Diabetes

Butter for Diabetics – Can A Diabetic Eat It

Parul Dube

January 26, 2023

Butter is a popular dairy product made by churning milk or cream. The most common type of butter comes from cow’s milk, but you can also use the milk of sheep, goat, yak, or buffalo.

Using butter adds extra flavour to every meal. While butter is generally well-liked, some wonder whether it is a good choice for people with diabetes.

A well-balanced diet for diabetics can include small amounts of butter. Furthermore, no scientific evidence shows any cause-and-effect link between butter and diabetes. However, butter is a type of saturated fat. So, be mindful of your daily butter intake, whether you have diabetes or not.

The consumption of butter has been debatable in the health and nutrition world due to its high saturated fat content.

This article will explore the relationship between butter and diabetes, a chronic condition that affects millions of people. It will also review the studies and research conducted on this topic and analyse the evidence for and against butter consumption.

Finally, the article explains the implications of including butter in the diet of those with diabetes and the value of moderation and balance in one’s diet.

Nutritional Profile of Butter

According to USDA, one tablespoon of unsalted butter contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 102 calories
  • Protein: 0.121 g
  • Fat: 11.5 g
  • Calcium: 3.41 mg
  • Sodium: 1.56 mg
  • Vitamin A: 97.1 mcg
  • Phosphorus: 3.41 mg
  • Potassium: 3.41 mg
  • Cholesterol: 30.5 mg
  • Choline: 18.8 mg

Butter is calorie dense, with one tablespoon (14 grams) providing around 102 calories. It is also a rice source of fat, with 11 grams per tablespoon. However, the majority of the fat in butter is saturated fat, which is not good when consumed excessively. Nearly 7.17 g of the total 11 g of fat in butter is saturated fat. 

Butter is also a good source of vitamin A, vital for maintaining healthy vision, skin, and immune function. It also contains a reasonable amount of choline, which helps your liver and brain function correctly. Additionally, butter contains small amounts of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.

It is important to note that butter is high in cholesterol. Therefore, it is crucial to consume butter in moderation and balance it with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Is Butter Good for Diabetes?

People with diabetes can consume small servings of unsalted butter. However, butter might add to the missing nutrients necessary for a well-balanced daily diet.

For example, unsalted butter contains calcium, choline, vitamin A, potassium, and phosphorus and no significant amount of sugar. 

However, since butter comes from milk, it includes milk sugar or lactose. However, after processing, only a negligible amount of lactose remains in the butter. Therefore, it is not high enough to raise your blood sugar level.

A study shows that a daily 14 g serving (1 tbsp) of butter consumption was associated with a 4% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, there is a need for long-term research on this. 

The American Heart Association recommends lower saturated fat intake, about 5-6% of total calories. For a person following the typical 2000 calories diet, this equates to 13 grams of saturated fat per day.

It is less than two tablespoons of butter. But if you have a high BMI, cholesterol, hypertension, or diabetes, consume only one tablespoon of butter.

To conclude, butter can be part of a healthy diet for diabetes, but only in moderation. People with diabetes should focus on adding butter to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.

For example, you can add butter to your boiled vegetables, dals, whole grain toast, or soups to enhance the flavour. However, do not eat butter with other high-calorie fatty foods. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Always be aware of foods that contain saturated fat, salt, and sugar when managing a diabetes-friendly diet. Since butter is high in saturated fats, people with diabetes must eat butter in limited quantities. Look for butter brands that have a lower amount of saturated fat. Moreover, do not combine butter with other fatty foods. 

Glycemic Index of Butter

Butter is a low-carbohydrate food and does not have a glycemic index. It is pure fat and does not contain any carbohydrates that would affect blood sugar levels.

It is made mainly of saturated fats, which do not impact blood sugar levels. Thus, while butter has a significant quantity of fats and calories, it has a near-zero GI score.

However, consuming large amounts of butter can contribute to weight gain. Unwanted weight gain is unhealthy for all individuals, irrespective of having diabetes or not. 

Salted Butter Vs. Unsalted Butter – Which is Healthier for Diabetes?

Butter comes in two versions; salted and unsalted. You can use salted and unsalted butter interchangeably in any recipe. However, salt content might be a concern if you have diabetes, hypertension, and other medical issues. 

