Is butter good or bad for health?

Butter is a yellow daily product that is made by churning cream and used in cooking or as a spread. Butter is most commonly consumed on bread, with pasta and risotto and it is used in plenty of desserts as well.

For individuals who believe it is bad for health, butter is a concentration of animal origin fats and it is one of those foods that may be considered “hurtful”. In fact, Dyslipidemia, i.e. the increased level of fat in the blood, is 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.

butter nutritional factsCritics of butter thus prefer other types of fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Such foods made up from these types of fats are in liquid form and include seed oil and olive oil. They tend to have a positive effect on the body because they lower the level of LDL cholesterol, also 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%.

Nutritional facts about 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 of 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 phosphorus and calcium” says Dr. Manuela Pastore, Dietitian at Humanitas Hospital.  

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

“Due to its high caloric value, intake of butter should be controlled and eaten in moderation, perhaps more so than other foods. This does not mean you should ban butter altogether, but rather for lead a healthy and well-balanced diet. You should not use it daily in the preparation of foods. Following the advice of the Mediterranean diet, you should try to use extra virgin olive oil rather than butter for dish seasoning.”

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

“Butter is not recommended for seasoning any dish, frying or stir-frying. 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 individual can choose to use butter to prepare traditional sweets, breakfast for the whole family, occasionally in combination with bread and jam or small amounts for thickening risotto. Moderation is always the best approach.”

Does butter present any health risks when it is used in a well-balanced diet?

“From a nutritional and technological point of view, butter is a good food. It is consumed only through physical means, without the use of chemicals and chemical additives. A butter of excellent quality is recognized by its uniform appearance. It looks compact and lucid, has a delicate taste and changes color depending on the season. It is typically white in the winter and yellowish in the summer. Butter is also an easily digestible food. It should not be used as the main fat seasoning, however in cases when it is used in a healthy diet, it does not present a health risk to the individual’s well-being. It is recommended to never exceed the use of butter as well as foods such as cheese, cold cuts, red meat, and processed meat” concludes Dr. Pastore.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.