Butter makes foods taste delicious, but it also adds saturated fat, which can contribute to chronic health problems. The flavor of plain rice is often enhanced with a pat or two of butter, which decreases the nutritional value of the cooked grain. Preparing your rice with a healthier alternative can make the rice just as tasty without increasing the saturated fat content as much.
Drawbacks of Butter
The creamy taste of butter is an unparalleled addition to popcorn, toast and seafood, but that delicious flavor comes with a price. One tablespoon of butter contains 11.5 grams of fat, of which 7.3 grams are saturated. Saturated fat contributes to high cholesterol, which can raise your risk of heart disease. The unhealthy fat might also contribute to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. A tablespoon of butter can contain up to 100 milligrams of sodium, as well. Sodium is another nutrient that, in large doses, can elevate your chances of developing heart disease. Too much sodium also increases your risk of having a stroke.
Olive oil is a mild tasting and healthier alternative to butter that can actually protect and boost the health of your heart. A tablespoon of olive oil contains more fat than butter with 13.5 grams, but far less saturated fat with just 1.8 grams. The majority of the fat in olive oil is unsaturated, which is beneficial to your overall health. Unsaturated fats help lower your cholesterol levels, which can cut your risk of developing heart disease. These healthy fats help regulate your blood sugar levels, lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes and reduce your blood pressure, as well.
In addition to healthier fats, olive oil offers other nutrients that butter doesn't. A 1-tablespoon serving of olive oil supplies 1.9 milligrams of vitamin E -- 13 percent of your daily 15-milligram requirement. Vitamin E protects your cells and immune system. Butter contains just 0.33 milligram of vitamin E per serving. The same tablespoon of olive oil delivers 8.1 micrograms of vitamin K, which is 9 percent of the 90 micrograms you need on a daily basis so your blood clots normally. In contrast, butter has 1 microgram of vitamin K per tablespoon. One tablespoon of olive oil doesn't contain sodium either, while the same amount of butter has 101 milligrams. Too much sodium isn't good for your heart and can increase your risk of having a stroke.
Cook your rice as you normally would, but drizzle it with olive oil instead of adding a pat of butter to the top. Enhance the flavor even more by sprinkling fresh herbs, such as parsley or basil, over the rice and olive oil. Many boxed rice mixes call for butter, and you can replace it with olive oil in these, as well. Follow the directions on the box, but use the same amount of olive oil as butter called for in the recipe. With the seasonings, chances are you won't even notice the difference.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Butter, Salted
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Oil, Olive, Salad or Cooking
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose
- MayoClinic.com: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin E
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin K
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.