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Butter/Margerine - healthy replacement

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Does anyone know of a healthy alternative to butter or margerine?

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  1. Smart Balance. Although I wouldn't use it to replace fat in baking.

    I got to tell you, moderation is what I rely on. Butter is not that bad. Also, good (non-grocery store) lard is better for you than butter. Less saturated fats and all.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Becca Porter

      My wife and I have gone at least 70% organic including organic unsalted butter. Unsalted butter allows us to control the amount of salt we use in our cooking. Also we no longer used Morton's processed or iodized salt (except to kill snails in the garden) as the processing removes the natural nutrients. Instead we use Real Salt brand because their products are mined and bagged on site without processing which retains all the natural minerals in the finished product.

      1. re: today160

        I just read this post and am amazed at the assertion that "processing removes the natural nutrients" from salt. Sodium chloride is sodium chloride. "Sea salt" is sodium chloride with impurities. That doesn't make it more "real" or healthier.

        1. re: ferret


          Also, why do we talk about not eating processed salt, but still eating butter, which is ALWAYS processed? Butter does not occur naturally in nature, and I've yet to see a cow lactating when it sees a thirsty human.

          1. re: ferret

            Sodium Chloride does remain as sodium chloride however, processing removes other vital minerals and the iodine used in processed salt is not in its natural form. Unprocessed sea salt contains not just sodium chloride but many other mineral salts besides, including valuable trace minerals such as manganese and iodine. Although unprocessed salt does not contain sufficient quantities of iodine, this mineral is found in Kelp, milk, mozzarella cheese, eggs, strawberries, bananas, and other vegetable items including asparagus, radish, mushrooms, garlic, onions, eggplant and potatoes.


            1. re: today160

              Asparagus contains numerous other vitamins and minerals and trace amounts of salt. If you make salt from asparagus, you'll lose all those nutrients. But while doing so removes all the natural nutrients that occur in asparagus, it doesn't remove any natural nutrients that occur in salt. Because salt doesn't have any.

              1. re: today160

                Unprocessed sea salt contains not just sodium chloride but many other mineral salts besides, including valuable trace minerals such as manganese and iodine.

                Then you're just consuming salt+other minerals.

                Whereas if you buy what you call "processed salt" you are just consuming salt+iodine.

                I'm not sure there's any qualitative difference in the long run, except perhaps in your pocketbook.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Unless you buy non-iodized processed salt. In which you're just consuming salt.

                  Me, I don't care for the flavor of the iodized stuff. I'll get my iodine from wakame and shellfish and my asparagus vitamins from, well, asparagus. When I want salt, Morton's plain will do just fine, thankyouverymuch.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    I just think the taste of salt with iodine tastes bad. It reminds me of chewing on aluminum foil. I never noticed it before I stopped using it. It think it is why some processed food tastes funny to me too (that I used to like). I also taste a weird taste in Hawaiian salt (red). You can really recalibrate your palate with salts without realizing it.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Totally agree that you can taste the impurities / additives in salt. I loathe the flavor of iodized salt, but really enjoy the earthy taste of the red alaea salt from Hawai'i. Other impure salts can be subtle or aggressive, pleasant or offensive. But what you're tasting are the additives and/or impurities. Pure salt just tastes salty.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        OT but if you have never read "Salt: a World history" by Mark Kurlansky, you should! It is more interesting than the title would lead you to believe. Salt changed the world.

                2. re: today160

                  As far as "valuable" trace minerals go, Sea salt is far from the sole source. The argument is still spurious, there's no difference to the healthiness between salt+dirt and salt alone. I suspect that if the salt was removed from the "vital minerals" there wouldn't be much of a market for the "vital minerals" alone. As far as iodine goes, it again is an element, it's either there or it's not, "natural form" notwithstanding.

                  1. re: ferret

                    Trace minerals are critical to the health of human and animals. You can get some trace minerals from some unrefined salts (depending on the salt). So, many people pick the form of salt that not only tastes better to them- but also has the added health benefit of giving them some trace minerals. It's a win-win.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Not disputing the need for trace minerals just the poster's claim that table salt as "processed" is somehow less healthy than sea salt. Salt is salt. Salt packed in dirt may have the additional benefit of trace minerals but that doesn't make table salt bad.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Yes, and it is a bit of an "unanswerable question" in regard to "healthy" food items in general...isn't it? Be it butter or salt, sugar or shellfish or gluten or whatever. What is healthy for one- is not necessarily healthy for another- and could be downright unhealthy for yet another.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          The point is that if salt is acceptable in your diet then praising "natural salt" while vilifying table salt is senseless. It's a meaningless distinction. From a flavor standpoint, sure. But it's like saying organic butter is better for you than store brands. They're both butters so there's no difference from a dietary standpoint. If you believe that organic makes sense from a lifestyle perspective then that's great but it doesn't otherwise transform the end product.

                  2. re: today160

                    Whole societies have existed getting salts from only the foods they ate. So "trace" amounts of anything are usually picked up elsewhere on a natural diet. Thanks for the link but in this day and age one can link to an article to support just about any argument. Like free range chicken is better. Free range can mean 10 million chickens living in a barn with a 1 sq ft hole in the wall. Since they "have" access to a free range means it can be classified as such. So the link to free range chicken being better was debunked.

                3. re: today160

                  The salts considered 'natural' are lacking in iodine. So, it you don't use iodize salt, it's important you use kelp in some form to get the iodine. Otherwise, expect some thyroid problems.


                4. re: Becca Porter

                  I'm not convinced that saturated fats are at all bad for you.

                  For years, people did not distinguish trans-fats from natural saturated fats, and all the research that I've seen that has made this distinction has failed to find any problems with saturated fats.

                  There's also the problem that most saturated fats are from animal sources, and there are serious problems with the food supply with respect to animal fat sources in the US. Many harmful chemicals are fat soluble, so it seems plausible that there could be other explanations, other than the fat itself, for negative associations between saturated fat and health.

