Butter Is No Superfood—but Does It Have Any Nutritional Value? We Asked RDs

Don't write off butter (in moderation) just yet.

It's hard to find someone who doesn't love the taste of butter, from the rich, creamy flavor it adds to toast to the tenderness it lends to baked goods. And while it's probably no surprise that consuming butter in large amounts on a regular basis isn't generally recommended by health and nutritional guidelines, it absolutely can have a place in a healthy, balanced diet. While the main benefit of butter is probably that it adds delicious flavor—and it's key to enjoy sparingly—dietitians help list some of butter's nutritional advantages (because, yes, there are a few).

Nutritional Value in Butter

Unsurprisingly, butter is largely made of fat, and sadly it's not the heart-healthy kind, says Brigitte Zeitlin, a New York City–based registered dietitian and founder of BZ Nutrition. "The fat in butter is where the flavor comes from, and fat is essential for us to make hormones and store our fat-soluble vitamins," she explains. "But because it's not one of the heart-healthy fats, it does need to be eaten sparingly."

However, butter actually does offer up some key nutrients, she says. For starters, it contains vitamin B12, a vitamin important for energy, bone health, and preventing anemia. It also contains a small amount of vitamin A, which supports bone and eye health, as well as immunity. Butter also provides satiating protein in addition to fat, says Amy Gorin, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian based in Stamford, Connecticut.

"While butter in itself doesn't add much nutritionally, it is a great cooking fat and is stable in heat (unlike vegetable oils, it does not turn into a trans fat when exposed to cooking heat)," says Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN, nutrition consultant for Aspire. "The fat content in butter also increases absorption of essential vitamins in foods paired with it, namely vitamins A, D, E, and K. Without fat, we actually don't absorb these vitamins appropriately."

Choosing grass-fed butter may provide a wider array of fatty acids that support our cardiovascular health, Minchen adds. Additionally, if you're sensitive to dairy, ghee, or clarified butter, may be a better option.

Amount You Should Eat Per Day

Since butter is a source of saturated fat, it should be capped at 1 tablespoon per day, Zeitlin recommends. "The recommended total intake for all forms of saturated fat per day is 3 tablespoons, and since saturated fat is likely sneaking into your day in foods you're not even aware of, [limiting your intake to just 1 tablespoon per day] could help you avoid exceeding the overall daily recommendation," she says.

If you're enjoying butter as a spread on bread or baked goods, it's easy to keep your intake low, as a light spread is often enough to provide flavor and keep you satisfied. Gorin also recommends eating butter in smaller servings, such as adding just a teaspoon to a slice of bread, or using a small amount when roasting fish, to add flavor and prevent dryness. Gorin also suggests choosing unsalted butter when possible to reduce the sodium in your diet.

Cooking with it is more likely to be where you'll have to be careful about overdoing it, Minchen says. However, she still prefers using butter for cooking and baking for a stable fat, and great texture and flavor in savory and sweet foods alike.

Bottom line? Because of its high saturated fat content and potential impact on heart health, it's important to be mindful of your butter intake. But as with most anything, moderation is key—and as such, butter can easily have a place in any smart and balanced diet.

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