Is Butter Bad for You, or Good? Benefits & Risks

Medically Reviewed on 8/18/2022
Is Butter Bad for You, or Good
Learn about the health effects of butter and whether or not is it bad for you

Butter has long had a reputation for being bad for you, with some claiming that its high saturated fat content can raise cholesterol and cause other health problems.

Others, however, claim that butter is nutritious and has several health benefits.

Learn about the health effects of butter and whether or not it is bad for you.

What is butter?

Butter is a dairy product made from the fats and proteins found in milk and cream. Most butter consumed in the U.S. is made from cow milk, although other animal-based milks, including sheep, goats, buffalo, and yaks, can be used to make butter.

Butter is made by churning milk or cream to separate the solid fat from the buttermilk. Salt and food coloring are occasionally added as well.

Clarified butter, also called ghee, is made from rendered butter, which is rich in fat and free of water and milk particles. Ghee has a higher smoke point than regular butter, which prevents browning or burning when used in home cooking. Ghee is a good choice for frying and sautéing foods at high temperatures.

Is butter heart-healthy?

Although there are many claims regarding butter, most of the evidence points to the fact that diets low in saturated fat reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 10%.

According to the American Heart Association, the risk of heart disease is lowered by swapping out saturated fats (such as butter, coconut oil, and fatty meat) for unsaturated fats (such as nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocados, and healthy plant oils).

Substituting saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat can also help lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (unhealthy cholesterol) and total or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratios.

What are the potential health benefits of butter?

  • May improve bone health: Butter contains both calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for the formation and development of strong bones. Calcium also protects against diseases such as osteoporosis, which weakens bones over time.
  • May protect skin: Vitamin E in butter can help maintain healthy skin. Vitamin E has been shown to lower skin inflammation, protect the skin from ultraviolet sun damage, and speed up wound healing.
  • May protect eyes: Butter contains beta-carotene, which may help slow down age-related macular degeneration or vision loss.
  • May reduce cancer risk: Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, which acts as a powerful antioxidant that may lower the risk of certain cancers

What are the risks associated with butter?

Butter is high in calories and fats, notably saturated fat, which is associated with heart disease. If you have heart disease or are trying to reduce your calorie intake, it is important to limit your butter consumption.

The latest advice from the American Heart Association is to consume less saturated fat. High fat intake is associated with pancreas inflammation and vascular damage.

Therefore, although butter may have potential health benefits, it is best to consume it in moderation or swap it out for healthier fats.


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Medically Reviewed on 8/18/2022
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