By: Lauren Saccone
It's no secret that American cuisine isn't exactly an exercise in health food. Oh, we like our vegetables (preferably deep fried and in chip form), but most American meals are caloric heavyweights. After all, this is a country that deep-fries its soda, and loves butter. And when we say America loves butter, we mean "LLLLLLLOOOOOOVVVVEESSS butter." Butter consumption in the United States is through the roof — and that’s leading to some less than delicious problems.
According to recent reports, the number of Americans eating butter is at a 40-year high. But this isn’t just because we love it on our popcorn or slathered on our bread — this dramatic increase was brought on by efforts to actually attempt to eat healthier. It seems that in an effort to avoid the trans fats in artificial foods like margarine, eaters returned to the simple pleasures and more natural options offered by butter.
“Consumers are changing their perception of food and looking for healthier alternatives,” Anuja, Miner, the Executive Director of the American Butter Institute, recently told the LA Times. “They’re moving away from highly processed foods and artificial ingredients.”
Average butter consumption has gone up to an impressive 5.6 pounds per person as of 2012, and the dairy-based love affair shows no signs of fading. In the last decade, butter use has risen 25%. And while butter has gotten a bad rap over the years, it’s widely agreed that it’s far healthier than trans fat-laden margarine or other such products.
When it appeared on the market, trans fats were hailed as a revolutionary new idea. The vegetable oils, blended with hydrogen, extended shelf life and offered a fair imitation of our beloved butter. But it quickly became clear that trans fats were too good to be true; the ingredients drastically raised bad cholesterol in consumers and can lead to serious heart problems. This has led to a massive backlash against the chemically produced products, and consumers went back to their reliable butter. The trend has been nothing but bad news for companies that sell trans fat products, it’s been a boom for the butter industry.
Basically, butter isn’t the be-all end all of junk food. It’s hard to wrap your mind around that thought, after years of being warned away from the product. But as it turns out, butter is a surprising contender when it comes to certain health benefits. Not only is it rich in vitamins, good cholesterol, and positive fatty acids, it’s connected with lower instances of obesity and heart disease than trans fat-based products.
Still, that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with your butter consumption, hard as it may be to control your dairy desires. While butter doesn’t have the same impact on bad cholesterol as trans fat-laden margarine and other substitutes, deep-fried sticks of butter do not count as a healthy snack (no matter how delicious they are). At the end of the day, butter is a fat; too much could result in weight concerns, heart problems, and other serious medical issues. It’s definitely better than margarine, but that doesn’t mean butter needs to factor in every meal you consume. As with all things, moderation is the key to a balanced diet. But as the recent butter boom shows, Americans aren’t the best at moderation.
[Pic via Flickr - Sarah Laval]