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Ask Dr. Gourmet



Which is better for you: margarine or mayonnaise?

I don't know which is worse in a crunch...using a very small amount of mayo on toast or a very small amount of margarine. No special name brand just cheap generic of both. I am at work and jelly was not an option nor was real butter. Putting nothing on at all was completely out of the question. When this situation arises which is worse for my body?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Mayonnaise

This is an excellent question and one that I very much enjoyed.

The short answer is that they are about the same. Two teaspoons of either "cheap generic" mayonnaise or margarine contains about 7.5 grams of fat. Of that about 1 gram is saturated fat. There's probably a little more sodium in the margarine. This comparison does assume that the margarine was the softer kind that comes in a tub. Both have about 65 calories in a two teaspoon serving.

To expand on this a little (the long answer), the one reason that you might want to choose one product over the other would be if there were fewer or no trans fats listed on the package. These are the types of fats that is the worst for your body. Fewer and fewer products have these and the government now mandates that the amount be reported in the Nutrition Facts section on the package label.

The butter that you mention is probably the worst choice because it has about the same number of calories and fat but is higher in saturated fat.

A good alternative to all three of these is the equivalent amount of peanut butter and this might be in the cabinet at your office. Two teaspoons has about the same amount of calories as the mayonnaise or margarine but less fat, and peanuts are legumes which we know are quite good for you.

Thanks for the fun question.

Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
Dr. Gourmet