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Is Butter Bad for You?

Published June 09, 2019 (Revised: July 10, 2019)
<article> <section> <p>For many years, we were told to avoid butter at all costs and choose margarine instead. And let’s be honest, even products that claim to taste ‘just like butter’ really don’t even come close.</p> <p>The great thing is that butter is on its way back. New research has discovered several benefits of butter, and it may be way healthier than we have been led to believe. But where <i>does</i> the science stand on butter?</p> <p>Let's go back to the basics to understand just where things got cloudy in the butter churn.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What is Butter?</header> <p>Butter is the creamy, rich dairy product that is the result of churning milk. This process separates the solid fat from the liquid fat in milk. Butter can be made from the milk of different animals, such as cows, sheep, buffalo, and goats. Most of the research we'll dive into focuses on butter made from cow’s milk.</p> <p>Butter is a common ingredient used for cooking. It can be heated to high temperatures, making it ideal for baking as well. It prevents foods from sticking and adds a rich flavor to pretty much everything you put it in and on.</p> <p>Some stats on 1 tablespoon of butter:<sup>1</sup></p> <ul style="list-style: none;"> <li>Calories: 102</li> <li>Total Fat: 11.5 grams</li> <li>Saturated fat: 7 grams</li> <li>Monounsaturated fat: 3 grams</li> <li>VItamins A and E</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="butter-in-frying-pan"> </picture> <p>Butter is also a good source of <i>conjugated linoleic acid</i>, an anti-inflammatory fat with many health benefits, as well as a source of <i>butyrate</i>, a fat that plays an important role in digestive health.</p> <p>The problem that many people have with butter is its saturated fat content; also why it has been on the ‘avoid’ list for so long. But, as we'll see, the ills of saturated fat in our diets may have been a bit exaggerated. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why is Butter Controversial?</header> <p>Nutrition research has had a long and difficult history with butter. Maybe the reason butter is <i>"problematic"</i> is because we can’t imagine it's possible that something tastes <i>so</i> good <i>and</i> is still good for us. </p> <p>The fight with butter started way back in 1855 when it was declared a food with no nutritional value other than to form fat in our bodies. Over the next century it was blamed for health problems spanning from hair loss to tooth decay to multiple diseases. By the mid-1990s, butter was believed to be the worst possible fat for your health and should be avoided at all costs.<sup>2</sup></p> <p>Since then there has been so much back and forth about butter and its saturated fat content. Is it good or bad? <i>Here is where the science stands right now</i>: saturated fats do not cause heart disease. So, butter is not bad for you. But when you replace saturated fats with a higher intake of polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3s from fish), then heart disease risk is even lower. Aka, there are just <i>better</i> fats for us out there.<sup>3</sup> </p> <p>This type of research may be why people get confused about the health benefits of butter. Yes, eating healthier fats, such as omega-3s, is ideal. But butter is not the enemy either. At this point, most experts agree that butter can be part of a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fats.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="doctor-testing-foods"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Health Benefits of Butter</header> <p>Even with all the negativity surrounding it, butter has many health benefits. Here are just a few of them:</p> <div class="sub-head">1. Good source of vitamin A</div> <p>Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and vision. It also supports a well-functioning immune system.<sup>4</sup> A tablespoon of butter provides 11 percent of your daily vitamin A needs.</p> <div class="sub-head">2. Good source of vitamin E</div> <p>Vitamin E is an antioxidant that promotes heart health. Due to the low intake of healthy fats in the diet, many people don’t get enough of this important vitamin; butter can help.<sup>5</sup> </p> <div class="sub-head">3. Decreased risk of obesity</div> <p>A 2013 review of sixteen studies found that intake of high-fat dairy foods like butter was associated with a decreased risk of obesity, not a higher one.<sup>6</sup> </p> <div class="sub-head">4. May lower risk of diabetes</div> <p>A 2016 review of over 630,000 participants found that for each additional serving of butter, the risk of type 2 diabetes decreased by 4 percent.<sup>7</sup></p> <div class="sub-head">5. May lower risk of heart attacks and stroke</div> <p>Although we were told to avoid butter because it would increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, that was not accurate. A 2006 study found that eating high-fat dairy products like butter actually lowered the risk of heart attacks and stroke.<sup>8</sup> </p> <div class="sub-head">6. The CLA in butter has many health benefits</div> <p><i>Conjugated linoleic acid</i> (CLA) is an anti-inflammatory fat and may also boost immune function.<sup>9</sup> Research has found that it may have anti-cancer properties, although this research is preliminary.<sup>10</sup> It may also help reduce body fat.<sup>11</sup> </p> <div class="sub-head">7. Butyrate in butter promotes digestive health</div> <p><i>Butyrate</i> is a short-chain fat that is produced by the beneficial bacteria in the gut. It has been found to improve gut health and lower inflammation.<sup>12</sup> A handful of animal studies suggest that it may boost metabolism and help with weight management.<sup>13</sup> </p> <p>As you can see, butter has a lot of health benefits. But this doesn’t give you permission to douse all your food with butter. Another flag to look out for: it does contain a significant amount of calories and needs to be part of a well-balanced diet.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Where Science Stands on Butter</header> <p>Although there are tons of benefits about eating butter, the research is still mixed. A 2016 study found those that ate more butter had higher ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol when compared to those that ate more olive oil.<sup>14</sup> A more recent 2018 study had similar findings when comparing butter intake with coconut oil or olive oil.<sup>15</sup> </p> <p>Many major health organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the US Dietary Guidelines, still recommend that you keep saturated fat intake at less than 10 percent of your total daily calories, while focusing on a greater intake of mono- and polyunsaturated fats.<sup>16</sup></p> <p>Based on these mixed findings, moderating your butter intake is probably the key.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="cubed-butter-tomatoes"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Should You Eat Butter?</header> <p>The bottom line is yes, you should eat butter, along with a variety of other fats.</p> <p>Butter does not need to be feared. It is high in nutrients that may help boost your weight loss while following a keto diet. It can be part of a healthy diet that includes other fats as well, such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and fish. </p> <p>For recipes and weekly grocery lists that'll call for high-quality butter and numerous healthy fats our <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">meal plans</a> are here for you. Butter get to it!</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">USDA Food Composition Databases</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Is Butter Good for You? Or Bad?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Saturated Fat Consumption and Risk</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">What is vitamin A and why do we need it?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Vitamin E and Health</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Is Butter Back?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Intake of milk fat, reflected in adipose tissue fatty acids</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Effect of CLA supplementation on immune function in young healthy volunteers</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Role of the conjugated linoleic acid in the prevention of cancer</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Butyrate improves insulin sensitivity and increases energy expenditure in mice</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Butter increased total and LDL cholesterol</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Randomised trial of coconut oil, olive oil or butter on blood lipids</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Food and Nutrition</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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