Are saturated fats bad for you?
So we know now that saturated fat is one of the culprits increasing the risk of not just heart disease and stroke but also some cancers. Unfortunately, people have gotten the idea that all fat is evil.

Are unsaturated fats good for you?
In a word: Yes. It's taken over two decades of controversy, but the research has clearly proven just how good fat is for you. As with everything you choose to eat, it is the quality of the fats that's important. We've come to know that unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated fats like Omega 3 fats, actually help prevent disease.

Which fats and oils are good for you?
Most research on Mediterranean style diets shows that the primary fat used for recipes is olive oil. The Mediterranean cultures do use other vegetable oils, and most cultures use some butter, but it is generally used sparingly.

It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

Please note that the Ask Dr. Gourmet feature is restricted to questions regarding food and nutrition. Due to the many questions we receive, not all questions may be answered. For more specific questions about your individual health, please contact your doctor. About Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy



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...


The short answer is that they are about the same. Two teaspoons of either "cheap generic" mayonnaise or margarine will contain 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 is 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 US Government now mandates that the amount be reported in the Nutrition Facts section on the package label.

If you had the option, a better alternative to both of these would be the equivalent amount of peanut butter. Two teaspoons has about the same number 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, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet