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Butter is a type of food commonly used as a spread in cooking and baking. It is created when one churns milk, which separates the milk’s solid fats from the liquid ones and its protein and sugar.

You should definitely beware of butter's high calorie content: there are 100 calories in only one tablespoon! That means that adding only one serving of butter to your diet each day could cause to you to gain ten pounds over the course of a year. So, similarly, cutting back on butter and fatty spreads like it could have a huge effect on your waistline over time.

Butter is also a questionable choice because it has practically no protein or fiber. 70 percent of butter is instead made of heart-unhealthy saturated fat, with the rest made up of monounsaturated fat. Butter also has a high cholesterol content, and studies have found that it increased bad cholesterol and worsened other cardiovascular risk factors in people who ate it frequently.

Yet while butter certainly isn't a healthy food, it isn’t a totally empty-calorie one either. It does have a significant amount of vitamin A and trace amounts of other nutrients like vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Vitamin K, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, selenium, iodine, and phosphorus.

It also contains some special beneficial compounds like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been associated with reduced cancer growth, decreased body fat, enhanced immune function, and decreased inflammation. However, the studies that found these effects involved supplementation of CLA far greater than the amount a typical human would consume in a serving of butter, and you can also get your CLA from beef, eggs, and other dairy products.

Additionally, butter contains over 400 different kinds of fatty acids. Some, like arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, have been shown to have anti-aging effects. Another beneficial fatty acid found in butter called butyrate has been found to improve insulin sensitivity, boost metabolism, and decrease fat cell formation to support weight control.

If you must have butter, beware that there are some better butters; as is the norm with meat and dairy products, butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows has a far better nutritional profile than butter made from grain-fed cows. It will probably contain less fat, less omega-6, and more omega-3. Butter made from sheep's or goat's milk would likely be even healthier.

It still isn't for everyone; though butter contains only small amounts of lactose, someone with a severe lactose intolerance may still experience a reaction to it. Butter may also contain enough whey protein to cause an allergic reaction in someone with a serious milk allergy.

However, you should think twice about replacing your butter with margarine. Though these spreads are lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than butter, they are unlikely to be much lower-calorie or much healthier.

Margarine is often made by turning mixtures of various vegetable oils rancid in a process known as hydrogenation, which produces trans-fats that are even more dangerous than the saturated ones. Better substitutes include lower-calorie dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese or healthier fat products like avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil.

If you’ve read all of the above and are still really craving some butter, your best option is to avoid all of its processed varieties, which often contain added salt, sugar, and preservatives. Instead, get some heavy cream, then do as they did in the olden days and make some yourself!

The butter you can make using the recipe below is still rather high-calorie and should thus be used sparingly. On phase 2, you should consume no more than one tablespoon of it as your dairy allowance once or twice a week, and a similarly moderate amount is probably your best bet for phase 3 and maintenance.

However, this way at least you’ll know exactly what’s in your butter when you do indulge, and at least you’ll burn a few extra calories with all that shaking!

Homemade Butter

Healthier homechurned butter on a white dish

This tasty butter is better for you than most store-bought varieties! Estimated nutritional value per serving is 51 calories, 5.5 g fat, 20.3 mg cholesterol, and .3 g carbohydrates.

Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook time
Makes eight 1 tbsp servings


  • 1 pint sized 16 oz mason jar
  • 1 cup heavy cream 38% fat content
  • Cold water

Pour your heavy cream into the mason jar. Put on the lid, then shake the mason jar for five to seven minutes. Keep shaking until you see that a lump has formed inside, and then shake for about 60 more seconds. Remove this lump from the jar, and place it in a small bowl. Pour cold water over the butter and then squish it into a ball. Discard the water, and repeat rinsing 2 times more. Congratulations, you're a butter-maker!

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