BUTTER is a traditional dietary staple made by churning cream.  It is used as a spread, as a component of sauces, cakes and pastries and occasionally as a frying fat. 

It is a concentrated source of milk fat which is mainly composed of saturated fat.  Too much saturated fat can increase bad cholesterol with high cholesterol being a risk factor for heart disease.  Recommendations for saturated fat are no more than 20g per day for females and 30g per day for males.

Margarine, or spread, is designed to taste and look like butter and is often regarded as a heart-healthy replacement due to less milk fat and mainly plant-based ingredients.  If watching saturated fat intake and cholesterol, margarine could be a contingency plan for this.  But some margarines can be high in palm oil which can also increase bad cholesterol.  So which margarines would be low in this or can help keep cholesterol low?

Benecol Light Spread has added plant sterols.  These are proven to lower cholesterol in people with high cholesterol.  This product is also high in Omega 9 from rapeseed oil which can help lower bad cholesterol too.  This would be my number one recommendation to lower cholesterol. 

Bertolli Light is made with olive oil and is high in Omega 9.  Flora Lighter is high in Omega 9 too as it is made with rapeseed oil, and it is low in saturated fat.  I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is another one that is low in saturated fat and high in Omega 9 due to its rapeseed oil ingredients. Vitalite Dairy-Free is another one low in saturated fat and high in Omega 9. 

These would be my top five picks of spreads that are low in saturated fat and high in Omega 9 and/or plant sterols in relation to portion size. 
Remember that both butter and margarine are high in overall fat and are very energy dense in terms of calories, so be sure to stick to portion size, which is 5g (or a teaspoon). 

Lee McCusker (BA; MSc; MSc; MSc; ANutr; SENr) is a registered nutritionist from Belfast and can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Email: attentivenutrition@