Ahh, butter! Few things beat it when you’re cooking up a delicious meal. Butter is one of those things that we all love but yet, know that it’s not exactly doing us a favor as far as our health or waistline is concerned.
There has been much talk about how butter is healthier than margarine, and this much may be true. Typical margarine does contain trans fats, which must be avoided at all costs, whereas butter does not provide a single gram.
This said butter isn’t exactly squeaky clean either. It’s made from milk, which means it will contain lactose and for some people, that’s a big problem. If you’re someone who can’t have lactose, you’re going to find that after each time you eat butter, you’re left with feelings of not being well.
On top of this, if you aren’t eating grass-fed butter, meaning the cows it comes from were grass fed rather than grain fed, then you have another issue on hand as well.
Grain fed butter won’t have the same fat profile as grass-fed does and it’ll be more likely to increase your risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
So it’s not especially surprising that many people are on the hunt for a smarter substitution that they can have rather than butter.
The question becomes, which is the best option? When evaluating this question, you need to consider a few things. First, think about whether you want another fat replacement. Are you using something in replacement of butter to help provide dietary fat in your menu? Or would you prefer a lower calorie option that does away with the fat content altogether to help assist you with reaching your goal weight?
People choose to avoid butter for a few different reasons so thinking about what’s important to you is step one.
Let’s now look at the smart, healthier butter substitutions to consider.
Coconut Butter Or Oil
If it’s a fat that you need for cooking – say to use for a stir-fry or add to your baking, you might consider coconut butter or oil. This will be a much healthier trade-off as coconut fat has been proven time and time again to be an exceptionally healthy choice.
With coconut butter, you’re going to get a source of medium chain triglycerides. This form of fat is excellent as it helps to provide an immediate source of energy to the body, without spiking blood glucose levels.
So in essence, it’s almost more like a carbohydrate, however, it’s behaving more like a dietary fat in the body. This is ideal for those who may have active lifestyles and need an additional source of fuel.
It can be especially helpful if you are doing the ketogenic diet as it’s a way to get fast energy in while staying in ketosis.
In addition to that, coconut oil and butter have also been shown to help boost your immune system, so they’ll help you feel better on a day-to-day basis1. With everything that we encounter on a regular basis, our immune systems are constantly taking a hit. Coconut oil can help you continue to feel stronger.
Regular use and consumption of coconut oil is also associated with improved health as well as it may help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Heart health is not something to take lightly as heart disease is one of the leading causes of death.
Finally, coconut oil and butter could help boost brain health as well, keeping your brain strong and lower your risk factor for neurological diseases. For this reason, it’s an especially great choice for those who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease2, seizures, as well as depression.
If coconut butter or oil isn’t your thing or you are simply looking for another alternative, a second great option is cocoa butter. This form of butter is used for making chocolate and is a bit harder to come by, but if you can find it, it’s a delicious and healthy treat to consider.
Cocoa butter provides a very strong dose of antioxidants3 (the similar antioxidants you’d get from eating chocolate) and also offers many polyphenols as well. These work hard to keep your body free from oxidative damage, which may be linked with higher states of diseases.
Additionally, we see that cocoa butter can also be great for helping to boost your immune system and lower the amount of inflammation that’s taking place in your body.
When you purchase cocoa butter, you’ll want to make sure that you are getting cocoa butter that’s free from all additives.
If you’re preparing a sandwich and are looking for a great alternative to the butter you’d typically use, why not consider mashed avocado? Avocados are a fantastic source of dietary fat as they contain primarily monounsaturated fat and are also packed with dietary fiber, vitamin E and has a good dose of antioxidants.
They’re also known to help lower the overall level of inflammation in the body, which may help decrease your risk factor for a wide variety of diseases. Chronic inflammation isn’t something that you typically feel or see, but it can build over time and before you know it, you are riddled with disease.
They are one of the only fruits to contain primarily all dietary fat and very little sugar, so it’s a unique food that definitely deserves a spot in your diet plan. Like butter, they’ll offer a nice creamy taste to your dish and when mashed up, can be spread in a similar manner.
Avocados are great for keeping your skin looking healthy and vibrant4, so if you’ve been feeling your appearance has been a bit lackluster lately or you just have unwanted dryness going on, avocado can usually remedy that.
Avocados are great on sandwiches, in pitas, in smoothies, or simply sliced and placed on a slice of toast with cucumber. They are highly versatile, so find a way to get them into your diet today.
If you want lower fat, higher carb energy-boosting alternative to butter, hummus can stand in place instead. While hummus does have quite a strong taste to it so you might not be able to use it in dishes quite like butter, it offers a whole new world of possibilities.
Just like you can spread butter, you can also spread hummus, so try using it on your sandwich or topped over your chicken or vegetable. Think of it more like a small flavoring additive to your favorite foods where you would normally just add butter to increase the tastes instead.
Hummus is prepared from chickpeas, so it’s got a nice blend of protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber, while typically being quite low in total fat content.
There are many varieties of hummus that you can purchase, so when you are on the search for one, do your best to find one that contains as few ingredients as possible. You want to avoid excess sugar, preservatives, or salt.
If you want to really reduce the calories that you would get from adding butter and boost your health in another way, bone broth is the way to go. Bone broth is great for adding a hint of flavor to foods like mashed potatoes or a stir-fry and can easily stand in place of butter.
Bone broth, if prepared properly, is also a wonderful source of collagen, an immune booster, can help keep bones and supportive tissues healthy, and will help fight inflammation and osteoporosis as well.