                  1. re: cazort

                    People have failed to separate dietary fat from the hormonal and metabolic influences of what's eaten with it, and failed to consider the harm from pro inflammatory high omega 6 vegetable oils' and omega 3 balance, failed to consider the impact of CAFO on fat content and quality of beef....

                5. Skip the margarine and just use butter in moderation. There really is no replacement, IMO. Nothing even comes close.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: debit

                    Absolutely. I believe that the natural stuff, in moderation, is preferable to the substitute... unless you have diabetes and must use Splenda, of course. Situations like that are, obviously, exceptions.

                  2. Who's telling you that butter isn't healthy? They're wrong.

                    Margarine is unhealthy and to be avoided. But not butter.

                    Butter is healthy.

                    20 Replies
                    1. re: scott123

                      Nonsense, the right kind of margarine is much more healthy than butter. For instance Becel, it is low in saturated fats and has no trans fats. On the other hand hard margarine is definitely to be avoided.

                      1. re: exbrit

                        Why should a non-natural food (margarine) be more healthy than all natural one (butter) if you eat it in moderation ?

                        1. re: honkman

                          I'm with you. Here are the ingredients in Becel:

                          Canola and sunflower oils 74%, water, modified palm and palm kernel oils 6%, salt 1.8%, whey protein concentrate 1.4%, soy lecithin 0.2%, vegetable monoglycerides, potassium sorbate, vegetable colour, artificial flavour, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3, alpha-tocopherol acetate (vitamin E).

                          I buy butter fresh from the farm. Its ingredients are:
                          Milk, water

                          I eat butter in moderation. Becel may have no transfat but it has a whole lot of other junk that I don't want to put in my body.

                          1. re: honkman

                            Because non-natural foods come from science and natural foods don't. Although right now our current science is not enough to surpass nature (ie, I agree that natural foods are better for you right now) that is only because nature has a four billion year head start. Science will eventually catch up, and fast enough that it may happen in our lifetime or soon after.

                            -Harry From Marydel, DE

                            1. re: HarryFromMarydelDE

                              "Science will eventually catch up, and fast enough that it may happen in our lifetime or soon after."
                              As a scientists I couldn't disagree more with you

                              1. re: honkman

                                As a scientist, I agree with Harry. Before people were milking animals, they weren't. When we combine foods together in the kitchen, is that really any different than a lab combining atoms and molecules together? Science is a part of nature and an extension of the human brain. Everything that comes from science isn't healthy for you, sure, but neither is everything that comes from nature outside of the human hand. Science will progress as it understands the molecular structures of various healthy foods and how to improve chemical compounds that have come out of nature before science.

                            2. re: honkman

                              It's now 2012 and the premise that saturated fat causes heart disease has been debunked fully. You can eat as much butter and saturated fats as you'd like if you do not eat processed carbs and sugars. This is my understanding of this as it is today. Both Atkins and the creator of the South Beach Diet are cardiologists and were able to see the results in their patients. Eating only saturated fats and in high calorie percentages and showing better cholesterol levels. Pharma is controlling the FDA and the food pyramid because they want everybody on statins (high blood pressure meds).

                              1. re: surfereddie

                                "You can eat as much butter and saturated fats as you'd like if you do not eat processed carbs and sugars" - I highly recommend you the book "Why Calories Count" from Marion Nestle covering the current science about food, calories etc. It might help you to understand that your assessment is not correct.

                                "Both Atkins and the creator of the South Beach Diet are cardiologists and were able to see the results in their patients." - There are number of books (inlcuding the ones from Nestle) and research papers out which show that those diets don't work under settings which are fully controlled (similar to clinical studies) and that "successful" diets and their claims are mainly marketing.

                                "Pharma is controlling the FDA and the food pyramid because they want everybody on statins (high blood pressure meds)." - I work in this industry and there are many things not working fine and much room for improvement but at the same time you simply write things which are completely wrong and not backed by any facts (and mainly come from conspiracy pages)

                            3. re: exbrit

                              exbrit, sorry, but you are wrong. Butter is healthier.

                              1. re: neverlate

                                I believe it is very healthy in moderation. It is easy to make in the food processor with organic cream.

                              2. re: scott123

                                Amen. Lard (not the stuff from meat packing companies but pure rendered pork fat) is also good fr you in moderation. It has many of the same elements as olive oil, there is some in my fridge always along with goose and duck fat.

                                1. re: Candy

                                  Very important people: Lard in the grocery store shelves is a trans fat / hydrogenated oil and not rendered animal fat. HUGH and deadly difference.

                                  1. re: surfereddie

                                    The product labeled as lard in my grocery store is lard. It's filtered, but still rendered animal fat. The hydrogenated oil product is shortening (Crisco).

                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                      The lard in the grocery stores in my area IS hydrogenated - says it right on the label.

                                2. re: scott123

                                  Ubetcha.......as Julia would repeat often......In butter we trust!

                                  1. re: scott123

                                    Butter is NOT healthy is you're lactose intolerant! Then, what do you recommend?

                                      1. re: alexander622

                                        I have had some friends that are lactose intolerant that had no reaction when they ate raw milk & butter. It doesn't work for anybody but it might be worth a try.

                                        1. re: MissBubbles

                                          I was lactose intolerant for several years and butter wasn't a problem.

                                    1. I only eat butter, no synthetics in my home.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Candy

                                        Who says butter is healthy? It is 100% animal fat. Animal fat on any level is unhealthy regardless of the form its presented in.

                                        We use olive oil in everything, we do not use butter, and our meals are fabulous. We don't miss butter at all. For bread, we use olive oil, with seasoning and sometimes a little aged sweet balsamic. Yum Yum!

                                        1. re: kdljones

                                          Animal fat in moderation is not a significant health risk for people who are not vulnerable to cholesterol or related issues. Actually, for people who are watching calories more than cholesterol, butter can be a bit of an aid because it has 80% of the calories of oil per unit of volume. And butter has qualities that oil cannot replicate: because it contains water and non-fat solids, it can do things oil cannot hope to do in cooking. That's why many people should happily continue to use buttern in moderation.

                                          To answer the OP's question, the only solid vegetable fat product I can enjoy a bit in place of butter is Olivio. It tastes a lot better than other spreads.

