Butter goes back to the earliest days of dairy between 9000 and 8000 BC. Butter has been used in the diet for years and in the past it has even been used as an ointment. Today it is primarily used for spreading on bread, as well as in baking, sauces and frying. Butter is made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk in large vats. It is made up of about 80% fat and 15% water.
Butter is often portrayed negatively due to its fat and saturated fat content but it is a pure, natural food made from milk fat alone. The production of butter involves minimal processing, whereas most margarines are heavily processed and contain a number of artificial additives, preservatives and colourings.
Butter can be included as part of a healthy balanced diet in small quantities, for example a small amount added to foods such as vegetables adds taste to a meal.
A thin spread of butter (7g) provides 5.8g fat, 3.7g saturated fat and 52 calories. This is the amount that would cover a slice of thin bread. It is recommended that around 70g of fat, 20g of saturated fat and 2000 calories a day is a healthy upper limit for the average woman and 95g of fat, 30g of saturated fat and 2500 calories is a healthy upper limit for a man. The thin spread of butter provides 8% of the maximum requirements of fat for women and 6% for a man, 18.5% of the maximum requirement of saturated fat for women and 12% for a man and about 3% of the maximum requirement of energy for women and 2% for a man.
Butter is useful for those requiring energy-dense diets, such as those with small appetites. It is also important for us all to include small amounts of fat in the diet as fat has a number of important roles and butter is a useful source of fat. Fat forms structural components of the brain tissue, nerves and cell membranes and is also involved in the synthesis of important hormones and supplies energy.