Better With Butter

Butter. One of my secrets in the kitchen and one of the secrets of chefs worldwide. It’s high smoke point, creamy texture and hint of delicious flavor make it the go-to ingredient for many different dishes. Butter is on a bit of a comeback, and it might be just the right time as we are learning more about the health effects of this farm family favorite. Should you bring butter back to your fridge? The answer is yes.

Emerging research shows that saturated fat may not be related to heart disease risk. Full-fat dairy foods may actually reduce heart disease risk.

What About Butter?

When it comes to butter, a 2016 study looked at butter’s effect on longevity, heart health and Type 2 diabetes. The review was extensive; study participants numbered in the hundreds of thousands from the United States and in Europe. One key thing to note was the amount of butter studied – 1 tablespoon per day. The researchers found eating butter was:

  • “Weakly associated” with reduced longevity
  • Not associated with cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease or stroke
  • Associated with reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes

Researchers concluded that this limited amount of butter, 1 tablespoon, has mostly a neutral effect when it comes to health.

A 2018 study found that saturated fatty acids from butter can increase how well the good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), works in our bodies. Although more research needs to be done, this study adds to the growing understanding of how different diets, including high-fat dairy foods, may impact heart disease risk.

Embrace the Taste

Butter can have a place on your plate. The key is to be mindful of the portion; 1 teaspoon provides 34 calories and 2.4 grams of saturated fat (about 20 calories from saturated fat), which can fit into MyPlate’s current recommendation of no more than 10% of total calories from saturated fat. So that 1 teaspoon of butter is only 1% of daily calories if the average intake is 2000 calories per day. It may be time to just enjoy the deliciousness that is butter.

In the Kitchen

Butter shines in its versatility. It is a simple food made from cream, often with a little salt added. It’s easily softened, can be clarified to raise its smoke point – which is beneficial for some recipes – and is a lactose intolerant-friendly food. Eager to change up your butter, look for different varieties such as European-style butter, whipped butter or clotted cream. Butter has a unique role in cooking because its flavor and texture is unmatched. Explore butter’s many roles in the kitchen:

  • Pan Frying: Adding a light browning layer to meats, fish or vegetables, butter provides that desired color, flavor and taste.
  • Caramelizing: Butter helps bring out the natural sugars in your food. Add butter to your favorites vegetables on low heat for a little bit of time and you’ll get a sweet, delicious side dish.
  • Sauces: Butter adds flavor and texture to a variety of sauces. It’s the foundation of the classic white sauce. Herbs, spices, a little bit of lemon and wine can all help add more flavor.
  • Baking: Butter is the ingredient that makes a biscuit tender and a pie crust flaky. When it comes to our favorite recipes, there’s no great swap. Stick with the real thing.

So, embrace all that butter has to offer and explore new ways to use it in your kitchen. Find recipes that Go Bold with Butter. Recruit family and friends to make butter at home.

By Katie McKee, MCN, RDN, LD

Katie has always loved teaching others about the power of nutrition. She has a background in journalism as a reporter, writer and editor and has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2015. When she's not working, Katie enjoys cooking and spending time with her young son and family. Learn more about Katie

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