Butter is commonly viewed as an unhealthy food choice, especially for those with heart problems, due to its high saturated fat content. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths globally and the relationship between saturated fats and heart disease has been a subject of controversy for many decades.[1,2,3,4] Most of us know that a diet rich in saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels in the blood, a risk factor for heart disease.
However, it is not the amount of cholesterol but rather the type of lipoprotein cholesterol carried in the blood that matters most in determining your risk for heart disease.
A diet with a healthy dose of saturated fats may actually improve the blood lipid profile.
- Increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as 'good' cholesterol, are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.[5,6]
- While intake of saturated fats could increase levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), they get converted in the body to large LDL particles that aren't associated with heart disease.[7,8]
Several studies have found that high-fat dairy products do not increase the risk of heart disease. In fact, they suggest that intake of high-fat dairy products could actually be beneficial for heart health.[9,10,11]
It goes without saying that you should eat butter in moderation (not more 3tsp a day), though—that means spreading a thin layer on your bread, adding a dollop to your coffee, or a smattering in your pan to sauté the vegetables. Adding butter to coffee is believed to improve energy levels and enhance fitness. Also, if you're adding butter to your toast or coffee, avoid other sources of fat in fried foods such as French fries, burgers, or hot dogs and processed baked foods such as cookies, cupcakes and brownies.