Butter 101: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits and FAQs

Posted by Lowrey Foods on

Butter has gotten a bad wrap in recent times. Thankfully, people are coming to their senses and realising, this whole food which has been a part of ancient cultures and diets from around the world, is a delicious and nutritious food, and a perfectly acceptable fat to include in a balanced diet.

Butter Is Loved All Around The World

Butter has been a staple in kitchens around the world for centuries, and its resurgenece in popularity shows no signs of slowing down. From its creamy texture to its rich flavor, it's no surprise that butter is a staple in many dishes and baked goods, including our very own butter cookies.

Another driver behind butter's recent spur in popularity is due to a growing trend of embracing traditional and artisanal production methods. Whether it's European-style cultured butter, small-batch churned butter, or grass-fed butter, there is no shortage of options to choose from. It's clear that the global love for butter is here to stay.

What's Inside Butter: Ingredients and How It's Made

Butter is a simple and delicious ingredient that can be found in many recipes, but what exactly is it made of? Here's a breakdown of the ingredients and process behind the beloved spread:

Butter Ingredients:

  • Cream
  • Salt (some variations may also include flavorings or preservatives)

The Butter Production Process:

  • Churning cream until it reaches a thick, semi-solid consistency
  • Separating the butterfat from the liquid (buttermilk)
  • Rinsing and kneading the butterfat to remove any remaining buttermilk and create a smooth texture
  • Forming the butter into the desired shape (stick or block)
  • Packaging for sale

It's amazing to think that such a rich and flavorful ingredient can come from just a few simple components with minimal processing. Whether you prefer sweet cream butter or something more savory, there's no denying the versatility and deliciousness of this classic spread.

Is Butter Healthy?

Thanks to the works of people like Sally Fallon, Mary Enig and the Weston A. Price Foundation, many of the misconceptions and myths around butter have been debunked. The idea that butter was unhealthy and linked to cardiovascular disease was a product of the low-fat era that pervaded the 1970s. This period saw a significant shift in public health policy and nutritional advice, largely influenced by studies such as the Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keys, which linked saturated fat consumption to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

A more recent systematic review of the literature suggests there's no reason to demonize butter or associate it with overall mortality, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Butter is a great source of saturated fats and vitamins, including vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.

Using butter in your diet may have many benefits for your health. If you’re considering switching to a healthier diet, adding butter to your meals, as opposed to highly refined and rancid vegetable seed oils, is a good place to start.

One important consideration is the type of butter you are consuming. Butter made from grass-fed cows is generally considered to be healthier, as it is higher in nutrients such as vitamin K2 and conjugated linoleic acid. On the other hand, butter made from grain-fed cows may be lower in these nutrients and contain more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

To take your butter game to a whole new level, try using cultured butter which has the added benefits of beneficial bacteria as seen in other fermented foods. 

Surprising Butter Benefits of Eating Butter

Eating butter can provide a range of health benefits when consumed in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet. Some of the surprising health benefits of butter include:

  • Rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K2. These vitamins play essential roles in maintaining bone health, enhancing immune function, and preventing arterial calcification. Vitamin K2, in particular, is crucial for cardiovascular health as it helps prevent the buildup of calcium in the arteries​.
  • High in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), particularly when butter is sourced from grass-fed cows. CLA is a fatty acid that has been linked to various health benefits including anti-cancer properties, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced body fat.
  • Contains butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that supports digestive health. Butyrate has been shown to reduce inflammation in the colon, improve insulin sensitivity, and protect against type 2 diabetes. It also helps maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier and regulates bowel motility.
  • Good source of saturated fat. These fats are stable and resistant to oxidation, making them safer for cooking at high temperatures without forming harmful free radicals.
  • The lauric acid in butter has antimicrobial properties that promote a healthy gut environment.

How to Enjoy Butter and Stay Healthy?

Butter can be a delicious and nutritious addition to a well-balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Like any high calorie food, excessive consumption may lead to weight gain. Here are a few tips for enjoying butter while still maintaining good health:

  • Choose unsalted, minimally processed butter whenever possible to minimize the risk of harmful by-products and excess sodium intake
  • Consume butter in moderation and balance it with other sources of healthy fats, such as olive oil or avocados
  • Use butter as a flavor enhancer rather than the main component of a dish
  • Don't forget to also incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods into your diet for overall good health.

Which is Better for Your Health: Natural Butter or Margarine?

When it comes to choosing between natural butter and margarine, there are nutrition facts about butter to consider as well as have some cons. Here are some points to consider when determining which option is better for your health:

  • Natural butter is made from cream, which means it is a source of natural vitamins and minerals. However, it is also high in saturated fat and calories, which can increase the risk of heart disease and weight gain when consumed in excess.
  • Margarine is made from vegetable oils, which means it is usually lower in saturated fat than butter. However, some types of margarine may contain trans fats, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems.
  • If you choose to consume butter, opt for unsalted, minimally processed varieties and consume it in moderation. If you prefer margarine, look for brands that are trans-fat-free and made with healthier fats, such as olive oil or avocado oil.
  • It's also important to remember that both butter and margarine should be consumed in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

How Much Butter is Too Much?

It is generally recommended to consume butter in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 13 grams per day for most adults. One tablespoon of butter contains approximately 7 grams of saturated fat, so it is important to consider portion sizes when consuming butter.

It is also a good idea to balance butter intake with other sources of healthy fats, such as olive oil or avocados, and to incorporate a variety of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, into your diet. Overall, it is important to listen to your body and pay attention to your overall diet and lifestyle in order to maintain good health.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is butter bad for your cholesterol?

Butter is high in saturated fat but recent research suggests that the saturated fats in butter do not necessarily contribute to heart disease. Saturated fats are stable and resistant to oxidation, making them a safer choice for high-temperature cooking as they do not produce harmful free radicals.

Does butter make you fat?

Butter is high in fat and calories, which can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. However, moderate consumption of butter as part of a well-balanced diet is unlikely to cause significant weight gain.

Can eating too much butter kill you?

It is unlikely that consuming large amounts of butter alone would cause death.

However, excessive consumption of butter, like any food, can have negative implications. It is important to consume butter in moderation and to maintain a well-balanced diet to promote overall good health.

How is New Zealand butter made and what makes it so special?

New Zealand butter is made using a traditional method known as "creamery butter" production. This involves separating the cream from raw cow's milk and then churning it until it turns into butter. This process is typically done by hand, using large wooden churns, which allows the butter to develop its characteristic flavor and texture.

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