                                          1. re: kdljones

                                            Mother nature is never wrong. So you're saying all of mankind throughout history has been unhealthy? Olive oil has probably been around for 3,000 years and only available world wide the last 60 with all of the hydrogenated oils. Many of the oldest living peoples have never had olive oil and only saturated fats. We have been lied to for the last 40 years. It took somebody outside of medicine to debunk this myth. Nobody from the medical community has been able to refute his findings that animal fats good for us. The medical community cannot let go but slowly they must as the evidence i overwhelming.

                                            1. re: kdljones

                                              Butter is healthy, animal fats are really healthy. But the animals should be grass fed. Studies have demonstrated time and again, reducing carbs and replacing them with fats, including high saturated fat, improves all risk markers, especially for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you don't want to eat saturated fat, that's your business, but it has no basis in objective science in which the influences of fats have been tested apart from a high glycemic load.

                                          2. Butter is an all natural food, just as God intended it.

                                            I use Olive Oil and other oils for salads and frying, and butter sparingly for the table and cooking. There is no replacement,however, for butter in baking.

                                            Animal fat like butter,lard,goose fat etc, are not unhealthy used in small quantities in a varied diet . The French eat all of those and have a much greater life span than we do, half the heart deisease, and less than half the cancer.

                                            Margarine is hydrogenated fat, 100% chemical and not natural at all.

                                            16 Replies
                                            1. re: Fleur

                                              There are now lots of trans-fat free margarines on the market.

                                              Personally I'd rather use something closer to a natural product, like butter, lard, or vegetable or nut oil.

                                              1. re: Fleur

                                                Hey im sorry but des no way i agree wit u! Incase u never did an ounce of chemistry u should know dat margerine is hydrogenated VEGETABLE/PLANT oils!!!!

                                                Butter has more calories dan margerine and shoots cholestrol right out of da cieling! Please tel me on wat planet is animal fat better dan plant fat?!!!! Certainly not earth!!!!!

                                                Butter may taste nicer to some personally I dont use it at all it tastes purely disgusting!!!

                                                If u wana kill urself go ahead using butter!

                                                1. re: taszi

                                                  Um, butter does not have more calories than most regular margarines. It does have more saturated fat, but no transfats, and transfats are now considered more of a health risk than the saturated fat in butter. And many people do not have a cholesterol problem and don't need to worry about consuming saturated fats in moderation.

                                                  As for calories, a tablespoon of butter has 100 calories. A tablespoon of vegetable oil has 120 calories. Why does butter have 20% fewer calories per unit of volume? Because it contains water, sugar (lactose) and trace proteins in addition to fat-those additional things are what give it properties oil cannot duplicate in cooking.


                                                  1. re: taszi

                                                    Margarine is plant fat like kerosene is dinosaur fat.

                                                    It's not the source of the fat that's the problem, its the processing it undergoes between field and table.

                                                    1. re: taszi

                                                      It's exactly the hydrogenization process that makes margarine unhealthy. It's through hydrogenation that trans-fats are created. Ingesting transfats have been shown to increase overal cholesterol and LDL (the so-called "bad cholesterol").

                                                    2. re: Fleur

                                                      Butter is made from non-human milk. Mammals do not produce milk naturally unless they have young offspring to feed.

                                                      Butter substitutes (good and bad alike) come from science. Guess what, so does butter. Even if you milk the cow yourself and churn the butter, it isn't natural. I've never seen a cow start the lactation process when it sees a person.

                                                        1. re: cherstewart

                                                          Butter is processed, but the single ingredient (milk) is natural, and the technology is so simple that people have been making it for at least 8,500 years.


                                                          The commercial hydrogenation of vegetable oil was developed just over a century ago, by William Proctor and James Gamble, who were looking for a less expensive substitute for lard and tallow (which were controlled by a cartel) in making soap and candles.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Butter is Milk, Water and Curd.

                                                            Curd is curdled milk (a process that is sped up using enzymes) and an acid (usually vinegar).

                                                            Vinegar is fermented ethanol and water. The water used has been processed to remove impurities.

                                                            I am a food scientist and honestly, I do not see the difference between using nature to produce something such as butter and using more advanced technologies based on the knowledge we have gained to produce something better for the human body.

                                                            Whether or not butter is simple to make is not my point. My point is that it is no way "natural" to drink another mammal's milk. Unless you modify your definition to include human adaptations based on current technology and knowledge. What was the best available adaptation 8,500 years ago is not necessarily the best today.

                                                            1. re: cherstewart

                                                              You don't need to culture milk to make butter. Let the cream separate, skim or pour it off into a container, close the container tightly, and shake it.

                                                              Food scientists spent much of the 20th century telling people that partially-hydrogenated cottonseed oil was healthier than butter, but it turned out that the process produces molecules not found in nature that are pretty seriously unhealthy. Not to mention that the stuff tastes bad.

                                                              Personally, rather than trust the latest advice from a food scientist, I prefer to stick with foods that predate the industrial revolution, and avoid all "foods" containing chemicals not found in nature. I'm no fanatic, I like oil flavored with 2,4-dithiapentane.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                I do not have the time to make my own butter. It's great if you do, but I do not know a single person that makes their own butter.

                                                                Other than the fact that humans and their brains are a part of nature, very few molecular creations are not found somewhere already on earth, in some state and abundance. Molecules and atoms that have been created solely by the human hand (again, still everything comes from things found in nature as matter cannot be created nor destroyed, only change form) are generally unstable and do not last very long.

                                                                Food scientists are not the media. They are not business owners. They weren't telling anyone anything that you claim they were. People trying to make a large profit were the ones doing that.

                                                                I prefer not to eat things that I know do not break down properly in the system, regardless of whether or not humans helped create it.

                                                                All the people I know shopping at Whole Foods and eating nothing that has been touched altered or created in a lab take medicine when they are sick. Meanwhile we are getting overcharged for produce and "natural" foods because people like you have tragically been lost to the same thing that happened that got food companies such large profit margins for creating shortcuts in the first place.

