Butter is a popular dairy spread many can’t imagine their breakfast without. It is also one of the key ingredients in numerous baked goods, known to contribute to their texture, flavor, and shelf life. Derived from churned milk or cream, butter is seen as a healthy alternative to margarine and other similar ingredients that contain trans fats. However, it might not be as healthy as we’ve been told.
In addition to comprising 50% saturated fats that may contribute to high cholesterol levels, butter also contains other fatty substances that could jeopardize your heart health. For this and several other reasons, many choose to eliminate butter from their diet, opting for alternatives instead.
This article will look into the reasons to replace butter in your diet and provide a list of healthy alternatives to butter that can be used as a replacement, both in cooking and as a spread.
Why Should You Replace Butter in Your Diet?
There are several reasons why you might want to replace butter with some other product.
Although butter is probably not the first thing you think of when someone mentions dairy, it is derived from milk. And while it has considerably less animal protein than other dairy products, a lot of that protein content is made up of casein. This protein is known to trigger milk allergies, so if you have a milk allergy, you may have to either decrease your butter intake or avoid butter completely.
Similarly, people who are lactose intolerant may also have to eliminate butter from their diet due to its dairy origin. While many lactose intolerant people seem to have no adverse reactions when consuming moderate amounts of butter, most opt to replace it with a similar, non-dairy product. The fact that butter is essentially a dairy product means that it’s not vegan-friendly.
Finally, some choose to remove butter from their daily menu for health reasons. Whether it’s because of its high saturated fat content or the fact that it’s high in calories (more than 100 in a tablespoon) and low in key nutrients, butter might not be ideal for a healthy diet.
5 Healthy Alternatives to Butter in Cooking
If you’re looking for healthy alternatives to butter in cooking and baking, any of the following five options could be a great choice.
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil can easily replace butter in a variety of recipes, especially those that include vegetables and meat. This powerful ingredient is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, known for its high content of monounsaturated fats, which have several well-documented health benefits. For example, a study published in 2014 found that regular consumption of olive oil could reduce the risk of heart disease. Further research showed that it can also help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and blood sugar.
Because olive oil is liquid and pastry usually requires the use of solid fats, it isn’t always a good alternative for baking. Still, you can use olive oil to make pancakes and some other baked goods. Ideally, you should replace butter with olive oil in a 3-to-4 ratio (3/4 cups of olive oil = 1 cup of butter).
2. Coconut Oil
Due to its ability to return to a solid state at room temperature, coconut oil is a much more versatile alternative to butter than olive oil. However, coconut oil might not be to everyone’s liking due to its distinct taste that could affect the flavor of baked goods. Like butter, coconut oil is rich in saturated fats and thus might not be a good choice for people on a heart-healthy, low-fat diet.
Some nutritionists recommend ghee as a healthy alternative to butter, though its health benefits have been subject to much debate. Ghee is clarified butter – it’s the melted part that remains once the solids are removed and the water has evaporated. Seeing as it’s still a dairy product, ghee isn’t vegan-friendly. However, it provides much better results in the kitchen, especially when baking bread and cookies that require high temperatures. Plus, it has a distinct and pleasant nutty taste that many prefer to butter.
4. Pumpkin Purée
Although watery, pumpkin purée is an excellent, nutrient-packed alternative to butter in cooking. Rich in vitamins A and K, dietary fiber, and potassium, pumpkin purée can be added to a variety of baked goods like bread and muffins. For optimal results, it should be used in a 3-to-4 ratio just like olive oil.
If you’re looking to reduce your calorie intake while still enjoying your favorite baked goods, applesauce is a perfect alternative to butter. Rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C, it can add sweetness to your dishes while reducing their caloric value. However, if your recipes involve sugar or other sweeteners, you may need to adjust their quantities when adding applesauce.
3 Healthy Alternatives to Butter as a Spread
If you’re looking for a perfect breakfast spread to replace butter with, here are three great alternatives.
1. Nut Butters
Whether they’re made of peanut, almond, or cashew, nut butters are an excellent, nutritious alternative to regular butter. Packed with vitamins and minerals like magnesium and iron, they make for a much healthier option to kick-start your day. However, at 180 calories per serving (around two tablespoons), these butters are very caloric, so you need to be mindful of how much you take. Also, whenever possible, make your own butter or opt for a brand that contains nuts only with no added sugars or oils.
2. Mashed Avocado
Mashed avocado is creamier, more delicious, and certainly more nutritious than butter. In addition to containing vitamin K, potassium, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients, avocado is also known as an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats. Extensive research shows many health benefits of regular avocado consumption, including reduced inflammation and slowed growth of cancer cells.
3. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a low-fat alternative to butter that is rich in bone-healthy calcium, which makes it a great option for children. Despite its dairy origin and the word “cheese” in its name, most varieties of cottage cheese don’t contain animal rennet, which also makes them vegan-friendly. To make sure that you’re eating vegan cottage cheese, only pick those that have vegetable enzymes listed as ingredients.
As you can see, there are plenty of great healthy alternatives to butter that you can incorporate into your diet right now. If you plan to use them when baking, make sure to add them in the correct ratio. Also, keep in mind that most of these replacements differ from butter in terms of flavor and consistency. You may thus have to tweak the quantities of other ingredients to ensure that your recipes taste good.