Kidney Diet Tips

Spreads, Butter and Margarine: Which is Healthiest?

You may enjoy the rich flavor of butter or margarine on bread, pancakes, baked potatoes or grits. However, you may wonder which one is the best kidney-friendly option. Let’s take a closer look at these popular spreads.

Butter and Margarine

Both butter and margarine are fat. Butter is mostly saturated fat, while margarine is mainly unsaturated fat.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend to restrict saturated fats to less than 10% of total calories to reduce the risk of heart disease (1). Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, that means 13 grams of saturated fat are allowed per day.

1 tablespoon of butter =                     7 grams of saturated fat (4)

1 tablespoon of stick margarine =      2 grams of saturated fat (4)

1 tablespoon of soft margarine =       1 gram of saturated fat (4)

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at higher risk for heart disease and should limit the amount of (total) fat consumed (2).

Vegetable-Based Spreads and Oils

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommend that people cook with vegetable oils such as canola, olive, peanut and safflower, instead of butter, lard or coconut oil. Fruit oils such as palm kernel, palm and coconut oil are not included in the recommendation because of the higher saturated fat content (1).

So, the next time you’re at the grocery store look for options that do not contain saturated or trans fats. Remember to use butter, margarine or plant-based spreads in small amounts and check the Nutrition Facts Label for more information.

To learn more about following a kidney diet, talk with your dietitian, who can also help you create a kidney-friendly meal plan.


  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025
  2. NIH: Diet & Nutrition for Adults with Advanced Chronis Kidney Disease
  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Trans Fat
  4. USDA Food Data Central

Additional Kidney Diet Resources

Visit and explore these diet and nutrition resources:

DaVita Food Analyzer

DaVita Dining Out Guides

Today’s Kidney Diet Cookbooks

DaVita Kidney-Friendly Recipes

Diet and Nutrition Articles                                                      

Diet and Nutrition Videos

Kidney Smart® Virtual Classes

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Dawn Johnson, MS, RDN, LD

Dawn Johnson, MS, RDN, LD

Dawn Johnson MS, RDN, LD knew she wanted to be a dietitian when she was 18 years old. Now practicing over 20 years, Dawn has worked in various settings with a focus in renal nutrition over 12 years. She is passionate about addressing, examining and resolving people’s ambivalence for change. Dawn resides in Highland, Indiana with her husband and 2 young children. During her personal time, she likes to run, visit her local library and volunteer at church.