                                                                It's no different. Convince people that something that is ultimately bad for you is good for you. Convince people to pay three times as much for food that costs far less to make by scaring people into believing that humans and their inventions are not a part of nature.

                                                                1. re: cherstewart

                                                                  I'm deeply skeptical of all claims regarding food being "natural" or whatever. I just buy what tastes best to me.

                                                                  The vegetables I get in my CSA box, at my local farmers market, and from our garden taste better than anything I've ever seen in a supermarket. Usually they cost more, occasionally less than conventional produce, I don't really care as it's not a big percentage of my food budget. The CSA produce averages about 30% cheaper than the same or similar stuff from the farmers market.

                                                                  The relatively tasteless produce produced by corporate farms would not be so much cheaper if the corporations were not subsidized and allowed to externalize the costs of unsustainable production methods and pollution.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    Definitely. Everyone should have a home garden. The cost of produce is supposed to double by the close of this summer season. Most people are shocked at the first taste of home-grown veggies.

                                                                    I'm just trying to push that not everything that comes from molecular alteration is bad. Just like not everything that humans don't contribute directly to creating. You just have to know what it is and how your body will process it. But I'm with you on taste. I don't care how wonderful it is. If it tastes funky, I'm not eating it.

                                                                    1. re: cherstewart

                                                                      Whose cost for what produce where?

                                                                      I have no way of guessing how my body might process a chemical not found in food, or how it might interact with other non-food chemicals. There's a century-long history of people presuming new chemicals are safe and then finding out only much later that they're not.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        I assumed given your relative passion for this subject that you would do the research.

                                                                        People also eat/drink things that they find in nature assuming they are safe, only to find out later that they are not.

                                                        2. re: Fleur

                                                          Sparingly only means don't eat so many calories from butter as to become overweight. It's an all natural product that you can use as much as you'd like just don't get overweight. My grandfather is a thin man that has eaten eggs cooked in bacon fat his entire life. Always butter nothing un-natural and has never used olive oil. He'll be 95 this year and is on no medication. He was pre-diabetic and just cut back on his consumption and that is gone.

                                                        3. I'm beating a dead horse at this point, but I agree: there is absolutely nothing wrong with butter in moderation. I would never even consider using anything else in baking.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: christy319

                                                            I don't think it's dead enough. Too many people still labor under the hectorings of the indiscriminate demonizers of certain foods. I subscribe to the Nutrition Action Newsletter, which is among the more voluble of that group, but I also know how to separate the wheat from the chaff in what they write.

                                                          2. Smart Balance - and I have used it as a fat for baking and it worked fine. The fats it is made from are actually supposed to be good for your circulatory system - it has essential fatty oils like salmon does.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: niki rothman

                                                              I really like Smart Balance, and it has good omega 3's in it. I even use it on my Zen Bakery healthy cinnamon buns to make a cream cheese frosting of fat-free cream cheese, a little smart balance, splenda, and vanilla.

                                                              1. re: Emme

                                                                Emme, you are clearly an amazing baker. I don't know this Emme who uses artificial processed food!?

                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                  ah years ago... and i think i was thinking of earth balance, not *smart* balance... mea culpa from 5 years ago... i can't eat it anymore, but i will admit to liking (sadly) the sweetness of FF cream cheese, and i've converted from sucralose to stevia... oh the errors of days gone by. ;)
                                                                  thanks for the compliment tho sandlylc!

                                                                  1. re: Emme

                                                                    For health concerns, I've recently converted to coconut palm sugar, which experts say is a "slow burning diabetic friendly sugar," and very good for you. (Fortunately, I am NOT diabetic!) And today I have added Rapadura, or dehydrated cane sugar, to my shopping/shipping list, also acclaimed by experts as healthier and richer in nutrients than regular sugar or any artificial sweetener. All of these experts say that if I will just start eating what they tell me to eat, in no time at all I will be the picture of perfect health! Hey, it sounds like as good a rainbow to chase as any! Wish me luck. Oh, and did you know that "healthy" is a synonym for "more expensive"? Sometimes you just can't win.

                                                              2. re: niki rothman

                                                                I agree. I use Smart Balance Organic and it tastes great and is healthier than butter or most other margarine. Its always worked fine when baking as well.

                                                                1. re: niki rothman

                                                                  Anything that markets itself as healthy is not. Everything in its natural form is the most healthy. The farther away from its natural form is not. Smart Balance is soybean oil and canola, its crap, sorry to have to tell you.

                                                                2. Olive oil is my first choice for anything which will be fried or sauteed.

                                                                  If I'm having toast - Smart Balance is the best tasting substitute for butter that I've found. If you had told me I'd ever be able to deal with any kind of butter substitute I would have laughed in your face years ago. SB isn't so bad. I can even manage it on a baked potato.

                                                                  Butter, as mentioned, has no substitute in some instances. There are just some things which taste better with butter and I won't give them up such as; scrambled eggs, pastries and other various baked goods, etc. Since I eat those items in moderation to begin with, I don't feel too guilty about the occassional butter splurge these days. In fact, a stick of butter in my home could easily last a month, maybe more.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: sivyaleah

                                                                    Agree...everything in moderation. I keep butter in the freezer. I stock up when the kind I like it is on sale, wrap in Saran,then store in Ziploc freezer bags. When I need a TBS or so of butter for a dish, I slice it off a frozen stick.

                                                                  2. The best butters are those from grass-fed cows. The one brand I can find is Organic Valley organic butter. High levels of Omega-3s and a lot of Vitamin A, E, and Oleic (spelling?) Acid. Oleic Acid is an essential compound only found in pastured (grass-fed) meats and dairy products. It's certianly expensive, but when I can afford it's reserved for table use :). Good stuff.

                                                                    Butter is not bad for you. Animal fat is not bad for you. Julia Child used animal fats for cooking and baking almost exlusively, and she lived to be 92, but she stressed and practiced moderation, and that's the key.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: rokzane

                                                                      JC also drank wine, another healthy habit which might have helped balance her butter intake...nm

                                                                      1. re: rokzane

                                                                        Very true. My Grandmother is 99. She never followed any diet regime, never worked out, just walked a lot and ate everything, including butter and chocolate.

