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Q&A: Is Butter Healthy Yet?

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Q: Is it okay to eat butter or should I stick to margarine? - Mindy, Honolulu, HI

A: Margarine, the most popular butter alternative, and butter are fairly similar in that they both have 35 calories and 4 grams of fat per teaspoon. The difference: Margarine has less saturated fat and no cholesterol because it's made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but eating products containing partially hydrogenated oil increases LDL cholesterol, lowers HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and causes fat deposits around organs.

So which should you choose? Organic butter, in moderation, is best because it does not contain the artificial ingredients found in margarine. A small pad of butter on your veggies helps absorb nutrients better because fat aids in the transportation and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Another way the fat in butter can be useful is by helping to lower the overall gylcemic effect of carbohydrates on your body (for example, on a baked potato). Lowering the gylcemic effect of carbohydrates helps keep your energy consistent.

If you want a tub butter, choose one without partially hydrogentated oil. We like Earth Balance Natural Spreads and Smart Balance Spreads.

For something completely different, here are some alternatives to butter for use in recipes or as spreads: 

  • Canola, olive, grape seed, or flaxseed oil
  • Tahini
  • Almond, cashew, macadamia, or peanut butter
  • Low-fat cream cheese
  • Low-fat ricotta
  • Hummus (try our homemade recipe)
  • Avocado

Tags: Eating Out, Cooking, Weight Loss, Fat, Food