The three-word headline that caused an uproar

Is butter really back?

Is butter really back?

A recent headline in the The New York Times garnered a flurry of attention, both good and bad. The headline: “Butter is Back.”

In the article, Mark Bittman describes how results from a recent meta-analysis vindicate saturated fat—and therefore, butter—as a villain in our diets.

The attention, no doubt, stems from a combination of the prominence of the author—Mark Bittman, the Times’ acclaimed food writer—and one of the article’s many messages that happened to receive the most air time:

You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.

What about the other messages from the article that help shape the context and our understanding around why such a statement is not nearly as blasphemous as many of the harsh reactions would have us believe? 

Mr. Bittman clarifies:

This doesn’t mean you abandon fruit for beef and cheese; you just abandon fake food for real food…

Never mind, too, that the industry’s idea of ‘low fat’ became the emblematic SnackWell’s and other highly processed ‘low-fat’ carbs (a substitution that is probably the single most important factor in our overweight/obesity problem)…

Rather, let’s try once again to pause and think for a moment about how it makes sense for us to eat, and in whose interest it is for us to eat hyperprocessed junk [Lauren’s insertion: Ahem, that would be Big Food]. The most efficient summary might be to say ‘eat real food’ …You might consider a dried apricot (one ingredient) versus a Fruit Roll-Up (13 ingredients, numbers 2, 3 and 4 of which are sugar or forms of added sugar).


For a bit more clarification:

Tom Ashbrook of NPR invited Mark Bittman, Dr. Darius Mozaffarian (one of the study’s co-authors), Dr. Stephanie Coulter, and Dr. David Katz to discuss the study’s interpretation and it’s major take-home message.

Here’s the podcast:

The major take-home message?

What matters is how you substitute foods in your diet—you’re better of eating that steak or adding butter to your vegetables than wolfing down low-fat (but sugar-laden) “Fruit” Gushers.

On the flip side, you’re better off still trying to squeeze in more fruits and vegetables than simply eating a hamburger and forgoing the bun. And, if using butter on those vegetables gets you closer to eating more of them, so be it.


Image: Pearlzenith

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