Margarine Vs Butter

Reporter: Helen Wellings

The market has been well and truly flooded.Our shopping shelves spilling over with spreads, margarines blending all types of vegetable oils: olive oil, avocado and rice bran oil and they come with promises: everything from lower cholesterol and reduced heart risk but it comes at a price usually twice that of a standard margarine. But do they deliver?

Butter, long labelled a "health no-no" has been left in its dust. Consumers since voting with their wallets are now buying $300 million worth of margarine a year, 4 times what we now spend on butter sales. 10 years ago butter sales and margarine sales were neck and neck, but Nutrition Scientist, Joanna McMillan Price isn't buying it. She is convinced it's all a marketing gimmick.

"They're trying to get you to think this is like being on a Mediterranean diet but no one in the Mediterranean uses this - they use Olive Oil," Price said. While Butter is high in saturated fats its virtually free of trans-fats, whereas with spreads Joanna warns:

"You'll see a whole host of ingredients which will include the vegetable oils that it's made from; emulsifiers, colours, preservatives, various additives and flavours and so on."

"On the other hand the types of fat that's in all of these spreads is a much healthier - tis the unsaturated fat - much better for us than saturated fat," Price continued. But what about taste? We asked a tasting panel to trial 10 popular spreads.

Two from each type: Olive Oil, Cholesterol Lowering, Canola, Basic Margarine and the Polyunsaturated - Sunflower, Flaxseed or Soybean category. They were tested on taste, spreadability and price. Our testers do not know which is which. First the Olive Oil blend, Bertolli Classico.

Olive Grove has 21% olive oil some liked the taste - some didn't.

The best margarine for the family is one based on sunflower and canola blends known as the good oils, this will help blood cholesterol levels. If you want to lose weight a reduced fat margarine will have fewer calories. If you had high blood cholesterol the best choice is a plant sterol margarine - these brands include Logical or Flora Proactiv. But at nearly $2 per 100 gram, these spreads are around twice the price of other spreads and around eight times more than basic generics but do they lower cholesterol? But Celebrity chef, FAST EDDY from Better Homes and Gardens says to food lovers

"I think most customers in restaurants don't really have a preference for butter or margarine , they're looking for a whole experience on a plate, so if you tell them its cooked with real butter, all well and good, if you tell them it's cooked with heart healthy margarine they'll be equally happy, but just for different reasons," said Ed Halmagyi

Our testers rated flora Original Sunflower Spread with Omega 3 best of the ten. This was followed closely by Bertolli Classico, then Tabelands Canola. Least liked was ETA 5 Star, Flora Pro-Active Lite, and unanimously Nuttelex.

So which gets the tick when it comes to the healthiest spread?

Those with the lowest saturated fats and lowest calories.

Cholesterol lowering - lowest fats and Kilojoules?

Logicol Plus Vitamins.

Highest?

Logicol Original.

Canola Content?

Weightwatchers is best.

Country Gold highest fats and Kilojoules.

Olive Oils?

Lowest?

Bertolli Light.

Highest?

Olive Grove.

Polyunsaturateds?

Seachange Omega 3, but Nuttelex scores low again.

Basics?

Lowest is Meadowlea Extra Light.

Highest

Home Brand and Butter Blends are relatively high.

Devondale is healthiest, Western Star Spreadable high fat and Kilojoules.

Ingrid Just from CHOICE Magazine did a recent study on Margarine Blends and spreads.

"There are a lot of pretty pictures on butters and margarines these days on the shelf trying to attract your attention to buy, but turn the product over, look at the fine print, look at the ingredients and look for margarines that are lower in saturated fats and lower in sodium," Just said.