Butter the super food
Is Butter Healthy ?
Butter is a real treat for taste buds…. Who doesn’t love the taste of creamy butter? It is made by churning the cream of milk which separates out as semi-solid butter and liquid buttermilk. While the homemade butter is salt-free, what is easily available in the market is usually salted. Butter consists of 15% to 17% of water, 1% to 2% of milk, 80% to 82% of fat and probably 1% to 2% of salt.
Butter and all types of fats have always been under research since years. The old theory stated that butter has a lot of saturated fats, which made it a culprit to many diseases like weight gain, high cholesterol, heart disease and so on…. However, new research doesn’t show link between the saturated fat content and heart disease or high cholesterol. Butter was considered as an enemy of our health and we have always aimed to eliminate it from our diet. Now, the research has shown a twist. Butter has a comeback with new supported health benefits. Let’s review these…
Nutritive Information for Butter:
1 tbsp of salted butter is about 12 grams
RDA stands for Recommended Daily Allowance.
Energy - 88 calories
Protein – 0 g
Carbohydrate – 0 g
Fat – 9.7 g
See full nutritional details of butter in Butter glossary click here.
Fats in Butter – How healthy are they? Who can consume it and how much?
As motioned butter contains 80% fats and it comprises of many types of fatty acids. Let’s look at all one-by-one.
In butter, saturated fatty acids (SFA) form the major type (around 65-70%) followed by mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) (around 25%) along with least amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which around 2 to 3%. Other types of fats in butter are cholesterol and phospholipids. Within the saturated fats, around 10 to 15% is from short chain fatty acids and medium chain fatty acids. Here is where the health factor begins. These type of fatty acids get metabolized in a different way in our body. Because of their shorter chain length and medium chain length, they are broken down and absorbed into the body directly. Unlike the long chain fatty acids, the medium chain fatty acids go straight to the liver and get converted to fuel to be used by the muscles and organs. They don’t get deposited as fat. Thus the research has shown that these fats are healthy for weight loss. Also read MCT with coconut.
The short chain fat – butyrate – has been known to reduce intestinal inflammation and promote digestive health too. Due to this anti-inflammatory effect, it is said to have a positive effect in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Butter is also a rich source of another type of fat namely conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Few researches have shown that CLA may protect against various types of cancer, especially colon and breast. However it has been found that CLA is present in high concentration in grass-fed cow’s than grain-fed cows.
Yes, butter also contains cholesterol and some amount of cholesterol is necessary for the body. Cholesterol has a role to play in cell health, brain function and some hormone production. In fact, low levels of cholesterol can also pose a health concern sometimes. It may show sign of poor cognition, depression and anxiety.
Butter for Diabetics, Heart
For diabetics, carbohydrates gain more importance over the fats to control the blood sugar levels. Yes, fats do not have a direct relation with blood sugar levels. But one needs to eat an overall healthy diet. High levels of fats in diet often have been a causative factor of clogged arteries and heart attack. But the recent research shows that small amounts of butter has positive effects on heart health. So diabetics too can have small quantity of butter and balance it with other types of fats they consume. However more research yet needs to be unfolded in this area. Moreover diabetics often tend to have other health complications with time. So it is highly advisable to include any kind of fat, including butter, after seeking your dietitian’s advise.
Antioxidant Power of Butter
Vitamin A : A tbsp. of butter fulfills 8% of your days requirement of vitamin A. This Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant which is essential for glowing skin health and immune function. Moreover it also has a role to play in clear vision, especially at night. A deficiency of vitamin A can lead to dry skin and wrinkles and in extreme case even night blindness. Thus small amounts of butter can help top up on vitamin A, thus facilitating overall cell health and improving body’s defense system.
Vitamin E : This vitamin serves an antioxidant too. It protects the cells by harmful effects of free radicals. These free radicals are produced in the body as a result of metabolism and also triggered due to other factors like stress, pollution and smoking. Thus Vitamin E has been linked to providing protection from chronic diseases like cancer, heart diseases and so on…
Some Health Concerns with Butter
Butter is high in calories – 88 calories from a tbsp. That’s a lot in reality. While moderation can be beneficial, over indulging is chunk of calories, which can lead to weight gain. While adding butter to your diet, you need to swap it with other type of fat consumption for the day. If this isn’t practiced, increase in waist line is sure to be visible within no time. Excess consumption of butter may not only lead to obesity, but other ailments like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes are also likely to set in.
Thus, despite its long-standing health benefits, it should be included in moderation as a part of the balanced meal plan. The best idea would be to stick to not more than a tbsp. Those who already have existing heart problems or hypertension, must surely discuss the addition of the butter in their diet with their dietitian.
Another type of healthy fat which you can rely is omega-3 fatty acids found in olive oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts etc.
Another concern with butter is its usage. How you use it in cooking is very important. Combing it with refined flour (maida) to create Pudding, Waffles, Fudge and Biscuits is the last option you should opt for. The maida is devoid of nutrients and to add to it these delicacies call for inclusion of a lot of sugar. Both these ingredients are a ladder to many diseases. Instead go ahead and create healthy fare like Grilled Mushrooms in Garlic and Dill or use butter to spread on a healthy bread like Almond Bread.
Amongst the types of butter available are salted and unsalted. Definitely the unsalted butter will reap more benefits. When cooking with butter, you can unquestionably use the unsalted version and then go ahead and add the flavourings of your choice. The same holds true for baking as well. Salted butter can be avoided there too.
Another feature that needs to be paid attention is to the source of butter – whether it is made from milk of grass-fed cows or grain-fed cows. Some research has shown that the grass-fed butter has small amounts of higher nutrition vlaue than grain-fed butter.
Butter and Lactose Intolerance Link
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which a person has the inability to digest milk and its products. This mainly occurs due to lack of an enzyme – lactase in the body. The intensity of lactose intolerance may vary from person to person. While some may handle curd, some may handle butter also. This is mainly because the process of butter making removes most of the milk solids. However, it is best to try with a small quantity and continue it only if it suits your digestive system. If it doesn’t, do no despair. We have other options for you… You can try Peanut Butter or Coconut Butter.
Of course, you always want the best for yourself. You aim to nurture your body with the best. From this entire discussion, it is evident that small quantity of butter is beneficial for your heart, waist line and cell health. But in reality, excess can be harmful. This essentially stays true for everything. So, while you must include butter in your diet, the wisest verdict would be to include it along with other healthy fats as a part of balanced diet. Do not go overboard. In case of any doubt, do not hesitate to consult a dietitian.
The 4 best doctors in the world are wholesome diet, exercise, rest and sunlight. Strike a balance between these and you are set for a disease-free life.
Happy & Healthy Cooking!