, which ever you like better.”

And if you really aren’t a big fan of margarine, that’s OK, but don’t overdose on the butter.

“If you like butter, I would use it sparingly,” Samara advises. “We recommend that you use a source of unsaturated fat over saturated fat more often, so from that perspective I think margarine is better, if you’re using this type of product on an ongoing basis.”

Which margarine do you swear by? Or do you always cook with butter? Let us know in the comments below and your opinions could be featured on Yahoo! Canada.

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