                                                                        She is still going strong, and enjoying all her food. At this very moment I am preparing Chicken Cannoli and a Gingerbread Cake to bring to her. Every week I prepare a a few dishes in large amounts so she can enjoy it for many meals just by defrosting and reheating.

                                                                        Does anyone else prepare food for an elderly relative or friend?

                                                                        1. re: Fleur

                                                                          My grandmother and her sister lived into their 90s on a diet rich in animal fat. They grew up on a dairy farm, and churned butter until they immigrated to the US. My grandmother never stopped buttering her steaks and salting her ham, to her health-conscious daughter's (my mother) ire. The gleeful look on my grandmother as she stared at my mother while slathering the butter and pounding the salt is a fond memory of her grandchildren, who thus learned a lesson about obsessions over "bad" food.

                                                                        2. re: rokzane

                                                                          I think rokzane has hit on a really important point here.

                                                                          I don't eat dairy because I'm a vegetarian, and can't find any source of butter that doesn't involve killing, but I don't think butter in moderation is inherently unhealthy. And, making vegetable fats solid usually involves some sort of problems in terms of health too, whether because of processing (hydrogenation), or lack of omega-3s (most shelf-stable oils and vegetable fats that solidify easily have an infinity:1 omega-6:omega-3 ratio). Personally, I try to use as minimally processed stuff as possible, but I will admit to using Earth Balance as well as coconut oil based (non-hydrogenated) vegetable shortening or unrefined coconut oil sometimes. I don't try to delude myself that these are "healthy" (or tastier than butter) -- it's just a personal choice to use them anyway.

                                                                          People have this idea that 'beef is beef' and 'butter is butter' nutritionally speaking, but just because the nutritional information reads more or less the same that isn't necessarily so -- not everything can be reduced to a label on a box. After reading the book 'The Queen of Fats', I'm really convinced that not all milk / butter is equal -- as rokzane says, the *types* of fat, and other ingredients, are different when the butter comes from pastured animals. In other words, animals which are more humanely treated and have a more natural diet also produce meat, dairy, and eggs which are healthier to eat. The types of fat will vary depending on the animal's diet, and so will the way the body deals with it.

                                                                          Whether or not I always fully live up to that ideal, I think eating "real food" (i.e., unprocessed food) and taking a holistic approach to nutrition is a good goal to strive towards.

                                                                          1. re: rokzane

                                                                            Genetics has a major factor in longevity. But yes I agree grass fed is the natural diet and will yield the best milk and butter. I also agree that all of the people that are living today that are over 100 years of age all ate butter and animal fats for the majority if not their entire lives. They were raised before the frankenfoods and oils were invented. The only moderation that needs to be observed is not to get fat. All high fat diets like Atkins and South Beach (both created by cardiologist) show cholesterol levels improving on saturated fat diets. This myth that engineered low fat foods are better has been debunked.

                                                                            1. re: surfereddie

                                                                              Not that cholesterol levels going down is necessarily an improvement and they often do not. What typically happens is that the ratios change to a very favorable risk profile. Sometimes that means higher LDL, but large, fluffy, harmless LDL. LDL is what all sex hormones and other adrenal steroids are made from; you don't want them lower, necessarily.

                                                                          2. Butter is best for baking, and certain other dishes.

                                                                            I'll often use 1/2 butter and 1/2 olive oil for saute and pan frying.

                                                                            There are some butter blends out there that taste OK as a spread, and rice butter is a nice addition to the fridge spread on pancakes or bread.

                                                                            Margarine is gross IMO. One could argue that it's better to use something that has a lot of flavor, that way you might not use as much. Of course, that could backfire!

                                                                            1. Since I currently have to follow a dairy-free diet, I'm using Organic Earth Balance (whipped) and it's pretty good for a butter substitute. I haven't tried it in baking but the container says you can.

                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                Smart Balance/Earth Balance has been my choice for some time, and yes I have cooked and baked with it. It works. Butter works better, and lard works better yet, but if your doctor says Lay Off The Animal Fats! at least you won't have to go without your biscuits...

                                                                                1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                  Have you tried Ghee? It is butter without the milk solids. It is available at Indian groceries in a jar, and keeps on the shelf for a long time.

                                                                                  1. re: Fleur

                                                                                    It's not the milk solids that are the problem, it's the proteins (I am told). It's OK, it's not forever, just until I am done breastfeeding. I've got a jar of Ghee in my pantry that stares at me accusingly every time I go in there :-)

                                                                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                      Chris, I am four weeks away from delivering so your post is of special interest to me. Is there a specific reason, beyond simply breastfeeding, that you are maintaining a dairy free diet? I assume there is a reason, better for the baby or colick (sp?) or ?? Is there something I should know that I do not. First time mom :-)

                                                                                      Thanks, Michele

                                                                                      1. re: Michele4466

                                                                                        Drop me an email- my address is in my profile. It's not really chow talk!

                                                                                      2. re: Chris VR

                                                                                        well, the proteins are part of the milk solids. The non-fat parts of milk are (1) water and (2) solids consisting of sugar (lactose) and protein.

                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                          The list my doctor gave me looks like the list at http://www.uchospitals.edu/online-lib... and ghee's no good.

                                                                                          1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                            I assume the reason for that is that ghee may not be fully clarified. But commercial ghee that I have says 0 grams of protein (which I know may mean less than .5 gram).

                                                                                    2. re: Chris VR

                                                                                      I will agree that if you have to avoid dairy, Earth Balance is one of the better substitutes out there. It doesn't taste like butter, but, for all of people's griping about processed foods, it doesn't contain too much weird stuff (the ingredients do vary slightly between the different types). However, a lot of the time I'll just use coconut oil or coconut shortening (if a solid fat is required), or liquid oil.

                                                                                    3. Lard...iirc that it has less sat fat or cholesterol than butter ounce for ounce.

                                                                                      1. I really like Olivio.

                                                                                        I have cooked with it and it makes as good of a grilled cheese sandwich as butter.

