After years of banishing butter from our diets for being too high in fat, the creamy yellow spread is making a comeback.
The Los Angeles Times’ David Pierson reports that butter consumption has grown 25% in the last decade, hitting a 40-year-high in 2012.
“Americans now eat 5.6 pounds of butter per capita, up from a low of 4.1 pounds in 1997,” Pierson writes.
The renewed acceptance of butter may be a defining moment in the war on trans fats. It’s a sign of our growing understanding about the health risks of processed fats, says Pierson.
Although people have been eating butter for thousands of years, the dairy product was demonized in the second half of the 20th century following observations that saturated fats, found in foods like butter, red meat, and baked goods, could increase the chance of getting heart disease.
Enter trans fat. Trans fat, also known as “partially hydrogenated oil,” is a man-made fat. It’s used in many butter-like spreads, including margarine. Partially hydrogenated vegetables oils grew in popularity during the 1980s as result of health warnings against saturated fats.
But scientists now recognise that trans fat is even worse for the heart than saturated fat and the Food and Drug Administration has recently taken steps to have these fats removed from food products.
Butter, though hardly a diet food, represents a transformation of American eating habits. Anything that whiffs of being human-engineered is met with scepticism. We now crave pure, less-processed ingredients that come closer to mimicking the diets of our ancestors. It’s the same mentality that made the Paleo diet so popular.
As Pierson notes, it’s now a selling point to slap a “made with real butter” label on cookies and pies.
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