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Heart DiseaseNutritionPrimary Care

Butter Is Delicious: Can We Use It Safely?

By September 10, 2011February 21st, 2020No Comments
Butter is really tasty and makes many foods (think toast, baked potato, vegetables, and many cooked foods) dramatically more interesting. The French cook with butter all the time and don’t all keel over from heart disease. Is there any way we can enjoy butter with our food without irretrievably clogging our arteries?

The short answer is yes. But you need to be thoughtful and careful.

Butter Facts

Here are some quantitative facts.

  • All butter is a bit over 50% saturated fat. An ounce of butter (28.4 grams) contains over 14.5 gr of saturated fat and slightly over 200 calories. Remember, your maximum desired total daily saturated fat intake is 20 grams.
  • One pat of butter is supposed to be about a teaspoon, which would be just shy of 5 gram, and so would have 2.5 gm of saturated fat per pat. But can we really use just a pat or perhaps 2 of butter?
  • Salted butter may contain close to 200 mg Na per ounce (e.g., Land ‘O Lakes). There is no need for salt in butter. And you don’t need unnecessary salt. Get unsalted butter.
  • Butter does not generally need to be refrigerated, even though most Americans do. If you generally use up a stick of butter in under about 10 days, there should be no problem with deterioration or rancidity at room temperature. Much of the world (e.g., Britain, France) does not refrigerate butter.
  • Most important, room temperature butter is soft and can be easily spread. You can apply much smaller amounts of butter that is soft.

My Experiment With Toast

In the past few weeks I repeatedly spread room temperature butter on toast and carefully measured how much butter I used. The results:

  • I used 3-4 gram of butter per 30 gram (1 oz) average piece of bread when I spread the butter carefully. That would be 1.5-2 gram of saturated fat for the morning toast.
  • By contrast, cold butter required 2-3 times the amount of butter per piece of toast, too costly in terms of saturated fat and calories
The Moral
Keep your butter at room temperature for up to a week or 10 days. Use it carefully on toast if you want. The cost in saturated fat and calories is modest. Enjoy.
Similarly, small amounts of butter on vegetables (such as broccoli) should be fine. But watch out for baked potatoes, where much larger quantities are needed to soften up the potato. There, olive oil is a better choice. It is not an improvement for calories, but contains no saturated fat.
Bon appetit! Also buon appetito! With your physician’s blessing.

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