Consider making up a big batch of bone broth and freezing it in ice cube trays. Then, you just need to take out one on two ice cubes as needed to add it to your meal. It’s a fast and easy way to make use of this health-boosting substance.
Low Fat, Low Sugar Greek Yogurt
If you want to cut the fat and calories from butter and get a boost of protein in the process, consider plain low-fat Greek yogurt. While this has a much different taste than butter and may not be a direct replacement for all the ways you’d use butter (you can’t swap Greek yogurt for butter 1:1 in baking for instance!), it can be an excellent stand-in for other times.
If you are looking to make your vegetables tastier for instance, rather than simply melting butter on top of them, consider mixing some Greek yogurt with a dip mix and then serving that. It can be just as delicious and help provide a source of both calcium as well as protein.
This said you do need to keep in mind that the yogurt will still provide lactose, so if you are someone who is lactose intolerant, this may not be an ideal solution for you.
If you are baking and are looking for a lower calorie solution, a good option can be pumpkin puree. Pumpkin is much lower in calories and contains only a small amount of carbs (with an even smaller amount of sugar), so can be a perfect solution for keeping things light.
Pumpkin also packs in some dietary fiber, so can help with lowering cholesterol levels, inducing a higher level of satiety, and helping to keep you regular as well.
If pumpkin isn’t your thing you can also use a wide variety of other pureed vegetables as well. Pureed carrots and peeled zucchini may also be used depending on what the recipe is to add the necessary moisture that butter would have otherwise provided.
Another butter alternative that may not be lower in calories but does have a nicer nutrition profile is nut butters. Whether you opt for peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, or otherwise, these can be a nice delicious alternative.
You probably won’t go topping your broccoli with peanut butter any time soon, but if you are simply looking for an alternative spread for toast in the morning, peanut butter is a much smarter solution.
Nut butter provides a healthy source of unsaturated fats and also provide some dietary fiber and protein as well, something that regular butter cannot say for itself. They’re great for helping to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease5.
The trick to serving nut butter is to make sure that any variety you are looking at is natural nut butter, meaning it doesn’t contain an abundance of unwanted additives or sugar.
The nutritional profiles of regular butter versus natural nut butter can be considerably different, so this isn’t something to overlook. Shop wisely for your health’s sake.
A sweet alternative to butter is applesauce. This tends to be the best substitute when baking since applesauce will add the moisture that butter typically does but without the fat and calories.
Do keep in mind however that if you swap out butter for applesauce instead, you’ll be left with sugar.
If you purchase unsweetened applesauce this typically isn’t that big of a deal however as it’s naturally occurring fruit sugar and for the amount you’re actually eating, it’s not any large amount.
But if you purchase regular applesauce, there could be more added sugar and that you do want to stay away from.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Finally, an article on butter replacements would not complete without mentioning extra virgin olive oil. If you are using butter to create a stir-fry or simply sautéing some vegetables in, you can just as easily swap this out for some olive oil instead.
Extra virgin olive oil comes with many health benefits including lowered cholesterol levels, reduced blood pressure, and improved heart health. It’s simply the wiser choice.
Those who regularly consume olive oil also typically tend to notice a stronger overall immune system so it may help you fend off unwanted illness6.
Olive oil has a light taste as well and will make your foods taste delicious without adding that unwanted saturated fat.
So there you have a few of the top butter replacement options out there that you can use in your diet to take the nutritional benefits one step higher.
This isn’t to say that you can’t eat butter, ever. If you opt for grass-fed butter especially, it can be a great choice that can accompany a health promotional plan (provided you aren’t lactose intolerant). But if you can replace your butter with some of these alternative options from time to time as well, you will see that you will typically have even better results with your wellness plan and you may just find maintaining your body weight easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it bad to eat butter?
It’s not bad, but do realize that butter is high in calories, provides a large dose of saturated fat and may cause problems for those who are lactose intolerant.
What can you use in place of butter?
A good direct replacement for butter in many recipes is an equal amount of olive oil.
Can coconut oil replace butter in baking?
Generally speaking, yes, you can easily substitute coconut oil for butter. You’ll want to do this in a 1:1 ratio for most recipes. Coconut oil can also replace shortening in this manner as well.
Will butter lead to heart disease?
There are many factors that contribute to heart disease and eating butter alone isn’t likely to put you in harm’s way, but it can certainly contribute to it if it’s combined with other lifestyle and nutritional factors.
Does butter contain more calories than olive oil?
When measuring one tablespoon of butter you’ll take in 102 calories and one tablespoon of olive oil contains 119 calories. Note though that if you melted butter and measured the same amount, this would put them closer together.
1. Carandang, E. V. “Health benefits of virgin coconut oil.” INDIAN COCONUT JOURNAL-COCHIN- 38.9 (2008): 8.
2. Fernando, Warnakulasuriya Mary Ann Dipika Binosha, et al. “The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: potential mechanisms of action.” British Journal of Nutrition 114.1 (2015): 1-14.
3. Vinson, Joe A., John Proch, and Ligia Zubik. “Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: cocoa, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 47.12 (1999): 4821-4824.
4. Bergh, Bob. “The avocado and human nutrition. I. Some human health aspects of the avocado.” Proc. of Second World Avocado Congress. 1992.
5. Hu, Frank B., et al. “Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study.” Bmj 317.7169 (1998): 1341-1345.6. La Lastra, C., et al. “Mediterrranean diet and health biological importance of olive oil.” Current pharmaceutical design 7.10 (2001): 933-950