Butter… to spread or not to spread?

There is no doubt that butter has seen a resurgence of popularity in the last few years; people looking for more ‘natural’ products and the plethora of information on the internet suggesting saturated fats are not the enemy to health they were once touted to be, have contributed to butter being back on the menu for many people.

Now this blog post is not to weigh in on the debate surrounding fats and the association with cardiovascular disease, nor is it to throw open a butter vs margarine debate.

What I want to talk about is the options for butter now available in the supermarkets and highlight some facts which may be surprising for some. For me it is important to help people make the best food choices they can and help ensure they understand the information presented to them!

Butter… to spread or not to spread? - butter
Range of butters in the supermarket- quite a large choice!

Are all butters equal?

So this blog post came around one Saturday evening when I was in a major supermarket getting ingredients to make mac ‘n’ cheese for me and hubby (a dish in our house mainly viewed as an ‘occasional food’ and so hubby was excited and told me I was to follow the recipe exactly (that meant don’t try and change it he said to make it ‘healthier’)… righto… that meant he wanted delightful, creamy, cheesy stuff!).

And that meant off to buy some butter! As a family who uses mainly avocado on sandwiches, butter is not something we regularly have in the fridge.

So I am standing in front of the butter section and wow… what a huge number of butter options!!!!

Many of these options are in tubs ready for spreading… ‘SPREADABLE’ in big words appears on many of these containers. Butter… spreadable… straight from the fridge???? What madness is this????

So I pick up a number of brands and have a look at the ingredient list- and what do I see as the most common second ingredient? An oil (e.g. vegetable oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil etc)… that’s right… the one ingredient that many people are looking to avoid in margarine and other seed oil spreads, is right there as a main ingredient in spreadable butter.  The ingredient list also reveals other additives such as emulsifiers, colours etc. A range of ingredients people site they are looking to avoid and the reason they have gone back to butter.

Butter… to spread or not to spread? - butter
Brand 1 – spreadable butter in a tub


Butter… to spread or not to spread? - butter
Brand 1- butter in a block

(These are just a couple of examples- the brand is not to be singled out- it is just one example of a number).

Right, so where is the ‘just butter’ in the containers to spread… I couldn’t find any in the range presented in this supermarket! If I wanted just butter then I had to buy a block of butter. While for me this wasn’t a problem- I was cooking after all and it made it easier for me to measure.

But what if you are buying butter for your toast? And like it in a container?

What you can do if you enjoy butter

  • Make sure you have a good look at the ingredient list – know what is in the foods your are buying.
  • Think about why you are buying butter is it for the taste? Is it that you are wanting to avoid vegetable/seed based spreads? If it is for the taste you may quite like the ‘spreadable’ butters available. If it is because you believe butter to be better than oil-based spreads then you may like to look at your butter choices to make sure they do not contain the ingredients you are looking to avoid.
  • Think about when you have ‘spreads’ and choose the spread that best suits your taste, it’s use, and your health goals.
  • If you enjoy butter and choose to have it over other spreads, then use a butter dish and choose regular butter.
  • If you are confused about all of the information out there about butter vs margarine, or all of the different types of  fats and what they mean for you health, then make an appointment with one of our dietitians to understand what is right for you.
  • Check out a recent article in The Conversation regarding different types of fats and some of the recent evidence for what we should be aiming for in terms of intake.
Butter… to spread or not to spread? - butter
Brand 2- note the canola oil in the ingredient list


Butter… to spread or not to spread? - butter
Brand 3- note there are no oils listed

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