How Much Better is Vegan Butter?

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Coming from a plant doesn’t automatically make it good for you.

Butter is a vital component of a lot of western-style cooking. Heck, it’s a vital component of cooking all over the world. But it’s also made of milk, and if you’re a vegan, that’s a no-no. The problem, then, is if you can’t have butter, what can you have? Well, as is quickly becoming the case for most foods, butter has a vegan equivalent. Vegan butters are typically plant-based, created by combing water with oil from plants rich in fatty acids like avocado, olives, or coconuts. And before you ask, no, it’s not the same thing as margarine. Margarine still has some dairy in it, while vegan butter is 100% plant-based.

The major upshot on vegan butter compared to regular butter is a reduction in saturated fat. One of the reasons a lot of folks have been trying to use less butter in cooking is concerns with overindulging in saturated fat, and those fears are justified. While saturated fat does make stuff taste good, studies have shown that overindulging in the stuff can raise your risk of heart disease and mess up your cholesterol levels. Instead of saturated fat, vegan butter is high in monounsaturated fats, which studies show contribute to improved heart health, blood sugar levels, and body weight management.

However, vegan butter also tends to be high in omega-6 fatty acids. These aren’t necessarily bad; in fact, your body needs them, because it can’t produce them on its own. But overdoing it on the omega-6 can increase your chances of inflammation. Some vegan butters are also highly processed or contain questionable additives to make them last longer. You can get around this by only buying the quality stuff, but really high-quality vegan butter can be prohibitively expensive, which removes it as an option for some folks.

Vegan butter is objectively better for you than the regular stuff, but it’s still, y’know, butter. As with regular butter, and so many other foods, the name of the game is moderation. It’s okay to use a little butter when cooking, and if it’s vegan butter, all the better. But you shouldn’t be dumping multiple sticks of the stuff into your food, vegan or not.