According to some, there’s nothing better than butter. People slather it on bread, mix it into mashed potatoes and sauté vegetables in it. Virtually all baked goods contain a large amount of butter. But, as much as people love butter, it doesn’t love them back. Although butter does contain some nutrients, it has high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease.
Nutrients in Butter
Butter does have small amounts of some nutrients. According to the USDA, 1 tablespoon of butter contains about 3 mg each of calcium, phosphorous, potassium and choline. It also has 22 mcg of beta-carotene, 9 IUs of vitamin D and 355 IUs of vitamin A, as well as trace amounts of vitamins E, D, K, and B-12. Butter also contains a healthy dose of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Negative Qualities of Butter
Each tablespoon of butter contains about 426 calories, according to the USDA. Butter’s worst quality is its high fat concentration. Just one tablespoon has 36 percent of your daily-recommended allowance for saturated fat, according to Shape Magazine. A tablespoon of butter also contains 30mg of cholesterol, about 10 percent of your daily recommendation. Salted butter contains about 81mg of sodium per tablespoon, or 3 percent of your recommended daily value.
Effects of Butter on Heart Health
According to the American Heart Association, the combination of saturated fat and cholesterol makes butter a highly atherogenic food, meaning a food that causes your arteries to become blocked, leading to heart disease, heart attacks and even death. Saturated fat should make up no more than 7 percent of your total daily calories. Healthy adults should limit dietary cholesterol to 300mg per day, and those with high blood cholesterol or heart disease should consume no more than200 mg. Remember that amounts listed here are for just 1 tablespoon, and many people use more than that at any given meal. Besides using it to spread on bread, many cook and bake with butter, so it can really add up.
Butter vs. Margarine
Margarine is often touted as a healthier alternative to butter, but this isn’t always the case. According to Martha Grogan, from the Mayo Clinic, some kinds of margarine are, in fact, worse for you than butter. Margarine is made from vegetable oils, which contain no cholesterol. It is also higher in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats than butter, and these can help reduce blood cholesterol. However, stick margarines have high levels of trans fat, which increases blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and actually lowers good cholesterol in your blood.
Grogan recommends buying both butter and margarine wisely. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on packages and choose brands that have the lowest levels of saturated and trans fats. Whipped or light butter has the taste you love, but lower saturated fat. Blends of butter and olive or canola oil are also a good choice; they have less fat and calories than regular butter. No matter which spread you choose, use it sparingly. When cooking, use olive oil, an unsaturated fat, instead of butter.