                                                                                        1. While margarine and assorted vegetable oil spreads may be cheaper, you'd never eat them again if you knew how they were made. All margarines are made from assorted vegetable oils that have been heated to extremely high temperatures. This insures that the oils will become rancid. After that, a nickel catalyst is added, along with hydrogen atoms, to solidify it. Nickel is a toxic heavy metal and amounts always remain in the finished product. Finally, deodorants and colorings are added to remove margarine's horrible smell (from the rancid oils) and unappetizing grey color.
                                                                                          And if that is not enough, in the solidification process, harmful trans-fatty acids are created which are carcinogenic and mutagenic. What would you rather have: a real food with an abundance of healthful qualities or a stick of carcinogenic, bleached, and deodorized slop? Some of you might be watching your weight and be rather hesitant to add butter into your diet. Have no fear. About 15% of the fatty acids in butter are of the short and medium chain variety which are NOT stored as fat in the body, but are used by the vital organs for energy. (Fats you should watch, though, are all vegetable oils and olive oil.)
                                                                                          Butter is a rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A, needed for a wide range of functions in the body, from maintaining good vision, to keeping the endocrine system in top shape. Butter also contains all the other fat-soluble vitamins (E, K, and D).
                                                                                          Butter is rich in trace minerals, especially selenium, a powerful antioxidant. Ounce for ounce, butter has more selenium per gram than either whole wheat or garlic. Butter also supplies iodine, needed by the thyroid gland (as well as vitamin A, also needed by the thyroid gland).
                                                                                          Butter has appreciable amounts of butyric acid, used by the colon as an energy source. This fatty acid is also a known anti-carcinogen. Lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid, is a potent antimicrobial and antifungal substance. Butter also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which gives excellent protection against cancer. Range-fed cows produce especially high levels of CLA as opposed to "stall fed" cattle. It pays, then, to get your butter from a cow that has been fed properly. Butter also has small, but equal, amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, the so-called essential fatty acids.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: benjughead

                                                                                            Heart disease was rare in America at the turn of the century. Between 1920 and 1960, the incidence of heart disease rose precipitously to become America's number one killer. During the same period butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in statistics to conclude that butter is not a cause. Actually butter contains many nutrients that protect us from heart disease. First among these is vitamin A which is needed for the health of the thyroid and adrenal glands, both of which play a role in maintaining the proper functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system. Abnormalities of the heart and larger blood vessels occur in babies born to vitamin A deficient mothers. Butter is America's best and most easily absorbed source of vitamin A. It a number of anti-oxidants that protect against the kind of free radical damage that weakens the arteries. Vitamin A and vitamin E found in butter both play a strong anti-oxidant role. Butter is a very rich source of selenium, a vital anti-oxidant--containing more per gram than herring.
                                                                                            Butter is also a good dietary source cholesterol. Cholesterol an anti-oxidant? Yes indeed, cholesterol is a potent anti-oxidant that is flooded into the blood when we take in too many harmful free-radicals--usually from damaged and rancid fats in margarine and highly processed vegetable oils. A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.

                                                                                            1. re: benjughead

                                                                                              Excellent post - hopefully this puts to rest the silly, impressed-upon notion that something artificial (as far as food goes) is 'better' than the original, natural variety.

                                                                                            2. Yikes, Julia Child is turning in her grave now... Butter, in moderation (like pretty much anything else) is not unhealthy and, IT TASTES GOOD. I would guess that the negative effects on one's health from worrying about the effects of butter far outweigh any negative effects from the actual butter.

                                                                                              1. I use a lot more extra virgin olive oil than I used to, but butter in certain recipes, local non-transfat lard sometimes. Never, never margarine.

                                                                                                1. I'm for Team Butter. I'm pasting a portion of a blurb from an article from the Mercola website:

                                                                                                  "Butter, when made from grass-fed cows, is rich in a substance called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is not only known to help fight cancer and diabetes, but it may also help you to lose weight!

                                                                                                  Much of the reason why butter was, and continues to be, vilified is because it contains saturated fat." whole story here:


                                                                                                  High quality saturated fat, such as that from Extra Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil, is quite beneficial!

                                                                                                  1. I like Fleischmann's olive oil blend spread on toast. If you keep it reflrigerated it doesn't separate enough to show all the water that's in it! I use olive oil on pasta and stir-fries, and generally avoid fats on cooked vegetables. Italian dressing is fabulous on a baked potato.

                                                                                                    1. For me, butter in baking is only reserved for special indulgent occasions as trying to lead a healthy, low-fat lifestyle doesn't agree with daily use of butter. Extra virgin olive oil is best for cooking and some desserts but for baking cakes I use low fat cream cheese or sour cream and the results are delicious.

                                                                                                      1. A healthy alternative to margarine is butter.

                                                                                                        When you use butter you should use good quality butter made from organic milk produced from grass-fed cows.

                                                                                                        1. I agree with pretty much everyone here. You can't replace butter, just don't eat too much.
                                                                                                          Someone bought up transfats as well, which are bad.

                                                                                                          1. Butter can be refined to reduce the amount of fat. The process is simple. Melt butter in a sauce pan on a low heat, watch until the fatty solids foam at the surface. These solids will look like little white dots on the surface. Skim them off and throw them away or pour the butter through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to filter the fatty solids. Then let the butter solidify or use it melted depending on your needs.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: today160

                                                                                                              Um, those solids are milk solids. Along with water, they comprise 15-20% of butter, and are the only part of the butter that isn't pure fat.

                                                                                                              The process you describe is commonly known as clarification. And if you clarify the butter until all the water evaporates, you will raise the fat content from 80-85% to very nearly 100%. In other words, the process **increases** the amount of fat.

                                                                                                            2. Take out all the grains and sugar out of what you eat and you can eat butter to your heart's content. In fact, the nutrients in cooked vegetables are better absorbed when combined with fat and fat is much more satiating. Just don't put it on a baked potato ...

                                                                                                              10 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: MandalayVA

                                                                                                                Last I checked a baked potato was a vegetable.

                                                                                                                1. re: visciole

                                                                                                                  And last I checked, a balanced diet requires carbohydrates as well as protein and fat.

