Butter is perhaps the most popular and tastiest form of dairy there is out there. It has many great nutritional benefits, but like all food, it is only beneficial when consumed in moderation. Butter is multifunctional, from being a popular breakfast spread to an essential ingredient in cooking and baking, it is used almost all the time. The rich, creamy flavor of butter has become the heart of several desserts and sauces!
There is no denying the benefits of butter. Although in the past, butter has been regarded as “too rich”, it is only because of its high levels of saturated fat. Saturated fat when consumed excessively, builds up in our arteries and leads to heart attack, cholesterol, high blood pressure and many other health issues. But butter can also be healthy if we can find a proper way to include it in our daily diet.
Read on to find out about all the health benefits hidden in this buttery goodness.
How Is Butter Made?
Butter is made from churning milk for a long time. The process involves the membranes of the fat to be broken down and rejoin together, which increases the thickness. After sufficient churning, the milk stiffens up and becomes so dense as to form butter. Churned cream also results in butter, but in a denser form. The process of churning separates the solid part of milk constituting of the butterfats from the liquid part of milk, also known as buttermilk.
While the creamy solid content makes beautiful pale yellow butter, the buttermilk is also used in baking, desserts and is great for fried chicken marination. Buttermilk is rich in protein and carbs while butter itself takes away most of the fats. The high content of fat in butter is what gives it the signature smooth and creamy texture. So next time you over whip your whipping cream, do not throw it away. Strain the butter from the liquid and put both to good use!
Butter is a very versatile ingredient that is essential in countless food items. Be it a short crust pastry for a tart, choux pastry for profiteroles or eclairs or savory béchamel sauce to top off your steak or pour over pasta, butter is a crucial ingredient for many. Butter has many variations too; salted, unsalted, organic, grass-fed and clarified, each serving its unique purpose and holding a different taste. Each sort of butter also contains different contents and ratios of ingredients.
A special property of butter makes it a very versatile ingredient; it has a high smoke point. Due to this factor, butter can be easily incorporated while sautéing or flambéing; two methodical ways to take your food to better heights of taste. It is also the reason why butter is essential in white sauce, béchamel, veloute or choux pastry as it does not stick when mixed with flour. Furthermore, burning butter also known as brown butter also provides great taste and not a burning stench due to this characteristic of butter. Brown butter can be used to make steak sauce and blondies.
How Much Fat Is In Butter?
Approximately, 80% of butter is fat, while the rest is water content (16%) and other contents in minimal amount. Although butter looks like a very simple rectangular chunk, it is actually quite a complex dairy product holding up to 400 different kinds of fatty acids.
If we were to divide the fat content of butter in a tablespoon, then there is 7.29 grams of saturated fat (63%), 2.99 grams of monounsaturated fat (26%), 0.43 grams of polyunsaturated fat (4%) and 0.47 grams of trans fat (6%).
Furthermore, butter contains short-chain fatty acids known as butyrate. Although a type of fat, butyrate is famous for its several health benefits. Butyrate aids in digestion and resolves intestinal problems aiding intestinal inflammation. Not only that, this component can treat irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. It provides energy for the cells in the intestine to function collectively.
Talking about fats, another fat content high in butter is saturated fat. Saturated fat is also found in other meat and dairy products. While in the past saturated fat was connected with heart disease, a recent study has found no such solid evidence regarding that. However, this does not give you a ticket to consume high amounts of saturated fat! This fat should be combined with other healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, to stay safe and healthy.
Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats make up 30% of butter’s fat content. These are good fats. Monounsaturated fat lowers the level of bad cholesterol (LDL), it helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases and reduces the risks of heart disease and stroke. Polyunsaturated fats are similar to monounsaturated fats but they also contain essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These further aid brain function and cell growth.
Another type of fat found in butter is trans fat. Many people assume all trans fat to be bad, but dairy trans fat is actually considered to be good for the body. Butter is a rich source of trans fat. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of trans fat contained in butter. When taken in moderation, studies have found that CLA can aid weight loss and prevent certain types of cancer from occurring.
