Butter toast or oil toast. Which is more fattening?

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Which is healthier, butter or margarine? (Marina López, reader)

To clarify this comparison it helps to have a little historical perspective.

Margarine became very fashionable during the 1980s and 1990s, when the most recurrent discourse on fats was the one that told us that we should consume more vegetables and fewer animals.

This advice, while well-intentioned, was a bit simplistic. Since there are fats of animal origin that are healthy, such as oily fish, and fats of vegetable origin that are not so healthy, such as palm oil or refined seed oils. That is why we currently prefer to focus on food and not such vague classifications.

For years margarine was sold as a much healthier alternative to butter. This was not true.

Margarine contains vegetable fats

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The margarine of those decades was obtained by hydrogenating vegetable oils and as a result the solid state that was of technological interest was obtained. But this also generated a side effect not so sought after, which was the appearance of numerous trans fats in the composition of that margarine.

Over the years, the production process has been significantly improved, and we can increasingly obtain margarines that have fewer trans fatty acids. However, the starting oil for margarine is far from being healthy and tends to be corn or sunflower.

On the contrary, butter has a mostly saturated profile, and although these fats are not as harmful as believed in the past, they are still not the recommended ones to be in our day to day life.

extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil is a much healthier option

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Currently, it is very difficult to say which of the two versions is healthier, but we do know for sure that neither of the two options is optimal or the best for health, less when we are going to spread them on toasted refined bread or to make pastry recipes.

In the event that we are cooking a sweet, we should remember that these products should be taken occasionally and that, therefore, once we prepare a cake, the choice of one or the other is not very important.

If, on the other hand, we are looking for an option for everyday life, perhaps it would make more sense to consider looking for a much healthier source of fat, such as olive oil.

What is the caloric difference between butter toast and oil toast? (Cristina Sánchez, reader)

Before answering, it is important to clarify that measuring the energy of a dish based on kcal will give us very simplistic information about whether or not that preparation is healthy. We cannot take it as the only criterion, a good example could be a sweetened soft drink without sugar, which has 0 calories, and a comparison with nuts, which are a highly recommended and healthy food, but have a high energy content.

Once we take this into account, we go with the answer. To do this we have to understand that we are talking about two foods that, although they are sources of fat, have a slightly different composition.

toast with olive oil

toast with olive oil

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Olive oil is the juice of the squeezed olive, and therefore its nutritional composition is 100% oil (fat). Butter is an emulsion of some aqueous milk particles in milk fat. Therefore, it will not have 100% fat, but amounts close to 90% because the rest will be the whey.

If we take as a reference a serving of 10 grams of butter and 10 grams of olive oil, 9 grams of fat (in the butter) and 10 grams (in the EVOO) respectively. This is because olive oil is slightly higher in calories than butter.

As I have explained in the introduction, this should not be the criterion for recommending one or the other. What makes olive oil so healthy are its fatty acids and the accompanying phytochemical compounds. While butter is a less healthy source of fat, because its fatty acids do not have as many health benefits.