                                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                    We don't need nearly as many carbohydrates as we've been lead to believe. What we get from plentiful green veggies and occasional berries is all we need. Butter, or any animal fat, when eaten as part of a low-carb diet is a wonderful thing!

                                                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                      Balanced diet according to whom? The U.S. food pyramid? And which one? Pre or post 2005? Why did they that change it? And what make you think they have it right on the this current edition?

                                                                                                                  2. re: MandalayVA

                                                                                                                    My Irish ancestors survived on a diet consisting almost entirely of potatoes.

                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                      Mm, potatoes. So many carbophobics = more for the rest of us. Poor maligned tubers!

                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                        They survived ... but did they thrive? Did they live until their nineties, or did they die in their sixties and seventies with pot bellies and heart disease? Because that's when my potato-loving Irish ancestors all bought it.

                                                                                                                        1. re: MandalayVA

                                                                                                                          Very, very few people lived into their nineties back then. Not many do, even today.

                                                                                                                      2. re: MandalayVA

                                                                                                                        The current literature has finally freed us from all of the lies of the last 40 years. I do have a problem with the current literature and carbs like rice and potatoes or anything natural. I've come to my own conclusion that anything natural is fine in unlimited quantities as long as you don't get fat.

                                                                                                                      3. I use olive oil for savory cooking and salads, some nut oils for finishing, and coconut oil for baking (slightly modifying the recipe). I prefer the taste of butter in baking, but I can no longer eat it.

                                                                                                                        My palate rejects Smart Balance/Earth Balance, though other people love them.

                                                                                                                        1. Several people have mentioned Smart Balance. They now have a 50/50 Butter/Olive oil blend in sticks that I loved so much that it has replaced butter sticks in my house. Prior to trying this (out of curiosity) I never used anything except 100% butter. Of course since neither of the ingredients are processed it really doesn't count as a margarine.

                                                                                                                          -Harry From Marydel, DE

                                                                                                                          1. I have both in my fridge and use them for different things. Generally if I am sauteeing something I will use a butter -oil mix or margarine as it takes the heat better. I can not even imagine dipping $17.99/ lb king crab legs in margarine though. That would be a crime- real butter only! For something like a grilled cheese, I use exclusively margarine on the bread as it spreads evenly for even browning and imparts a buttery flavor.

                                                                                                                            1. It depends entirely on your definition of "healthy", and what you want to use it for.

                                                                                                                              Margarine, olive oil, butter, lard, shortening etc, are all made of fat of some sort, and are therefore going to be dense in calories. So you're not going to find a low calorie equivalent or substitute for butter without completely changing a recipe so that it uses less fat.

                                                                                                                              Beyond that, it comes down to which type of fat you consider more healthy. Speaking from a scientist's point of view I'd say that we don't currently have a reliable and definitive answer for that question. We have a lot of studies, some of which contradict other studies, and a fairly rapidly changing understanding of the effects of different fats on diet and health. The classic example, of course, is being told for decades that margarine was healthier than butter, only to find out that this was sort of like telling people to give up coffee for their health and drink vodka instead. They've reformulated margarine, but it will take time and testing to figure out what the health risks of this version are.

                                                                                                                              If you want to avoid saturated fats, you can go for something like margarine, if you're substituting for recipes where you need a solid fat, or something like olive oil for sauteeing or frying.

                                                                                                                              Personally, I don't use margarine or other butter substitutes. It's partially because I think it tastes gross (particularly compared to the deliciousness of butter). It's also because I don't know what the relative healthiness of various types of fat are and I dont' think anyone else does, and I take current media reports with the same grain of salt I take media reports on any fast moving controversial scientific study. Plus I have a 2000 year or so baseline of ancestors who ate butter and lard and olive oil, but a 60 year baseline of ancestors who have eaten margarine.

                                                                                                                              1. It's best to forget about margarine, but if you would like some really great butter that gives olive oil a run for its money, find yourself some unsalted grass fed butter! As far as I know, imported European butters are all grass fed, but there are some excellent American grass fed butters out there too, though you often have to buy them on-line. Grass fed butter is absolutely the best healthy answer!

                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                    or if you are lucky, as we are, you can buy it from the farmer next door. We get it weekly in our CSA.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                      I love Organic Valley pastured butter.

                                                                                                                                    2. I use ghee for most cooking. I don't have a problem with butter (other than I love it too much:)
                                                                                                                                      I make my own ghee and age it in jars in a cupboard. The older the ghee the more flavourful. I think the ages old culture of India must have something going right with Ghee. The vegatarians seem all right with it. It can almost have a cheese consistency after a few years. mmmm

                                                                                                                                      I did find an artisian crafted butter on the new brunswick/quebec border at La Fromagerie. Very tasty. Not at all like 'butter' from a store. Comes in different shaped packages, made by locals.

                                                                                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: PemaD

                                                                                                                                        Is there a difference between ghee and clarified butter?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                          They are the same thing. So you can make it in small amounts (like when called for in a recipe) or you can buy or make a larger quantity which comes in a jar.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: PemaD

                                                                                                                                            Thanks! I've always wondered, but I'm evidently too lazy to look it up!! :-)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                              Well, you may find more confusion when you try to look it up. As in SOMETIMES the Indian version of drawn butter -- aka "ghee" -- is "toasted" a bit beyond what, say, a Boston seafood parlor would "draw" their butter to serve with lobster or crab. Then there is aged ghee, as PemaD writes about. Few westerners ever age their drawn/clarified butter. I've recently found ghee made from grass fed milk on the web and I'm thinking about a splurge for that, being a grass fed fan. However, I think that ghee from Indian markets or online sources, is often grass fed. Grass fed ghee/clarified butter is as healthy as olive oil. AND as fattening...! <sigh>

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                cool - I am working on getting a local source of milk/butter from my local grass fed cows. If it ever comes about i will comment on it. the canadian milk boards have a bit of a say in it.

                                                                                                                                                toasted - hmm - wonder what that means?