So if you prevent yourself from having butter thinking about how much fat in butter there is, think again. There is a good amount of fat but there are good fats as well. In fact, many specialized diets such as ketogenic diet where there is no carbohydrate are rich in butter intake for the fat content. Thus, stop beating yourself up and enjoy your bread butter toast every morning for breakfast.
Butter Nutrition Facts
Butter is a high-calorie food since it is composed mainly of fatty content. In terms of calorie, 14 gm of butter, which roughly amounts up to one tablespoon has 100 calories in it. For the sake of comparison, that is as much as a regular-sized banana. Yes, that is a whole lot. But if you are too consumed with the amount of calorie in butter, you will never be able to consume it properly without breaking a sweat!
Other nutritional content in a tablespoon of butter are 11.5 grams of fat and vitamins A, E, D, K and B12. It also contains a minimal amount of protein, carbohydrate and sugar. Water content is 16%. The amount of protein in butter and carbs in butter is extremely low. Consumption of butter in small amounts would render them negligible. A tablespoon of butter contains only 0.01 grams of sugar and the same amount of carbohydrate.
Butter has a good amount of vitamin A, which is fat-soluble. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for good skin health, functional immune system and to promote a healthy vision. A tablespoon of butter contains roughly 11% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI). Vitamin E, on the other hand, is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help to protect your cells against damage and make you look younger for longer. Thus, butter makes you look better!
Vitamins D and K (K2) are also present in butter in small amounts. Both are essential for our well being. Vitamin K2 is considered a good source to prevent against heart disease and osteoporosis, a bone disease typically affecting the elderly. Other nutrients contained in butter in very small amounts are riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus and minerals including manganese, chromium, iodine, zinc, copper and selenium.
Benefits of Butter
The existence of butter can be traced back to thousands of years. Butter is essentially mentioned in the Bible, making it a sacred component of the Hindu culture. Butter is considered so pure that it is used as an offering to God in many religions. It is in fact, milk in its purest form.
However, over the years, butter has been associated with affecting people’s health adversely. Butter has been claimed to be a major cause of coronary artery diseases (CAD), owing to its high content of saturated fats. While butter is mainly composed of fat, it is not all that bad. Butter taken in moderation and in the right amount can actually add to your health benefits. Here is a list of health and other benefits that butter brings about:
- Helps Prevent Diseases
Carotene is a rare yet essential element for the human body that is found in butter. Once inside our system, carotene is converted to either vitamin A or antioxidants. Either way, the body reaps its benefits. This boosts the immune system and contains anti-infectious qualities. In essence, this also encourages cell repair, regrowth and regeneration.
- Maintain Skin Health
Consuming butter will make your skin look like butter too; soft, plump and glossy. Butter contains certain nutritional values that are necessary for maintenance of good skin health. Many people also massage their skin directly with pure butter, or make homemade scrubs and face packs with it. Given the state of butter while in room temperature, it can be easily mixed with other ingredients to prepare homemade face masks. Add it with natural herbs that are easy on the skin or mix it with fruits and berries to make a homemade scrub.
- Versatile ingredient
Other than health benefits and DIY face packs, butter is also a crucial ingredient in cooking. Be it any state, there are various things you can cook up with butter. While frozen, you can grate it to make scones and pastry doughs. While in its natural state at room temperature, you can simply spread it on your bagel, toasts or pancakes. While in liquid form, you can create delectable sauces with it or use it in dessert creations such as baklava. It is a treasured ingredient for chefs and cooks all over the world.
Better be Safe than Sorry
Despite the several benefits that butter posits, it is no secret that it also contains a high level of saturated fat. Saturated fat is bad for the body and should not surpass a certain level of consumption. You can cook all you like with butter but be careful not to overindulge yourself.
Natural, raw and organic butter that skips the step of pasteurization is better than the many variations. Highly processed butter, or a common alternative, margarine, contain many additives and chemicals. These snatch away the many benefits that natural butter provides.
Before consuming butter, you should also keep in mind certain health concerns such as milk allergy and lactose intolerance. The daily recommended intake of saturated fat should be less than 10% of your total calorie intake. Other alternatives for a healthier fat would be avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fatty fish.
Thus, enjoy your butter but in the right amount and moderation.
- Butter – BBC Good Food