Does Butter Lower Cholesterol?
If you are concerned about high cholesterol levels, you may be wondering if consuming butter can have a negative impact on your cholesterol. Butter is a dairy product made primarily from milk fat. Butter also contains small amounts of water and milk solids. Most of the fat in butter is saturated fat.
At one time, people with high cholesterol were told to avoid butter because of its high saturated fat content. Saturated fat is associated with an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, sometimes called bad cholesterol, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Another type of cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, sometimes referred to as good cholesterol.
However, recent studies have led medical experts to reevaluate their previous position on the effects of saturated fats and butter on cholesterol and heart health.
What are the findings of the study?
Products containing saturated fats, such as butter, have historically been associated with high levels of LDL cholesterol, high levels of total cholesterol and heart disease. However, according to a 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis, studies do not support a clear link between saturated fats and increased risk of heart disease or stroke. Instead, your LDL/HDL ratio may be more important than your total cholesterol or LDL.
This doesn’t mean you have to eat all the saturated fats you can; the AHA still recommends that people concerned about their LDL cholesterol limit their saturated fat intake to 5 to 6 percent of total calories. Other organizations recommend less than 10 percent. The AHA also recommends replacing butter with healthy vegetable fats, such as avocado or olive oil, rather than refined carbohydrates, which can worsen heart health.
Use creams that are free of trans fats and have the lowest amount of saturated fat. When comparing creams, be sure to read the nutrition labels and check the grams of saturated and trans fats. Limit calories by limiting what you eat.
What is the cholesterol content of butter?
One tablespoon of safe unsalted butter contains 31 milligrams of cholesterol. To put this in perspective, the USDA’s previous recommendation was to consume 100 to 300 mg of cholesterol per day. There is no evidence that dietary cholesterol plays a significant role in blood cholesterol levels.
Replacing regular butter with foods low in saturated fat can help reduce the risk of high cholesterol.
- Herbal Butter
- Earth Balance, vegan, soy-free and non-hydrogenated options.
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive Oil
- Applesauce or bananas with half the fat of a baked good
Some of the same measurements can be used in place of butter. For example, a 1 to 1 ratio means that if you need a tablespoon of butter, you can substitute a tablespoon of grass-fed butter. Other substitutions require mathematical skills to determine the correct ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of butter, you can substitute ½ tablespoon of avocado or olive oil.
Low-fat Greek yogurt can be substituted for butter or sour cream for baked potatoes. Butter sprays can add a creamy flavor to vegetables and popcorn, but many contain artificial ingredients.
Butter is considered more diet-friendly than hydrogenated margarine because it contains less trans fat. However, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), both butter and margarine can raise LDL cholesterol, but margarine raises LDL cholesterol to a greater extent.
You can also limit your intake of other foods that may have a negative impact on cholesterol. These foods can raise LDL and negatively affect HDL, so you need to limit them or avoid them all together.
- Fried food
- Bakery products
- Solid hydrogenated margarine
- Alcoholic beverages
Symptoms and complications of high cholesterol
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol. Blood tests can confirm the condition. Over time, if high cholesterol is not controlled, it can lead to a disease called atherosclerosis, which reduces the flow of blood in the arteries. Atherosclerosis can lead to the following conditions
- Chest pain
- Heart disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Carotid artery disease
To help you take care of your heart, we offer advice on managing high blood pressure, cholesterol, nutrition and more.
High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. More research is needed before there is a clear consensus that saturated fats cause heart disease due to high cholesterol. Recent studies suggest that saturated fats may not have as much of an impact on heart health as previously thought. Cholesterol may be only a minor factor in the development of heart disease. Body fat may be more likely to cause heart attacks and other life-threatening diseases than dietary fat.
The result? Butter is still high in calories and fat. If consumed in excess, waistlines and total cholesterol levels may rise. Unless your doctor recommends otherwise, it’s okay to eat butter occasionally as long as you’re eating a heart-healthy diet.
Tips for Managing Cholesterol Levels
In some cases, hypercholesterolemia can be inherited. Medications such as statins may be required to maintain optimal levels. However, the following lifestyle changes can help improve and control cholesterol levels
- Consume a heart-healthy diet rich in healthy fats, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
- Avoid fried foods, foods containing trans fats and foods containing partially hydrogenated oils.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon and ground flaxseed.
- Increase your intake of soluble fiber by eating more oats, lentils, fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly, aiming for at least 30 minutes a day.
- If you smoke, don’t do it. If you need help, talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program.
- If you are overweight, lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.
- Limit your alcohol consumption: no more than one drink per day for men and women over 65, and no more than two drinks per day for men under 65.
Look for creams that are free of trans fats and contain the least amount of saturated fat. When comparing creams, be sure to read the Nutrition Facts table and check the grams of saturated fat and trans fat. Limit calories by limiting the amount you use.