Is butter bad for you? Doctor Zoe busts major myth surrounding butter – ‘avoid vilifying’

This Morning: Dr Zoe says butter 'isn't bad for you'

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Butter is a flashpoint in the medical community, owing to its association with saturated fat – an unhealthy type of fat that’s linked to heart disease and other chronic conditions. However, there are many misconceptions around fat that have led to wrong conclusions about butter. “It has a reputation for being bad but fat is not necessarily bad”, explained Doctor Zoe on ITV’s This Morning.

As Doctor Zoe pointed out, butter contains fat but “we must avoid vilifying particular foods. It’s what makes up our overall diet” that counts.

If you cut out butter completely, the risk is that you will replace it with more harmful foods, she said.

“The best thing we can do is reduce the sugary, high processed foods, such as pastries, sweets and crisps,” advised Doctor Zoe.

“If you can reduce those things, you don’t need to reduce butter.”

Adding further confusion to the picture, butter contains a mixture of saturated fat and unsaturated fat, said Doctor Zoe.

As the TV doc explained, the distinction between saturated fat and unsaturated fat has divided people into warring camps.

“We tend to think sat fats are bad and unsaturated fats are good but most dietary items such as butter include both,” she said.

However, as butter attests, it’s not as straightforward as singling out one culprit, said Doctor Zoe.

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“Some types of fat are deemed to be healthier than others but it comes down to the individual person and their dietary preferences.”

The butter taboo can be traced back to the 50s, where studies first found an association between saturated fat and heart disease, explained Doctor Zoe.

“Consensus was that diet high in saturated fat raises high cholesterol”, Doctor Zoe said.

Saturated fat and unsaturated fat – key differences

In general, saturated fats mainly come from animal sources and unsaturated fats come from more plant-based products.

Saturated fats are found in many foods, both sweet and savoury.

Most of them come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products, as well as some plant foods, such as palm oil and coconut oil.

Foods high in saturated fats include:

  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Meat products, including sausages and pies
  • Butter, ghee, and lard
  • Cheese, especially hard cheese like cheddar
  • Cream, soured cream and ice cream
  • Some savoury snacks, like cheese crackers and some popcorns
  • Chocolate confectionery
  • Biscuits, cakes, and pastries
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil and coconut cream.

Mostly found in oils from plants and fish, unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

According to the NHS, monounsaturated fats help protect your heart by maintaining levels of “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood.

Boosting HDL cholesterol levels can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and high LDL levels raise your risk.

Monounsaturated fats are found in:

  • Olive oil, rapeseed oil and spreads made from these oils
  • Avocados
  • Some nuts, such as almonds, brazils, and peanuts.

“Polyunsaturated fats can also help lower the level of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood,” adds the NHS.

Good sources include:

  • Rapeseed
  • Corn
  • Sunflower
  • Some nuts.

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