Wait, Is Butter a Carb? Dietitians Spread the Truth on Whether the Ubiquitous Fat Is Healthy

Photo: Getty Images/Anfisa Kameneva/EyeEm
There isn't much that gets healthy eaters riled up quite like a knife full of butter. Many won't go near the stuff while others (cough, cough, keto) are such fans that they even put it in their coffee. Poor butter, so misunderstood! It's time to get to the bottom of this debate once and for all. Is butter healthy or not?

"Butter on its own is not unhealthy," says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD. "It's a form of saturated fat so you want to be aware of how much you are using overall. Keeping it to a small amount is best, but you do not have to eliminate it." Exactly how much saturated fat is okay? Roughly 13 grams, according to the American Heart Association. (One tablespoon of butter has 7 grams of saturated fat.)

If you like butter, the registered dietitian's tip is to use it in ways where you can actually taste it—such as slathering it on an English muffin. Rather than using butter to cook, Zeitlin recommends using heart-healthy cooking oils like extra-virgin olive oil and or avocado oil. "Just don't go for fake butters or wannabe butters because those are more processed and have trans fats—the unhealthiest fat around!" she says.

Registered dietitian and You Versus Food host Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, agrees that moderation is key when it comes to butter. "Although a small amount of butter can be a reasonable add in in your diet—it’s Julia Child’s BFF—we often go overboard when it comes to portion size," she says. "Eating a diet heavy in butter can lead to unnecessary weight gain and heart related disease such as high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Use it sparingly throughout your day and swap in butter’s healthier—and more nutritious—cousin when possible, olive oil, to score more antioxidants and healthy fats into your diet."

In fact, Allison Baker, RD, who is the director of nutrition at Kroger, says a little butter—again moderation is key—can make healthy foods even more appealing. "A bit of butter can make the difference between broccoli, whole grain toast, or a lean piece of meat or fish being rich and delicious versus bland and unpalatable," she says. "Think of butter as a tool for making healthy foods simply taste better."

And if you're still wondering if butter is a carb (I know you want to know!), according to Beckerman, butter's carb content is super low. An entire cup of it only contains 0.1 grams, which is exactly why the keto set love it so dearly.

In summation, butter in moderation is absolutely healthy. But too much, well, isn't.

Other food debates we're putting an end to: whether rice and potatoes are healthy. 

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