Heart Health 101: Cutting Back on Butter
Has the use of butter from “back then” changed because we now, “know better” like the I Can't Believe Its Not Butter jingle from 2008 proclaimed? In just one tablespoon of butter, you get 12 grams of fat, 7 of which is saturated fat, 31 milligrams of cholesterol and a hefty 100 calories. Despite the dim nutrition facts, the Economic Research Service reports the average American enjoys 4.9 pounds of butter a year. That allotment of 15,680 calories could be used in a much better way, or make it a lot easier for you to drop that last 5 pounds. Here are the facts on fat and how you can make healthy swaps.
The biggest health concern with butter is its high saturated fat content. Saturated fat, any fat which is solid at room temperature, is known to raise LDL cholesterol which raises your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends keeping saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories. Just one tablespoon of butter could make up half of that allotment on a 1,600 calorie-a-day diet. If you eat any meat, it would be hard to stay below this recommendation.
From a calorie count standpoint, butter and margarine are almost identical at about 100 calories a tablespoon with some small variation depending on brands. The most major difference is that margarine traditionally contains trans fats. Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated oils, are artificially produced to make unsaturated fats or oils, solid at room temperature like butter. But, through the years, research found they are even worse for your cholesterol levels than saturated fat. Trans fats have been shown to lower “good” cholesterol and raise “bad,” which is doubly bad for heart health. Not all margarine is created equal. If you use margarine, avoid trans fats by looking for options that are not made with hydrogenated oils. The Center for Science in the Public Interest provides a list of Margarine and Spreads that have less than 20% of its fat from saturated or trans fats.
Dividing the 3 tablespoons of butter a week Americans eat between 21 meals is an arduous task. Fortunately, there are many healthy swaps you can make to replace butter:
- Choose mostly unsaturated oils like olive, canola, and safflower when cooking.
- Instead of putting bread on butter, use olive oil and a small amount of balsamic vinegar for a flavor boost.
- Use pureed avocado in an equal amount in place of butter in any recipe. In an ounce, you’ll lose half the calories and fat, and gain 2 grams of fiber as well as some potassium.
- For baking, use apple sauce or banana 1:1 instead of butter and you’re only looking at a quarter of the calories and virtually no fat. If the sacrifice in flavor is too much, go half and half.
- Replace fat calories from butter with other heart-healthy sources like nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.
To get a bigger picture of how fats should fit into your diet, visit the American Heart Association’s “Know Your Fats” Fact Sheet here.
How have you made the switch from butter to healthier fat options?