For years we’ve been told butter is bad for our health, but some substitutes may be worse. Here’s better news:
Funded Butter Study
A research team from Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy recently conducted a study on butter. It was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and collected data from over 600,000 people from 15 different countries. The findings suggest that butter may not be as unhealthy as we’ve been led to believe.
Study senior author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian explains, “…butter should neither be demonized nor considered back as a route to good health.” In essence, the doctor is adding a disclaimer to the statement “butter is fine.” It doesn’t provide any real nutritional or health benefits. But, if eaten in small quantities, it doesn’t appear to create any significant rise in the risk of heart disease.
Churning the Fat
Butter is fattening. Per tablespoon, the delicious dairy-derived spread contains 100 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat. It’s the saturated fat that’s dangerous to heart health when eaten in abundance. There are other fats and oils that have just as many calories, but contain the “good” fats. Furthermore, butter contains a minimal amount of nutrition. But no doubt, butter is yummy.
The study found that eating butter was not associated with heart disease when consumed in small portions. However, it warned that on all other counts, butter is still a high-fat, high-calorie food.
What’s Better than Butter?
When talking health-wise as a spread, you still have a large variety of tasty options that are better than butter. Any monosaturated fat product is going to be healthier. Foods offering omega-3 fat sources are also good choices. A short list includes: flaxseed, coconut, and extra virgin olive oil, peanut and/or almond butter, salmon, and avocado.
What’s Not Better?
Unhealthier choices than butter include any product with hydrogenated or even partially hydrogenated oils. These contain trans-fats, which can ultimately be deadly. More than minimal amounts of sugar and starches can be worse for you than eating butter. High saturated fatty foods such as red meat, dark poultry meat and certain cheeses are also in the unhealthier than butter category.
Treating yourself to a teaspoon of butter on a warm roll or melting a small dollop in the pan to scramble with your egg whites is fine. Keeping the bad fats at bay (or to an extreme minimum) will not affect your overall health—especially if you eat mindfully and exercise habitually.