Nutritional intake of butter

Butter is a fat made from the cream skimmed from milk. Twenty litres of milk are needed to make 1 kg of butter.  Like all fats, it should be consumed in moderation. Although it is seen as a “treat”, butter is a non-negligible source of vitamins A and D.

What makes butter special is its irreplaceable flavour, great spread on bread or toast or used to enhance vegetables. A knob of butter makes green beans taste much better!


Butter is a source of vitamin A and also provides vitamin D. These vitamins have the following properties:

      • Vitamin A (or retinol) plays a role in:
        • Vision
        • Immunity (ability to fight illness)
        • Growth
        • Skin health
      • Vitamin D (or calciferol) plays a role in:
        • Bone health
        • Muscle function
        • Immunity (ability to fight illness)

      Although butter comes from milk, it contains very little calcium (15 mg per 100 g compared with 120 g of calcium per 100 ml of milk).

Calorific value

The calorific value of butter is 75 Kcal per 10 g. It is a high-calorie food and should be consumed in moderation.

By comparison, oil, whether it is olive, sunflower, palm or any other kind of oil, contains 100% fat by definition. A soup spoon (10 g) provides 90 Kcal.

Light margarines contain as much fat and calories as butter.  They are made from a mixture of different plant-based fats and other ingredients.


Of the 82% of lipids contained in butter, 54% are saturated fats, 22% monounsaturated fats and 2.8% polyunsaturated fats. It also contains 220 mg of cholesterol per 100 g.

Focus: Fatty acids in dairy products

Saturated fats are mainly found in milk fat. We now know that, depending on their nature, not all saturated fats have the same effect on health. The family of fatty acids is large and we are learning more and more about the roles each one plays. Depending on their biochemical structure, they can be divided into two families:

  • Short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids

They are mainly found in milk fat and are quickly used by the liver, so are not stored in large quantities. They do not increase cholesterol levels and some even lower them. One of them protects against colorectal cancer.

  • Long-chain fatty acids

Some of them, in particular palmitic acid, are likely to increase cardiovascular risk if they are consumed excessively. Others have a neutral effect on cholesterol levels and a positive effect on protein metabolism and omega-3 fatty acids.

Furthermore, dairy products also provide polyunsaturated fats in balanced proportions (omega-6 and omega-3) and monounsaturated fats with a positive health image.

Usual questions

Does eating butter increase your cholesterol?

What increases cholesterol in the blood is excessive consumption of certain saturated fats. As for the cholesterol provided by foods such as butter or egg yolk, normal consumption as part of a balance diet is not a problem.  Cholesterol levels in the blood are linked to a number of factors: genetics, gender, age, lack of physical activity, obesity, etc. People who need to monitor their cholesterol levels should seek advice from their doctor or dietician/nutritionist.

Did you know?

The word “butter” is a legally protected designation in the European Union. It must be manufactured according to certain rules: it must contain 16% water and 82% fat.

Can lactose-intolerant people eat butter?

Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme, lactase, which digests lactose, the sugar found in milk.  Some people, if they consume a certain amount of lactose, experience digestive problems, which is known as lactose intolerance. When butter is manufactured, the lactose is eliminated and only traces remain in the finished product. This is why butter can be consumed by lactose-intolerant people. Lactose-intolerance is not to be confused with cow’s milk protein allergy, which is a disease.

Can people allergic to dairy proteins eat butter?

A food allergy is caused by a disruption of the immune reaction. It occurs following consumption of proteins found in foods such as milk. Milk protein allergy is not the same thing as milk sugar (lactose) intolerance. Cow’s milk protein allergy occurs in young children, but most grow out of it, which is why it is rare in adults. If a milk protein allergy is diagnosed, no dairy products should be consumed, and that includes butter as it contains traces of proteins.

Can pregnant women eat butter?

Only raw milk butter is not recommended during pregnancy. However, there is no risk in consuming pasteurised butter. The exported French butter found in Third Countries is pasteurised butter and can therefore be consumed by pregnant women.

From what age can babies be given butter?

A little knob of butter can be added to baby’s puréed vegetables from the age of 7 or 8 months. Butter provides vitamins, enhances the flavour of foods and contributes to the process of learning about taste. It can then be consumed throughout life (in reasonable quantities).

In addition, until the age of 2 or 3, children need to eat plenty of fats to aid development of their brains and nervous system, so it is not recommended to give them low-fat products…

Can you eat butter every day?

Butter, like all fats (oils, margarine, etc.), should be consumed in moderation. The special thing about butter is that it is a source of vitamin A and provides vitamin D. What also makes butter special is its irreplaceable flavour, great spread on bread or toast or used to enhance vegetables. A knob of butter makes green beans taste much better!

Does butter make you fat?

No food “makes you fat” if it is eaten in reasonable quantities as part of a balanced and varied diet.

What is the health risk of eating something with butter than has been overcooked/burnt?

Butter lends itself to being used hot, including gentle frying as long as you keep an eye on it. Overcooking darkens fats by generating substances that could potentially have harmful effects for health. A study has shown that for frying at 180 °C, cooking with butter poses no problem for the health of consumers.

When cooking, adding a spoonful of oil (peanut, grape seed, etc.) prevents butter from blackening.