Butter is an all-time keto staple and the main ingredient of bulletproof coffee. Keto dieters love it because it's a high-fat food; a whopping 80% of butter is fat! The rest of it is mainly water. The fat in butter is also of a high-quality kind that can benefit your health while on a keto diet.
Still, being such a high-fat food, your main concern is probably the calories in butter. Here, we'll go over butter nutrition facts, including how many calories in butter there are, which micronutrients it contains, and what type of fats it is made of. We'll also talk about the health benefits of butter, what it is good for, how to use it, and what makes a great substitute.
As you can see, there are 100 calories in one tablespoon (14 grams) of butter. All calories in butter come from fat, most of it being the saturated kind. Butter also contains a small amount of monounsaturated fat and a tiny amount of polyunsaturated fats – both considered the healthiest fats out there.
Butter contains no carbs or protein, which means you can eat it carefree when on a keto diet — unless you're counting calories, that is. As far as its micronutrients go, butter contains a small amount of vitamins A, E, and K.
Besides that, unsalted butter contains no sodium and around 30 mg of cholesterol. In case you're worried about cholesterol in food, don't be. According to the latest research evidence, dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol .
Fats in Butter
Butter is 80% fat and 20% water. Around 70% of fat in butter is saturated while only 2% is unsaturated .
In case you're confused about what this all means:
All fats are made of different types of fatty acids which can be either saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats are called so because they are saturated with hydrogen atoms, while unsaturated fats have missing hydrogen atoms .
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature ( think butter and coconut oil) while unsaturated fats are liquid (olive oil). Doctors recommend eating more unsaturated fats and limiting saturated fats because older studies indicated that the latter clog arteries.
Newer and more detailed studies, however, show that saturated fats come with many health benefits and have no effects on cardiovascular disease risk . After all, saturated fats were our first food as breast milk also contains mostly saturated fat.
Fats are further categorized by their molecule chain lengths into short, medium, long, and very long chain fatty acids. Medium-chain fatty acids are easiest for your body to digest. Fatty acids also categorized into essential and non-essential. Essential fatty acids are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; we need to get these from food as our body can't make them on its own.
Fatty Acid Composition of Butter
Around 30% of calories in butter you get from oleic acid, a monounsaturated type of fat . Studies on monounsaturated fats show that this fat decreases bad, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and increases good, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol .
Butterfat also contains around 15% palmitic acid which is a saturated fat. This fatty acid is called palmitic because it's a major component of palms. That's why you'll also find it in palm and coconut oil. This fatty acid is an important precursor of phenethylamine, a compound that your body makes and that protects your nerves and reduces pain and inflammation .
A long-chain, saturated fatty acid, stearic acid makes up 15% of the calories in butter. Animal studies show that this fatty acid reduces a type of body fat called visceral fat . Visceral fat lines internal organs and is strongly linked to heart disease. One study also found that stearic acid protects against atherosclerosis, further confirming that it's a healthy type of fatty acid .
Butter contains a tiny amount of butyric acid (3%). Butyric acid is a short-chain, saturated fatty acid whose name comes from the Greek word for butter. Bacterial fermentation in your colon also produces butyric acid. There, it is essential for the health and healing of intestinal cells. Researchers are now considering it in treating irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and colon cancer .
Vitamins & Minerals in Butter
Butter contains a tiny amount of vitamins and minerals. The only ones you'll find in butter are, of course, the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K, but not in amounts that help you meet nutritional needs. Fortified butter also contains vitamin D – a vitamin important for strong bones and the immune system.
As for minerals, butter comes with an itty-bitty amount of calcium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, and selenium.
All in all, don't count on butter to meet your micronutrient needs. That's not what butter is made for. Still, butter can contribute to your daily nutrient requirements when combined with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and other keto veggies because it helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in these foods.
Is Butter Healthy?
Yes, butter is definitely healthy.
Unfortunately, butter has been vilified for a very long time, not only because there are so many calories in butter, but also because of its high saturated fat content. Researchers once believed that saturated fat was the main cause of cardiovascular disease. Turns out, things are not as simple as that as recent study reviews found that the link between butter and cardiovascular disease is poor .
Studies comparing butter to fats traditionally considered healthier found that moderate intake of butter actually boosts good, HDL cholesterol in the long-run . Being the richest food source of butyric acid, butter can also improve your colon health.
Grass-fed butter is by far the best butter you can get. Experts agree that grass-fed butter nutritionally superior to commercial butter. The reason? Grass-fed butter has 500 % more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than butter from cows that are fed grains . CLA is an essential fatty acid that studies show helps people lose fat while gaining muscle . This butter is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids than regular butter.
Clarified butter is a great option if you are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy. This is because clarified butter is 100% butterfat – no milk proteins, no lactose. People make it by heating butter to evaporate the water and skim the milk solids from it. This type of butter is great in cooking because of its high smoking point that is much higher than that of butter. Keep in mind that there are more calories in butter that was clarified than regular butter – it is all fat after all.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter traditionally used in India. It's different from regular clarified butter because to make it you need to cook it a bit longer. The longer cooking time causes the milk solids brown. This gives ghee its signature nutty flavor. A great thing about ghee is that it has a very long shelf life of up to a year and beyond.
How to Use Butter for Keto
Butter can help you reach your macros on a keto diet. It's also incredibly versatile as you can use it for cooking, baking, as a condiment, and as a spread. Here are some ideas to incorporate butter into your keto diet:
Add it to your coffee
Blending a hot cup of coffee with butter is a great way to boost energy levels early in the morning. The saturated fats in butter will slow down the absorption of caffeine and give you a steady release of energy. The added fat is also great if you want to reach ketosis sooner.
Cook with it
Butter makes everything taste way better. Cook your your keto meals with it whenever you can. At Kiss My Keto, we have a wide collection of recipes for you to choose from. Simply select butter as an ingredient and apply the filter to see recipes using plenty of butter.
Use it as a spread
Put a pat of butter on your pancakes or spread it over keto bread made with coconut and almond flours. It's easy and convenient and helps you meet your daily macros. You can also top keto cloud bread with butter if you like.
Make fat bombs
Fat bombs are made with a combination of fatty ingredients such as butter, coconut oil, and nuts and seeds. They're specifically designed for people on a keto diet and they're incredibly delicious. If you like tiny sweets, then make them with stevia to satisfy your sweet tooth with zero net carbs.
What if I Don't Want Butter?
Don't go for margarine. It's a really poor substitute for butter and can't compare to butter in terms of health benefits and nutrition. Instead go for the following:
- Coconut oil– coconut oil is also mostly saturated fat, so it is solid at room temperature just like butter. You may also find coconut butter is another great option. Keep in mind that both products have a strong coconut flavor.
- Shea butter – another great butter substitute high in saturated fats. It's also a good source of vitamins A and E and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Avocado – Avocado doesn't contain as much fat per weight as butter. Still, it's a high-fat, creamy food that many use as a butter substitute in baking. Of course, you can't fry food with an avocado, but you can use it as a spread and filling ingredient.
Don't fret the calories in butter, embrace them. Butter is a healthy way to curb hunger and hit your daily macros while on a keto diet. And while it may not pack much in terms of micronutrients, it still comes with many health benefits.
Butter enhances the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins; it balances out blood cholesterol, and it also protects gut health. If you go for the grass-fed kind, which we highly encourage, you also get the addition of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA.
Other things that make butter so great is its versatility and flavor. But if you can't have butter, then go for ghee or coconut oil. Both are great substitutes, although you may want to adjust your portions when using these two in baking.