Butter and jam for breakfast, rice, or pasta with butter and parmesan cheese, turkey cutlets, Milanese risotto from scratch and not to mention, desserts. Butter is one of the protagonists of Italian culinary tradition and it is often divided into two parts: those who do not use it or those who try to avoid using it as much as possible and those who appreciate its taste. For individuals who believe it is bad for the health, butter is a concentration of fats of animal origin and it is one of those foods that can be “hurtful” and increase cardiovascular risk. Dyslipidemia, is the increased level of fat in the blood, is in fact one of the risk factors for the onset of cardiovascular disease. The main fat circulating in the blood are cholesterol and triglycerides. As reported by the National Institute of Health (ISS), the leading cause of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) is a diet high in saturated fats, which include foods of animal origin such as butter.


For those who believe butter is “bad”, it is best to consume monosaturated fats such as olive oil

Critics of butter thus prefer other types of fats, such as monounsaturated and poles, respectively, seed oil and olive oil, which have a positive effect because they tend to lower the level of LDL cholesterol, known as the “bad ” cholesterol. If cholesterol is too high, the deposit on the walls of the arteries increases the chances of developing atherosclerosis.  If the consumption of olive oil greatly exceeds that of butter , it can reduce blood cholesterol between 5% and 10%. A reduced level of cholesterol by 10% – says the ISS – reduces the chances of dying from heart disease by 20%.

A few months ago, a study published in the British Medical Journal, has branded hydrogenated trans fat (such as some types of margarine) as the most dangerous at the expense of saturated ones: the first in fact, would be associated with an increased risk of mortality due to cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats instead would not be associated with an increased risk of mortality, stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, some researchers at McMaster University (Canada) point out that the trials are heterogeneous and with methodological limitations. Finally, they add, this study does not derive an incentive to increase the consumption of saturated fats foreseen by the guidelines.


What is the nutritional profile of butter?

“Butter is obtained by processing the cream derived from cow’s milk or its whey. From a nutritional point of view, it contains a percentage of fat ranging between 82 and 85%, water equal to 15-18%, proteins 0.4-0.8% and lactose 0.5-1%. Besides triglycerides, the fat fraction also comprises phospholipids, sterols and cholesterol (in 100 g of butter, there are about 250 mg of cholesterol). Being a predominantly lipid matrix, butter is a source of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A and E as well as minerals, including calcium and phosphorus”, replies Dr. Manuela Pastore, dietitian at Humanitas Hospital.

As for other foods, is butter consumption a matter of quantity?

“Due to its high calorific value, the presence of a good proportion of fatty acids and saturated cholesterol, intake of butter should be controlled and eaten in moderations, perhaps more so than other foods. This does not mean you should ban butter altogether, but rather for leading a balanced and healthy diet, you should not use it daily in the preparation of foods.  Following the advice of the Mediterranean diet, one should try to leave much more room for extra virgin olive oil compared to butter and other seasonings of animal origin for the preparation and seasoning of the dishes. ”


Does butter have health risks only when consumed excessively?

“From a nutritional and technological point of view, butter is a good food: it is obtained only by physical means, without the use of chemicals and chemical additives. A butter of excellent quality is recognized by its uniform appearance, compact and lucid and by the absence of droplets during cutting. The taste must be delicate and not sharp and the color changes depending on the season: white in the winter and yellowish in the summer. It is also an easily digestible food. It should not be considered the main fat seasoning, but in some preparations, if placed in the context of a healthy lifestyle, it is not a health risk to the healthy population. It is recommended to never exceed the use of butter as well as foods such as cold cuts, cheese, red meat and processed meat. ”

For those who appreciate butter, are there any healthier recommended ways to consume it?

“Butter is not recommended for seasoning any dish, frying and stir-frying and it is especially not recommended for improving the palatability of food. It is best to eat butter fresh, without subjecting it to high flame cooking. A healthy person can choose to use the butter in the preparation of simple traditional sweets, breakfast for the whole family, or occasionally in combination with bread and jam as a snack for even toddlers and small amounts can also be used for thickening of the risotto. Moderation is always the best way. ”