Butter Business is Better, But is it Good for Us?

Updated: 01/09/2014 6:26 PM
Created: 01/09/2014 5:47 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- These are good days for butter.

Butter consumption has reached a 40 year high in the U-S.

But is that a good thing?

"We really need to be recommending to our population what's healthy," said Austin Hy-Vee dietitian Jen Haugen.

In the past decade alone, butter consumption in America is up by 25 percent.

"I think it is a little surprising with the obesity crisis in our country," said Austin schools food service director Mary Weikum.

The back to butter appears to signal a shift toward natural ingredients ... "I think they feel real butter is closer to a whole food than margarine," Mary Weikum explained, and a backlash against trans-fats: "I think that is what has pushed people to more butter is they think that all margarines have trans-fat," said Austin Hy-Vee dietitian Jen Haugen.

The truth is, they don't.  But if you choose butter over its substitutes and put it on everything:

"You're going to get a significant amount of saturated fat, which is going to contribute to heart disease risk," dietitian Jen Haugen told us.

Look at it this way -- butter has 7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon: "Versus some of your margarine alternatives that have no preservatives are natural and made with more canola oil and yogurt have two grams of saturated fat," said Jen Haugen.

"With the calorie restrictions we are under as well as the saturated fat and fat restrictions it's very difficult to have butter or margarine in our menu," Mary Weikum said.

To meet government health guidelines, schools use a blend that's part margarine, part butter. Like most things, butter is okay in moderation. But if you eat a lot of it and you’re still concerned about trans-fats …

"I would recommend that person to make a switch to margarine that doesn't have trans- fat, but has a very high mono-unsaturated fat, which is very heart healthy," dietitian Jen Haugen said.

Per capita, Americans now eat 5.6 pounds of butter each year. That’s up from a low of 4.1 pounds per person in 1997.