                                                                                                                                                i don't think the ghee in indian markets is particularly grass fed. in canada the ghees i have bought have all been made in canada from standard canadian milk/butter.

                                                                                                                                                :( thanks too for the reminder about the fat. i have been kidding myself on that one.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: PemaD

                                                                                                                                                  I don't know anything about Canadian government regulations on wording, but in the U.S., the FDA (and other regulatory agencies) have some pretty strict rules about using the term "grass fed." In some cases the rules may impact on the cost a cattle rancher may incur in meeting that criteria, so they may say things like "Our cattle are raised in green pastures, eat grasses, and hormones and antibiotics never enter their systems." Or something similar, which means grass fed and organic without the certification. Some cattle ranchers who sell direct to the public offer their "private label" uncertified as grass fed organic beef at a lower price than their certifed grass fed organic.

                                                                                                                                                  The point is, you have to read labels closely and make sure you understand what a label is telling you. For example, Kerry Gold butter, imported from Ireland, *IS* grass fed (and I believe it's also hormone and antibiotic free) but it does NOT say this on the label anywhere, last time I looked. And the same is true of European butters. Why? Because grass fed organic is still the NORM in those countries, exactly as it was in this country until shortly after WWII ended.

                                                                                                                                                  Traditional Indian ghee is often "cooked' beyond the point where the whey and milk solids are separated from the butter "oil" in order to gain that toasted flavor. But there are a gazillion different kinds of ghee and purposes it's used for in India. Way back in the early '50s, when I was a college student, my best girlfriend was an exchange student from India. Her mother made here "eye makeup" for her out of ghee mixed with carbon (collected on the bottom of a porcelain saucer by holding it over a flame, then scraping it off) into a paste which she then used a sterling silver rod to roll in the blackened ghee before holding the rod between her eyelids and twirling the rod to distribute the make up. I suspect such "makeup" is bought ready-made in Indai today, and probably doesn't have the ultimate "permanant" effect that years of use produced with the old way. Ghee can be the base for medicines, ointments, body rubs, as well as great foods.

                                                                                                                                                  My guess is that because there are so many different religions living side by side in India, with all sorts of varied dietary restrictions, anyone manufacturing a product directed at this general population within or without India would try to come up with a product acceptable to all. Therefore my money is on all ghee being sold in Indian markets in any country is grass fed and probably organic. But that's just a guess.

                                                                                                                                                  As for fat content, different butters may have different levels of fat, with standard "American butter" being among the lowest simply because U.S. butter has a higher water content, but once you get down to the ghee/drawn butter versus vegetable oil level, evoo has 27.6g of fat per ounce and drawn butter/ghee has 28.4g of fat per ounce. Hardly a critical difference when it comes to fat.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                    What is evoo? Thank you very interesting.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                      It's also interesting to note that the NATIONS study found that some of the countries with the highest cholesterol/LDL had lower mortality rates than those with lower levels. The Pan Asian study found LDL the least predictive lipid marker for CVD, with high TGLs (they go down with carb cutting) and low HDL (goes up with carb cutting) the most predictive. Fat doesn't raise cardiovascular mortality, high insulin and blood glucose levels do.

                                                                                                                                        2. I would never, ever use butter and margerine together. One is a delicous dairy product that I can make myself and eat in moderation. The other is unhealthy and vile-tasting.

                                                                                                                                          The other fats we use are olive oil and occasionally pastured lard.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                                                                            I use both olive oil and cultured butter from pasture fed cows.

                                                                                                                                          2. Just came across this, apropos this thread and some suggestions: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article...

                                                                                                                                            1. If I can't eat butter I don't eat it all.
                                                                                                                                              Can't stand the taste of anything else. It's like drinking 'blue' milk.

                                                                                                                                              1. In terms of fat for cooking or finishing, I use olive oil, usually extra virgin, more often than anything.

                                                                                                                                                After that, I use unsalted butter most often. Unsalted so I have better command over the salt in my dishes. I use it a lot for baking, sauteeing and finishing.

                                                                                                                                                Veggie oil would probably be the next most often, due to its neutral flavor.

                                                                                                                                                I fry a number of things...especially French fries, with duck fat or peanut oil.

                                                                                                                                                Lard would be next up on the list, as I use it for cooking a number of things, pork being the most common, but also sometimes for baking.

                                                                                                                                                Finally, I do keep a little margarine around, as I prefer to use it over anything else when making sauces to toss with chicken wings. That's about the only thing I use it for.

                                                                                                                                                As many others have said on this thread, moderation is the key. Yes, some oils are definitely more healthy than others, but, for me, it isn't often worth trading the taste for a nominal health benefit. All of the oils listed above have their applications, and some can be switched out if need be, but they all have a definite place in my kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                1. Why do you want to avoid butter? I am not convinced that any "butter alternative" is healthy.

                                                                                                                                                  But I would suggest, depending on your needs, cocoa butter, palm oil, or coconut oil, or, if you're able to get it, cooking-grade shea butter, as alternatives. I would not use any other "butter alternative" as nearly all of them are processed and include all sorts of food additives.

                                                                                                                                                  It took years for us to realize that trans fats greatly contributed to heart disease, and now it's coming out that it has a lot of other problems too, like even contributing to aggression...if there is another additive that has a similar or equally bad effect, I don't trust the structures in our society to catch it and remove it from our food supply. I'd rather stick with natural, less-processed foods that have been in traditional diets for a longer period of time.

                                                                                                                                                  Oh, and that includes the good old-fashioned substitute for butter: lard. Which I wouldn't recommend unless you can get it from a high-quality source so it's not factory farmed and loaded with antibiotics or other chemicals.

                                                                                                                                                  1. I get best life buttery spread.It actually tastes good.If you're lucky,you might find the one with olive oil in it.My local stores don't stock that one
                                                                                                                                                    Coconut butter is good,much cheaper if you can make it yourself.A small stick is $3.50 in my area.
                                                                                                                                                    For a oil- Macadamia or avocado oil
                                                                                                                                                    Look around for grass fed shops,probably the best butter.Their is a shop in my area,still haven't been their yet.They sell meat & dairy.