Butter Benefits & Facts

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Butter is a culinary treasure, which is as old as history. Butter is dairy product produced churning milk cream. Churning milk cream separates butter and buttermilk. Some also use fermented milk for making butter. The butter made from fresh milk cream has best quality and taste. The maximum shelf life of such butter is about 10 days. However, we consider it best to consume within 1 to 3 days during summers and 2 to 6 days during winters.

Butter Composition

Butter CompositionPercentage
Milk Fat (Butter Fat)80 to 82%
Water Content17 to 18%
Milk Solids1 to 2%

Commercial butter contains 80 to 82% milk fat, 17 to 18% water and 1 to 2% milk solids except milk fat.

Butterfat Composition

Butter contains butterfat, which is composed of saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids as follows:

Saturated Fatty AcidsPercentage
Palmitic Acid31%
Myristic Acid12%
Stearic Acid11%
Others11%
Pentadecanoic AcidTraces
Heptadecanoic AcidTraces
Unsaturated Fatty AcidsPercentage
Oleic Acid24%
Palmitoleic Acid4%
Linoleic Acid3%
Alpha-Linolenic Acid1%

The word butter comes from the word BOUTYRON, which means ‘cow cheese’ in Greek. During ancient times, when butter was first produced it was commonly used as a skin cream and an ointment. Later people started using it as a spread and today butter is a very important ingredient in almost all the bakery goods.

How to Make Butter

Traditionally, butter is produced by churning cream or fermented milk. Churning breaks and damages the membranes of butterfat present in the cream. This results in the production of small butter-grains. These butter-grains begin to float in the buttermilk, the water-based portion of the cream. Butter-grains are separated by draining the buttermilk. If needed, the butter-grains are rinsed with water to remove excess buttermilk. These grains are then pressed and kneaded together.

Industrial Method of Making Butter

Now a day, the process of making butter in the food industries is different as compared to the ancient homemade butter making process.

Separation

In industries, cream is first separated from the milk.

Checking the quality

The quality of cream is then checked. The butterfat content, acid degree value and pH is determined. The taste, flavor, freshness, texture and color are also checked for defects.

Pasteurization

Appropriate heat treatment is given and the bacterial and enzymatic quality of the product is ensured. The cream is heated at 74 degrees Celsius for at least 30 minutes or at 85 degrees or greater for a minimum of 15 seconds. The cream is pasteurized under strict sanitary conditions. This is known as legal pasteurization.

Aging

Crystallization of butterfat globules takes place by holding the cream at appropriate cool temperatures. Proper churning and texture of the butter is ensured.

Ripening

Fermentation is induced by adding cultures so that the milk sugar gets converted to lactic acid. This leads to the production of desired flavor and aroma for the cultured butter. However, this stage is optional and not all may go for it.

Churning

This process takes place by either batch churning or continuous churning.

  1. Batch churning: In this method, a metal cylinder is used that turns around a horizontal axis. As it rotates, the cream is agitated and a huge amount of butter can be produced in just one churn. Once the butter granules reach the size of peas rotating is stopped. The buttermilk is drained and butter is washed with sufficient amount of water. The wash water is drained and salt is added to create granules and water into a compact mass. It is then tested for moisture, curd and salt. Once all the tests are performed and approved, butter is removed from the churn.
  2. Continuous method: In this method, the cream is placed in a double-cooled churning cylinder attached with beater. Phase inversion takes place in which the butter grains are separated from the buttermilk. After the butter grains are washed. It is passed through the squeeze-drying section in which the remaining buttermilk is removed. When the butter reaches injection section, a high-pressure injector may add salt. To improve the physical properties and keep quality of butter, all the air is removed with the help of vacuum working section, which is attached to a vacuum pump.

Final step

After the butter is churned, buttermilk is drained and salt is added, a final moisture adjustment takes place. Color and/or flavor may be added.

Packaging

Butter is then conveyed to various packaging machines. Once it is packed, it is then sent to different food services.

Types of Butter

Here are some types of butter that you should know.

Cultured Butter

This type of butter is made from cream, which is cultured with live bacteria, in other words it is fermented. When fermentation takes place, the milk sugar is converted to lactic acid. The presence of lactic acid gives it a slightly tangy and distinctive taste. In today’s time before the process begins, cream is pasteurized to kill all the bacteria present in it. This also leads to death of some natural live bacteria present in the cream. Due to this reason, lactic acid bacteria are added to produce fermentation, which gives the butter a stronger and sharper taste. As compared to the traditional churned butter, cultured butter has a longer shelf life. This type of butter is very commonly used in Europe.

