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All about “Butter”, a fat which has benefits

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Butter is one of the most used fats in France and of which we are the biggest consumers around the world. We find it sweet or salty and it can even be flavored in some grocery stores. Raw on sandwiches or cooked in dishes, it is one of the staple foods of French cuisine.

Characteristics of butter:

  • Rich in calories;
  • Rich in saturated fatty acids;
  • Source of cholesterol;
  • Source of vitamin A;
  • Maintains healthy skin.

What is butter?

Butter identity card:

  • Type: Fat;
  • Origin: Europe;
  • Season: All year round;
  • Color: Pale yellow;
  • Flavor: Sweet.

Characteristics of butter:

Butter is a fat obtained by churning the cream. It is in solid form when the temperature is cold and melts at hot temperature. Its color is pale yellow.

Differences with nearby foods

Butter and margarine are two visually close fats. Butter is made from cream, therefore of animal origin, while margarine is made from vegetable fats.

Word from the nutritionist

Butter is a caloric food, so it should be eaten in moderation. It is recommended to consume about 10g per day.

Nutritional values

For 100g of sweet butter:

Nutrients                                                             Quantities                                                                
Protein 0.7g
Fat 82.5g
Carbohydrates 0.5 g
Water 15.5g
Fibers 0 g
Vitamin D 1.3 µg
Vitamin A 708 µg
Calcium 15 mg
Potassium 13 mg
Phosphorus 24 mg
Sodium 12 mg

9 benefits of the food: why eat it?

  1. The butter is 80% fat. It contains saturated and unsaturated fats, including naturally occurring trans fats, and cholesterol. The health impacts of consuming butter are partly due to the lipids it contains.
  2. Although we all agree that butter is cholesterol-lowering, its effects are not always constant. The results of the studies diverge according to the sources of fat with which it is compared (oils, soft margarine, hydrogenated margarine …) and the subjects under study (subjects with normal blood lipid levels against others with hypercholesterolemia). Studies have shown that consuming butter would be more beneficial for cardiovascular health than consuming hydrogenated margarine. In addition, although replacing butter with non-hydrogenated margarine appears to be beneficial in some respects, researchers say there would be no benefit in replacing it with hydrogenated margarine. Finally,
  3. Saturated fats make up about 60% to 65% of the fat in butter. These would increase total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”). In addition, saturated fatty acids may increase slightly or have no effect on HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) 6. These effects on blood lipids would be different depending on the type of saturated fatty acids (short, medium or long chain). Palmitic, myristic and lauric acids, three medium chain fatty acids, are thought to further influence LDL cholesterol. These represent about two thirds of the amount of saturated fat in butter.
  4. Unsaturated fats represent 35% to 40% of the fat in butter. Polyunsaturated fats are said to have the greatest cholesterol-lowering potential and, according to epidemiological studies, some of them reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease. However, they are found in small quantities in butter (less than 4% of total fat).
  5. Trans fats, which are part of unsaturated fats, are naturally present in certain foods, such as butter (2% to 5% of total fats). However, the main food sources for this type of fat are processed foods containing hydrogenated oils or “shortening”. The negative health effects of trans fatty acids produced during the hydrogenation of vegetable oils are now well documented. They would notably contribute to the increase in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as in the reduction of HDL cholesterol.
  6. Butter contains a small amount of cholesterol, which is found exclusively in animal products and by-products. No study has established direct links between cholesterol from butter and blood lipid levels. In general, dietary cholesterol, in amounts generally consumed by most people, has little influence on blood lipids.
  7. Milk fat is special because it contains butyric acid, a saturated short-chain fatty acid that is not found in any other common food. This fatty acid would have a protective potential against certain cancers, particularly against colon cancer, since the majority of butyric acid found in the body would come from the fermentation of dietary fibers in the large intestine. However, butyric acid does not remain in circulation in the blood for long. There is therefore little evidence as to its protective potential against cancers other than that of the colon.
  8. Butter naturally contains a small amount of trans fat, about 2% to 5% of its total fat content. The main trans fat in butter is vaccenic acid. However, a certain proportion (20%) of this acid, contained in food, can be converted into conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) by the action of an enzyme in the body17. Vaccenic acid has thus been shown to have “indirect” anticarcinogenic properties just like CLA, of which it is the precursor. The interest in trans fats found naturally in certain foods is quite recent (see box).
  9. Two teaspoons of butter is a source of vitamin A. The latter is one of the most versatile vitamins, playing a role in several body functions. Among other things, it promotes the growth of bones and teeth, keeps the skin healthy and protects against infections. In addition, it plays an antioxidant role and contributes to good vision.

