Years ago, margarine was typically made with partially hydrogenated oil, explains nutritionist Christine Avanti. "The older margarine spreads were unhealthful because of the hydrogenation process," she explains. "But fortunately the newer spreads are much more heart healthy."

Back then researchers noted that butter's high saturated fat content could raise a person's blood cholesterol, according to an article in Diabetes Forecast. Nutrition experts thus recommended margarine, until further research found that the trans fat content of margarine meant it was an even more unhealthy product than butter. Trans fats are made when liquid oils are turned into solids through hydrogenation.

Now there's a variety of no and low trans fat margarines, and it these are more heart-healthy than butter after all, according to Diabetes Forecast.

Since those with diabetes are told to choose foods that are low in fat in order to protect the heart and blood vessels, it's a good idea to minimize intake of saturated fat. And it's also good to eliminate another culprit: trans fat, according to the American Diabetes Association. To keep this unhealthy fat out of the diet, it's recommended to cut back on stick margarine, commercial baked goods like cookies and doughnuts, and packaged snack foods like some crackers. If in doubt, read the label.

Suggestions for making wise "spread" choices:

Look for a soft margarine in a tub that lists a liquid oil like safflower, soybean, canola or corn as the first ingredient, recommends the American Diabetes Association.

Look for special cholesterol-lowering margarines, says the ADA. These margarines are made with plant sterols or plant stanols, explains the ADA, which keep cholesterol from being absorbed. Having two or three tablespoons of a cholesterol-lowering margarine every day could even lower your blood cholesterol, according to the ADA.

Whatever spread you choose, remember that moderation is the key. Just about any food is okay when eaten in a modest amount, so resolve to keep portions of either butter or margarine small.

Keep in mind that all fats are high in calories--about 100 in every tablespoon. So if you're trying to lose weight, keep the portions very small. One way to keep your intake of butter or margarine down is to avoid using them in cooking. Instead, use non-stick pans and a cooking spray such as Pam. Save the spreads for where you'll really taste them: on toast, crackers or English muffins.