/ Food & Drink, Health

Butter vs spreads – what goes on your bread?

Are you a butter or a spreads fan? I’m very much in the butter camp – nothing else quite cuts it on my morning slice of toast. Even though it is 80% fat…

One of my best childhood memories is of being given a piece of toast, still slightly warm, and smeared with gently melting butter.

The creaminess and hit of smooth flavour on a cold winter’s morning was a glorious wake-up call to my taste buds after years of having eaten flavourless margarine.

How healthy is butter?

Advice has generally been to stay away from butter – it’s 80% fat after all. However, provided your doctor hasn’t told you to cut your saturated fat intake, you can use butter on your toast guilt-free as long as you bear in mind how much saturated fat you’re consuming from other sources. And, unlike spread, butter naturally contains Vitamin D. Although many spreads are fortified with added Vitamin D.

The British Heart Foundation advises people to swap butter for spreads and, as you can see in the graph below, you’ll be eating less saturated fat if you do.

Butter versus spreads for saturated fat

This shows how much of your Reference Intake (RI) of saturated fat you’ll get from a standard 10g serving of block butter, spreadable butter and spreads (enough for one to two slices of bread, depending on how thickly you like to spread it!).

The taste of butter

Personally, I much prefer the taste of butter. I don’t really like eating spreads on my toast all by itself. I’d have to add jam or marmalade, which means I’d be eating sugar I could’ve avoided if I’d simply used butter. Decent butter is packed full of flavour, so you don’t need to add anything else to your toast.

OK, not everyone likes butter. The best-selling product in the UK is actually dairy spread, which is why we asked members of the public to taste 11 of them so we could recommend the best dairy spreads. I even use it myself in sandwiches, as it’s easier to spread on the bread – especially in winter.

But for me, butter is best on toast. I love toast and even make my own bread, so it’s important to me that my butter is right. When I was a kid, Anchor butter did the job but it doesn’t seem to taste the same to me anymore.

French butter doesn’t work for my British taste buds – it’s too milky, as is alpine butter. Upmarket butters with sea salt aren’t right, are too expensive and a bit too subtle for my liking. After lots of research and chomping my way through many, many rounds of toast, my latest personal favourite is Waitrose Essential Butter.

Are you a butter or spread person? Which, if any, would you recommend?


I agree that toast tastes better with butter but we use olive spread and then I cover it with Marmite which makes everything perfect.

I notice that your favoured butter is Waitrose Essential Butter. I dislike the misuse of the word “essential” in this sense. There is nothing absolutely necessary about butter [i.e. without which life could not be sustained]. It is possible that Waitrose are using “essential” in its other sense, of pertaining to the essence of a thing, but that would be pretty abstruse. So they are trying to make out that it is vital to eat butter. Or perhaps they are just ignorant, or have been seduced by the modern terminology of “essential oils” which are indeed derived from the essence of a substance although, again, the language is being projected into a more suggestive meaning that borrows from the indispensability connotations of “essential” rather than its compositional features.


The butter in question and other products are marked ‘essential Waitrose’, so perhaps the silly people in marketing think it is necessary to shop at Waitrose.


Our butter is marked “simply M&S”. This is all a response from all the supermarkets to one introducing the concept of “basic” everyday foods. You are right, it is marketing speak, but many people will buy them because they will believe they will be decent quality no frills groceries – which they may well be. Kepping inl ine with the competition, and it give the marketing departments something to do.

I wonder when we will see “essential (or simply or everyday or value) gas and electricity”?

Bob Fasoli says:
20 January 2015

Marmite….the food of the devil. LOL. It reallys is a love or hate product.


I can remember when there was a black glass shortage and for a period Marmite came in clear glass jars with white lids. I kept one of the jars and it is now in the shed full of galvanised fencing nails.


Are those for the mice in your shed to have fencing competitions?


I confess to sitting on the fence about Marmite. I love the taste but hate how salty it is.

Thankfully no one has proposed spreading mayonnaise on their bread or toast.


I often have mayo or salad cream instead of butter or spread especially in pitta bread.

Also, if you have a dairy allergy, mayo can be a good butter substitute for sandwiches if you eat out.