Choosing the right butter

The choice of your butter will mainly depend on its use.
Butters made from raw cream will have more flavor than butters made from pasteurized cream.
You can choose AOC butters whose flavors will depend on the different terroirs.

The different forms

On our supermarket shelves, we mainly find sweet butter and salted or semi-salted butter. There is also more and more light butter or butter whose texture has been modified to be easily spreadable.

Keep well

  • In the refrigerator: in good conditions, pasteurized butter can be kept for four months in the butter compartment. Ensure that it is always well wrapped and keep it away from highly scented foods, which could impart their odor to it. Do not exceed the expiration date written on the packaging.
  • In the freezer: one year at -18 ° C. Defrost in the refrigerator for about six hours. Once it is thawed, consume it within three weeks.

Butter preparation

How to cook it? How to match it?

Butter is more easily digestible than melted, while it is still in its emulsified form.

Avoid heating it on high heat, as it burns at a lower temperature than oil or margarine, and its fat decomposes between 120 ° C and 130 ° C. When heated, it will take an unattractive brownish color and it will be indigestible. It will decompose less quickly if combined with vegetable oil for cooking at high temperature. Heat the oil first, then add the butter.

Flavored butters:

Spread on canapes or serve over grilled meat or fish, shellfish or steamed vegetables. To prepare them, first soften the butter at room temperature, then mix it with the other ingredients. You can form beads or spread them with a rolling pin between two sheets of waxed paper and cool them for a few minutes before cutting out the patterns of your choice with a cookie cutter.

  • With herbs: for 50 g of butter, 1 tbsp of a mixture of parsley, chervil, tarragon and chopped chives, a hint of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Dill, basil, watercress, tuberous garlic also make excellent variations.
  • Horseradish, olive paste, ketchup, chili sauce or chutney.
  • With red pepper: peel the red pepper and pass the flesh through a blender. Press through a cloth to remove excess water. Mix with butter, a pinch of paprika, salt and pepper.
  • With mustard: mix 1 tablespoon of mustard with 50 g of butter. Add the yolk of a crushed hard-boiled egg, if desired.
  • With honey: beat in honey and a little whipping cream with softened butter. Serve on pancakes or toast.
  • In the beet juice: add 2 tablespoons of beet juice to the softened butter.
  • With seafood: pass the flesh of the crustaceans in a blender with butter and lemon juice.
  • Nice-style: mix with crushed capers, chopped anchovies, chopped garlic, lemon juice and dried crushed tomatoes. Salt and pepper. Serve with meat or seafood.

Roll the balls in sesame or poppy seeds, powdered paprika, ground nutmeg, chopped thyme, chopped chives or another herb of your choice.

In the sauces:

  • It is essential in Béarnaise and Dutch.
  • To “finish a butter sauce”, add the equivalent of 1 tablespoon unsalted butter at the end of cooking for a cup of sauce. Gradually add the butter, turning the pan in a rotary motion to turn it in the sauce. Remove from the heat before it is completely melted and continue to give a rotational movement to finish incorporating it. For this preparation, you never use a spoon. Serve the sauce as soon as possible and eat it all, because it cannot be reheated.
  • Kneaded butter, made up of equal parts of flour and butter, plays almost the same role. Just throw in the sauce, at the end of cooking, dumplings of the butter-flour mixture and stir continuously until they have melted and the sauce has thickened; 2 tablespoons of flour and the same amount of butter are enough to thicken the equivalent of a cup of sauce.
  • Hazelnut butter: heat the butter until it reaches the hazelnut color and immediately remove from the heat. Season with lemon juice and parsley. Serve over vegetables or fish.
  • Lemon sauce: reduce the white wine flavored with shallots, tarragon and lemon juice until there are only a few tablespoons left, then stir in the hazelnuts of butter, beating vigorously until a white and frothy cream. While waiting to serve, keep the sauce warm in a double boiler.

The butter gives a soft texture to cakes, breads, croissants and pie crusts, and it complements pancakes and waffles. The main thing is not to abuse it.

Add a knob of butter to the rice or in the pasta.


Although dietary cholesterol has little effect on the level of circulating cholesterol in the blood, people with high blood lipid levels may be more sensitive to the effects of dietary cholesterol. They would benefit from limiting their consumption of foods that contain it, such as butter. It is advisable for people suffering from hypercholesterolemia to consult a dietitian-nutritionist in order to obtain individual and adapted advice.

