Most Americans are conditioned from a young age to use butter as their spread of choice on bread, pasta, etc. We even have the phrase “that’s my bread-and-butter” which signifies how common and important butter is in our cuisine.
With obesity becoming an epidemic in our society, perhaps we should take a cue from other cultures and replace our butter with more healthy substitutes. In many parts of Europe Europe, bread and pasta are commonly drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter. The super healthy Mediterranean diet also uses olive oil as one of its main staples and sources of fat in the diet.
Why is butter more unhealthy than other oils?
Butter is made out of milk fat which is very high in saturated fat, and is the kind of fat that tends to increase the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Over time, the cholesterol builds up and can cause problems with heart and cardiovascular disease. It is best to use foods such as butter that are high in saturated fat sparingly in your diet.
Healthier oil substitutes for butter
Most oils that come from plant sources, such as olive and canola oil, are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat remains liquid at room temperature, whereas saturated fat hardens at room temperature.
The important thing to understand is that unsaturated fat has the propensity to raise the levels of good cholesterol in your blood, and lower the levels of bad cholesterol. Therefore, try to use these vegetable oils instead of butter.
Olive oil is one of the favorites of nutritionists because they it can be bought in a completely natural state, unprocessed. This is key because natural vegetable oils contain many vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that are beneficial to your health. These substances can be degraded during processing.
For this reason, always use extra-virgin olive oil for best health. “Extra-virgin” simply means that the oil was obtained via mechanical means, without the use of heat or chemicals.
Avoid baking or frying with vegetable oils
Use care when baking or frying with olive and other vegetable oils, because they have a lower “smoke point” then butter and other substances. This means that they will break down at a lower heat and lose their nutritional value. Some studies even suggest that eating olive oil passed its smoke point changes the oil at the molecular level and can make it possibly harmful to your health. So it is best not to use it for these purposes.
Make it a habit
Try to get your family into the habit of using these butter substitutes. Often, the most resistance will be felt when you first make the change. But soon they will get comfortable and probably even prefer them.
And the long-term health benefits can be substantial. The calorie counts between vegetable oils and butter are fairly similar. But cholesterol and triglyceride levels will certainly be better over time. And the addition of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes to your diet will only be beneficial.