Butter is another one of my go-to fat sources and second in My Favorite Fats series.
Butter is making a comeback! Long shamed for its high saturated fat content and the touted ill effects on cardiovascular health, many people (myself included!) are returning to butter for uses in baking, sautéing, and spreading.
A brief note on butter’s saturated fat- Yes, butter is very high in saturated fatty acids, about 80% of it in fact. And while saturated fat intake has been shown to raise cholesterol levels, it tends to be the HDL, aka “good cholesterol” that goes up. With regard to heart health, maintaining a high HDL level is one of the strongest ways of protecting yourself against future problems. When used in moderation, I don’t believe there is a reason to shy away from butter.
Butter is made from dairy milk by separation of the fat from other milk components (protein and carbs). I tolerate dairy milk well so digesting butter has never been an issue, but for those with milk allergies, the small amount of whey protein remaining in butter may cause problems. There are trace amounts of lactose in butter, so if you tend to be quite sensitive, look for clarified butter and ghee which contain even less of the milk sugar due to longer heating and straining techniques.
Regular butter has a moderate smoke point of 350 F, while clarified butter can be heated up to 450 F. Butter is great for light sautéing, baking and for making a roux, but I wouldn’t use it to sear a steak. I enjoy the taste of butter and use as a spread for toast, melt it on a fresh-out-of-the-oven sweet potato and drizzle on steamed vegetables to add a creamy flavor.
My go-to butter is Kerrygold brand, made from grass-fed cows in Ireland. Grass-fed dairy products have been shown to contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a unique type of trans fat that actually has health benefits. Since growth hormone is banned for use in cattle in Ireland, Kerrygold butter does not contain any rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which studies have found inconclusive for development of cancers in humans.
Do you cook with butter? I’d love to hear more about your favorite uses. Leave a comment below.