History of butter

Appeared in the 12th century, the term “butter” comes from the Latin butyrum, which borrowed it from the Greek bouturon. The term “buttermilk”, which appeared in the 16th century, is made up of the words “beat” and “butter”. Originally, it meant the stick used to beat the butter.

The number of expressions in which “butter” appears illustrates the importance that this commodity takes in life and popular imagination: “put butter in spinach”, “it fits like butter”, “make butter “Or” make your butter “,” you can’t have your cake and eat it “, without counting the less happy expressions such as” an eye with black butter “,” take a butter “(in Quebec), “Butter your mouth” …

Keep the butter … without a fridge?

When refrigeration did not exist, the cream used to make butter was fermented to extend its shelf life. Also, the butter spoiled less quickly by placing its container in a source of cold water. But the most effective technique came from the peoples of northern Europe. They seasoned the chopped garlic butter and locked it in wooden barrels which they then buried in the acid soil of one of the many peat bogs in these countries. The longer we left it in the ground, the better it was. We are talking about years here, such that some planted trees near the place where they had buried the barrels so that they could remember the location. In Ireland, barrels thus buried have been found for several centuries and whose contents were still not putrefied.

The first traces of the existence of butter were found on a Sumerian engraving 4,500 years old. Other testimonies of its existence emerge in India 500 years later, then among the Romans, at the beginning of our era. The Old Testament is full of references to it. As for the details relating to its manufacturing process, the oldest come to us from the Arabs and the Syrians who put the milk in a sewn goatskin, hung this rudimentary container on the poles of their tents and gave it a back and forth movement. comes until the milk “gives back” its butter.

In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of northern Europe (Swedes, Norwegians, Irish), who traded this commodity, will make known to the rest of the continent the techniques of its manufacture. For a long time, there will still remain a rare and expensive product that was reserved for the tables of lords, the less well-off contented with oil and lard. However, the improvement in living standards in the 18th century, and the invention, in the 1870s, of the first compressed gas refrigerator, led to a marked increase in consumption.

With its 8.8 kg per person per year, France is by far the country where it is consumed the most, followed by Germany and Ireland. Canada ranks seventh (2.6 kg) and the United States eighth (2.0 kg). Normally composed of 80% milk fat, butter is also available in light and light products, which contain 39% to 60%.

If the butter obtained from cow’s milk is the best known in the West, elsewhere in the world, other mammals have been, and are still being used, notably the females of the zebu and the yak. In the Himalayas, yak butter also plays an important role in food. It is rarely eaten raw, rather melted in tsocha, a hot drink made of tea, butter and salt and from which we drink several cups a day. With buttermilk, we prepare a cottage cheese which we consume sweet and mixed with barley to make a donut, or boiled with salt, spices and butter, and served in soup. Or put it to dry in the sun or in the oven to make a firm cheese.

For further

Raw butter, pasteurized butter

Until the 1940s, all butter was produced with raw cream that had previously been made to mature under the effect of lactic acid bacteria. This acidification had the effect of increasing the shelf life of the butter, destroying unwanted bacteria, making it more digestible and healthier, and above all, giving it that flavor and aroma that were the hallmark of a butter of quality.

However, for technical reasons that could easily be circumvented today, we started, at the time, to make butter from cream that we no longer made surir, and that it was therefore necessary to pasteurize, at the risk of losing it. The practice has become widespread and, in North America, most of the production consists of soft, pasteurized butter. Even cultured butter, which is the equivalent of the acid butter of yesteryear, is made from pasteurized cream and then reseeded with lactic acid bacteria. In Europe, it is still possible to buy raw butter directly from the farm, although this is done less and less.


Buttermilk is the liquid that separates from butter when the cream is churned. It is made up of fats, proteins, lactose, water and minerals. It was once considered a quality food, bordering on medication, which was given to sick children and tired people. It was the fermentation to which it was subjected before churning that gave it its unique virtues.

On the other hand, that which one obtains nowadays during the manufacture of soft butter does not have the same reputation. Moreover, it is not found in the retail trade, the product offered under this name being composed of skimmed milk fermented by the action of bacteria produced in the laboratory. As for the buttermilk itself, it is generally dried in the form of a powder which the food industry makes great use of for its browning, emulsifying, foaming, binding properties and to contribute to the flavor: bakery products, ice cream, pancake, waffle or cookie mixes, cream desserts, sauces, drinks, bread crumbs, batter, chocolate, melted cheese slices and spreads.

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