Smen

It is a preserved butter with a pungent aroma and distinctive taste. It is a salted-fermented butter and is widely used in Morocco in almost all savory dishes. It is made from sheep or goat’s milk or a combination of both. Butter is kneaded with decoction of various herbs, thyme, cinnamon and other spices. This mixture is then cooked, salted and strained. The process of straining and aging is similar to that of ‘Ghee’.

Salted Butter

This type of butter is commonly used as a spread. Salt is added to butter to prolong its shelf life. In addition to this salt also acts as a preservative. Therefore, to improve its shelf life, to use it for longer period of time and to enhance its taste and flavor, sea salt is added to butter.

Uncultured Butter

This type of butter is commonly used in North America. It is made out of pasteurized fresh cream, which is also referred to as sweet cream butter. Though it is called a ‘sweet cream butter’, it has a neutral and unsalted flavor. It is usually preferred for baking goods.

Whipped Butter

As compared to other types of butter, whipped butter is a recent innovation, which was developed in the mid-20th century. Usually at lower temperatures, butter tends to harden. Whipped butter is made by whipping nitrogen gas into the churned butter. Due to this, the butter remains soft and is easy to spread even if it is kept in the refrigerator.

Raw Cream Butter

This type of butter has a very short shelf life (approximately 10 days) because it is made out of fresh, unpasteurized cream. As compared to other types of butter, raw cream butter has a sweeter and creamier taste and texture. Because it is made from unpasteurized cream, it is not available at local supermarket and one can find it only at organic raw dairy.

Ghee (Clarified Butter)

Ghee (Clarified Butter) is very commonly used in India and it is also referred to as ‘clarified butter’. It has a higher smoke point as compared to other types of butter and it is prepared by separating milk solids and water from the butterfat.

Salted Vs. Unsalted Butter

Butter is always blamed for weight gain and other health problems, but the truth is not all types of butter are bad. Salted butter has high sodium content (as salt is added), which may otherwise retain water and lead to weight gain.

However, unsalted butter contains very less sodium as compared to salted butter and does not promote weight gain when consumed in moderation. Therefore, one should always opt for white butter, as it is a healthier option.

How to store butter

Today each packet of butter comes with an expiry date. This date helps us to know till when butter can be consumed safely. Besides this, proper storage methods are important to keep it safe and palatable without altering its original taste. Salted butter has a longer shelf life as compared to unsalted butter. Salt acts as a natural preservative thus, one can store and use salted butter for a month, but unsalted butter has a shelf life of about 10 days. Here are some tips, which will help you to preserve the freshness of butter for a longer time.

  • Always keep the butter wrapped in its original paper or foil.
  • Just unwrap the amount of butter, you need to use at that time. Do not remove the entire wrapping of the butter.
  • Do not store butter near foods with strong odor such as garlic and onion.
  • Do not keep the butter in its original carton. One can place it in a box or heavy-duty plastic bags.
  • Store butter in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

Nutritional Composition of Butter

NutrientsPer 100 gramsPer serving (7 grams)
Energy744 kcal52 kcal
Protein0.6 g0.04 g
Carbohydrate0.6 g0.04 g
Of which sugars0.6 g0.04 g
Fat82.2 g5.8 g
Of which saturates52.13.7
Monounsaturates20.91.5
Polyunsaturates2.80.2
Trans-fatty acid2.90.2
Dietary fiber0 g0 g
Thiamine (mg)TraceTrace
Riboflavin0.07 mgTrace
Niacin from tryptophan0.1 mgTrace
Vitamin B6TraceTrace
Vitamin B120.3 mcgTrace
FolateTraceTrace
Pantothenate0.05 mgTrace
Biotin0.2 mcgTrace
Vitamin CTraceTrace
Retinol958 mcg67 mcg
Carotene608 mcg43 mcg
Vitamin D0.9 mcg0.1 mcg
Vitamin E1.85 mg0.13 mg
Sodium606 mg42 mg
Potassium27 mg2 mg
Calcium18 mg1 mg
Magnesium2 mg0.1 mg
Phosphorus27 mg2 mg
IronTraceTrace
Copper0.01 mg0.0 mg
Zinc0.1 mgTrace
Chloride994 mg70 mg
ManganeseTraceTrace
SeleniumTraceTrace
Iodine38 mcg3 mcg

g- Grams, mg- Milligrams, mcg- Micrograms

100 g of unsalted butter contains 9 mg sodium.

Butter Benefits

Lesser Calories

1 gram of butter provides 7 calories, whereas 1 gram of oil provides 9 calories. Therefore, oil can be partially replaced by butter in weight loss diets. A person who wants to consume lesser calories in order to lose weight can consume unsalted butter. Thus, one can achieve weight loss without compromising the taste.