There are a few reasons to choose unsalted butter over salted one. Unsalted butter gives you complete control of the amount of salt you want in your meal. It is also all cream, while the salted type contains added salt. 

According to USDA, one tablespoon (14.2 g) of salted butter contains:

  • Calories: 102 calories
  • Fat: 11.5 g
  • Sodium: 91.3 mg

Eating salted butter in excess might increase your overall sodium intake. Although salt does not directly affect blood glucose levels, it can raise blood pressure levels.

And studies show that people with diabetes are more likely to get affected by high blood pressure. Hypertension is twice as frequent in type 2 diabetes patients compared with those who do not have diabetes.

If you have doubts about whether or not you should include butter in your diabetes diet, speak to a HealthifyMe health and fitness coach. 

The HealthifyMe Note

The difference between salted and unsalted butter is simple: the salt content. Salted butter contains over 91 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. On the other hand, the same amount of unsalted butter has only 1.56 mg of sodium. Other than that, both kinds of butter are primarily the same from a nutrition standpoint. However, unsalted butter is a healthier option for diabetes. 

Benefits and Side Effects of Butter: What You Should Know

Blood Sugar Control

One potential benefit of butter for people with diabetes is that it may help to improve blood sugar control.

A study found that consuming butter as part of a low-carbohydrate diet improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. The key here is to include butter in a diet where 5% of calories are from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 75% from fat. 

A Source of Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Specific vitamins are fat-soluble. Therefore, you must eat fat to absorb them. Butter is a natural source of fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, K and E. Consuming them through butter is the easiest way for your body to absorb them.

Low Lactose

Diabetic people who are lactose intolerant can eat butter. It contains only trace amounts of lactose. Since you are not likely to consume large quantities of butter, it should be safe. 

A Good Source of Fats

A portion of the fatty acids in butter are short- and medium-chained. These types of saturated fat contain antimicrobial, antitumor, and immune-system strengthening properties. Moreover, butter can also fulfil your daily fat requirement.

It is essential to consider the overall diet and lifestyle when managing diabetes and not only focus on one ingredient or food product. If you do not eat butter in a controlled/ prescribed manner, it can lead to the following risks:

  • Increase the risk of heart diseases
  • Increase the risk of weight gain or obesity in diabetic patients
  • Increase the blood lipid levels in your bloodstream
  • The whey proteins in milk can cause allergic reactions. As butter is a dairy product, it may also have the same effect. 

Conclusion

Butter can be part of a well-balanced diet for people with diabetes. However, while a little bit of butter each day may not adversely affect your glucose levels, it is still high in calories and saturated fat. Therefore, consume butter in moderation and balance it with other nutrient-dense foods. This advice holds for all people, not only those with diabetes.

Unsalted butter is a better choice for diabetes. However, you should choose butter without the excess saturated fat and added sugars. Speak with a HealthifyMe Nutritionist to learn how to incorporate butter into your meal plan healthily.

The Research Sources

1. Data by the US Department of Agriculture. Data Type: SR Legacy | Food Category: Dairy and Egg Products | FDC ID: 173430 

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173430/nutrients

2. Pimpin, Laura & Wu, Jason & Haskelberg, Hila & Gobbo, Liana & Mozaffarian, Dariush. (2016). Is Butter Back? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Butter Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Total Mortality. PLOS ONE. 11. e0158118. 10.1371/journal.pone.0158118. 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304611705_Is_Butter_Back_A_Systematic_Review_and_Meta-Analysis_of_Butter_Consumption_and_Risk_of_Cardiovascular_Disease_Diabetes_and_Total_Mortality

3. American Heart Association: Recommendation on Saturated Fat Intake

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats

4. Data by the US Department of Agriculture. Data Type: SR Legacy | Food Category: Dairy and Egg Products | FDC ID: 173410 

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173410/nutrients

5. Petrie, J. R., Guzik, T. J., & Touyz, R. M. (2018). Diabetes, Hypertension, and Cardiovascular Disease: Clinical Insights and Vascular Mechanisms. The Canadian journal of cardiology, 34(5), 575–584. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5953551/

6. Yancy WS Jr, Foy M, Chalecki AM, Vernon MC, Westman EC. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005 Dec 1;2:34. Doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-2-34. PMID: 16318637; PMCID: PMC1325029.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1325029/

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!


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