Butter vs. Margarine; Olive Oil vs. Vegetable Oil

The most recent studies suggest that natural saturated fats, such as those found in butter, may not significantly contribute to cardiovascular disease, though further study is warranted. In any case, butter is closer to a whole food than margarine. If you must opt for a spread that is not extra virgin olive oil, I suggest moderate amounts of grass-fed, organic butter.

Margarine was originally developed as a cheap substitute for butter, and has evolved from some fairly unappealing animal-based ingredients into a vegetable oil based spread with added chemicals that make it more flavorful and easier to spread. To achieve that solid, spreadable consistency, margarine manufacturers add hydrogenated vegetable oil, creating unhealthy compounds that may contribute to heart disease and stroke. In addition, the heat and chemicals used to harden vegetable oils produce trans-fatty acids , which can contribute to heart disease, increase cancer risks, promote inflammation and accelerate tissue degeneration.

Margarine raises heart attack risk, while natural butter does not. Grass-fed butter may even reduce heart attack risk due to the high Vitamin K2 content.

Olive oil has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any oil. Quality olive oil also contains abundant in substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects, called antioxidants. And, of course, quality olive tastes wonderful; the vibrant green treat has probably helped many Americans realize that there is no need to sacrifice sensory pleasure in pursuit of healthy eating.

There has been a lot of fake olive oil in the market, therefore, always look out for the real deal. Buy small bottles of a certified organic oil. Check the label for the ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale, which means Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) logo, and/or that of another organic certification body such as the USDA’s green-and-white ORGANIC logo.

You can also perform your own sensory test: top quality extra-virgin olive oil (which I believe should be used for all cooking, not just bread-dipping and salad-drizzling) has a natural peppery finish and a deep, “green” aroma of grass and artichoke. Such oils are not cheap, because they rely on careful cultivation that preserves olive oils legendary taste and health benefits.

Reduce your intake of polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as soybean, sunflower, corn and safflower oils), replacing them instead with extra virgin olive oil.

Most polyunsaturated oils promote cancer, inflammation, damage to the immune system and premature aging.

High-fat diets are not linked to heart disease. The science isn’t there to prove this.