Source of Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Butter is a good source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K. These fat-soluble vitamins are required for various health purposes such as:

  1. Vitamin A is required for re-epithelialization of cells, proper functioning of visual system, growth and development and stronger immune system.
  2. Vitamin D is required for proper calcium absorption. It also promotes bone growth. Deficiency of vitamin D may lead to rickets and osteomalacia.
  3. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, prevents oxidation and boosts immune system. Vitamin K is required for proper blood clotting mechanism to take place. It is also required for calcium metabolism. As one cannot obtain vitamin K daily, adding butter to food preparations is the easiest way to obtain it. Therefore, for these functions to take place properly fat-soluble vitamins are required which are provided by butter.

Energy Dense Foods

Butter increases the caloric content of the diet. This is beneficial for those who need a high calorie diet such as patients with cancer, tuberculosis and HIV or patients who are malnourished and severely underweight. Therefore, butter can be used as a spread on breads, Indian flat breads or it can be added to soups and vegetable juices to make it energy dense.

Contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Butter contains conjugated linoleic acid that provides various health benefits. The body cannot synthesize conjugated linoleic acid. Therefore, it should be obtained from diet. It is a powerful antioxidant, which scavenges free radicals and protects against oxidation. It is an anti-carcinogen and protects the body against cancer.

In addition to this, conjugated linoleic acid boosts immune system and keeps infections at bay. Furthermore, it plays an important role in fat burning and retention of lean muscle. Thus, people who want to lose weight can surely add some butter to their diet.

Source of Cholesterol

When consumed in moderate amounts (not using too much butter daily), butter provides the right amount of cholesterol, which is required by the body for synthesis of hormones and to maintain healthy cellular function.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid

With an increase in the awareness about omega-3 fatty acids and the health benefits that it provides, many companies have now started fortifying butter with omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming such butter helps to improve the brain function, maintains prostaglandin balance and improves the skin texture too.

Source of Medium Chain Triglyceride

Butter is a good source of medium chain triglyceride (MCTs). MCTs such as butter and coconut oil do not require bile salts for digestion, therefore digestion and absorption of food becomes much easier. This is important in health conditions such as gastric disorders where digestion and absorption is impaired.

Contains Glycosphingolipids

Butter contains glycosphingolipids that keeps bacterial infections at bay and protects against a number of gastrointestinal conditions. It further reduces the risk of peptic ulcers and lowers the inflammation associated with these conditions.

Ways to Add Butter to Your Diet

Butter has a low smoke point, so it is suitable for cooking that requires moderate heat.

  • It is used as a spread.
  • It can be added to soups.
  • It is used to sauté vegetables.
  • It is used to pan-fry small and thin pieces of meat, fish and prawns.
  • It can be added to various sauce preparations. Butter provides a distinctive taste and a very smooth and rich texture and mouthfeel.
  • Butter is also used in the preparation of bakery products such as cakes, cookies, biscuits and puffs.

Butter Amount Recommendation

The amount of butter an individual can consume daily depends on his present body weight, presence of clinical condition, for example – high levels of cholesterol or heart disease and physical activity. A healthy individual without any clinical condition can consume one serving (7 g) of butter per day. Furthermore, unsalted butter is a better and healthier option as compared to salted butter.

Disadvantages of Salted Butter

When consumed in limited amount butter may not cause any ill effects but a diet very rich in butter when consumed for a long period may have the following health effects.

Increases cholesterol levels

Butter is a high fat dairy product and dairy fat contains high amounts of long chain saturated fatty acid such as MYRISTIC ACID and PALMITIC ACID. Saturated fat is further known to increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol levels in the blood. It is therefore recommended to cut down butter intake and to replace it with other healthy fat options such as olive oil.

Increase in the risk of heart disease

A few, but significant evidence has shown that butter increases the risk of heart diseases. Besides increasing the serum lipid levels, butter has also shown to increase the levels of inflammatory markers, which in turn increases the risk of heart diseases. Therefore, individuals with heart disease should strictly restrict butter intake and must consume low fat dairy products too.

Hypertension

People with hypertension or high blood pressure are always advised to restrict sodium intake in their diet. ‘Salted butter’ as the name suggests is huge source of sodium. One serving (7 g) of salted butter contains 42 mg of butter. Thus, people with hypertension should minimize their butter intake.

Conditions with sodium restriction

Certain health conditions require sodium restriction. Such conditions include diseases of the liver, kidney and heart. Therefore, besides restricting salt in the daily diet, people who fall under such category should even keep a check on their butter intake. Salted butter is completely out of their food list, but they can still consume a small amount of unsalted butter occasionally.

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