Butter's Not So Bad (Spread It Around)


Photo by: Thinkstock


Butter is ready for its close-up — and gets it on this week's cover of Time magazine, where a solitary, sensuously lit shaved curl of golden deliciousness poses alluringly against a black background.

"Eat Butter," the attending coverline directs in a bold yellow font, adding, in smaller, whiter type, "Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong."

Inside, senior writer Bryan Walsh declares the "war on fat" — "for decades ... the most vilified nutrient in the American diet" — to be over. Even as we sought to reduce our intake of saturated fats in the name of good health, in the 70s and 80s, Bryan notes, the rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States skyrocketed. That, he contends, is because we were replacing those fats in our diets not with healthier foods, like fruits and veggies, but rather with carbs, sugar and processed foods, which turn out to be far fiercer public health foes.

Bryan told CBS News that after speaking with a host of doctors and nutritionists, he concluded that Americans "probably would have been much better off if we had just not worried so much about fat," but rather focused on eating a balanced diet emphasizing healthy, whole foods.

In other words, butter was not the bad guy after all. Neither were red meat and eggs, also unfairly maligned. Walsh explains why here, but it really boils down to LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol that saturated fats are known to raise. It turns out all there are two different kinds of LDL cholesterol: the small, dense kind that are in fact, linked to heart disease, and the large, fluffy kind that appear to be essentially benign. The small, dense ones are actually increased not by saturated fats but by the carbs, sugars and processed foods we replaced them with.

Bryan and Time weren't the first to call for butter to be reinstated into our collective good graces, of course. "Butter is back," Mark Bittman trumpeted in the New York Times in late March. While more research on the effects of saturated fat is needed, Mark wrote, "The days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter may finally be drawing to a close. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven't already."

So there seems to be consensus: Bring on the butter, in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, featuring lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains.

The war is over. All they are saying is give peas (hot and buttered) a chance.

Next Up

Does Peanut Butter Go Bad?

Peanut butter is a staple for sandwiches, sweet treats, and snacking, but does it expire? Here are the facts.

Does Olive Oil Go Bad?

An olive oil expert and producer weighs in.

Energy Drinks: Good or Bad?

Here's everything you need to know before you crack open an energy drink.

Does Almond Milk Go Bad?

Everything you need to know to keep opened and unopened containers perfectly fresh.

Are Seed Oils Bad for You?

We asked experts to weigh in on some of the claims you may have been hearing on the internet.

Is Corn Syrup Bad for You?

We asked a registered dietitian to weigh in.

Are Canned Tomatoes Good or Bad?

Worried about the nutritional value and food safety of canned goods? We asked an expert to weigh in on this pantry staple and whether you should stock up.

Is Microwave Popcorn Bad for You?

Think twice before reaching for the go-to at-home movie night snack.

Why Is Manuka Honey So Popular?

Here's why there's so much buzz around this particular kind of honey.

How to Tell If Salmon Is Bad

Plus, how to store salmon so it stays fresh.

What's New