Talk to enough nutritionists and a major common theme emerges: stay away from processed foods. This is true even when you're searching for alternatives to that oh-so-delicious source of huge amounts of saturated fats: butter.
We are led to believe that butter substitutes are healthier than butter because they contain olive oil or canola oil, but by the time fake butter products land on grocery store shelves, these good oils have been stripped of their nutritional value by the manufacturing process. Holistic health expert Carol Wasserman, CHHP, recommends staying away from typical supermarket substitutions: “In spite of having less fat and calories, even healthy oils in common substitutes are not recognizable to the body after exposure to high heat, pressure, and chemicals used to process them. The procedures also change the composition and molecular structure of the oils, making them a foreign substance to our bodies, and therefore, indigestible.” After all the processing, fake butters consist primarily of chemicals, Wasserman says, and advises that we “favor things that grow from the earth.”
However, we have options beyond just butter or chemical-filled substitutes. With a bit of creativity, we can use natural substitutes that also contain nutritional value.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Extra virgin olive oil is great for baking. Olives contain healthy fats, and olive oil also helps reduce inflammation. Plus, dipping bread in olive oil always allows for a good opportunity to imagine you’re eating al fresco in Italy.
EXTRA VIRGIN COCONUT OIL
Coconut oil is trendy and thus, ubiquitous. We rinse our hair with it, slather our bodies in it, and include it in our recipes — and with good reason. Coconut oil strengthens our immune systems and fights fungus. Wasserman advises her clients to buy extra virgin coconut oil adding, “One of the perks of extra virgin coconut oil is that its consistency is like butter. It can be spread on bread and used for baking."
Mashed up banana makes an awesome and sweet butter substitute. A banana on a piece of whole-grain bread is an excellent pre-workout snack given the mix of carbs and the fact that bananas help to sustain our blood sugar.
Avocado not only provides a dense and spreadable consistency, but also supplies the body with healthy fats and potassium — to name just a few of its nutritional perks. Not convinced? Try this avocado toast, based on the one served at New York City’s Cafe Gitane. Trust.
NUT AND SEED BUTTERS
Nut and seed butters (almond, sunflower seed, cashew, etc.) are a smart choice because they contain fiber and protein not found in butter or butter substitutes.
Even better, combine your healthy substitutes. Sliced bananas + almond butter = a delicious and healthy breakfast, snack, or even dessert.
P.S. This maple almond butter in particular is my personal weakness, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
ORGANIC GRASSFED BUTTER
If none of these healthy swaps will do, head to your nearest farmer's market. According to Wasserman, organic grassfed butter is a better choice than fake butter, as less processing means fewer changes are made to the ingredients’ original forms. "Even though butter is high in calories, the natural ingredients are indeed better for your body and more easily digested," she says.