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Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. Butter is used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications such as baking, sauce making, and frying. Butter consists of butterfat surrounding minuscule droplets consisting mostly of water and milk proteins. The most common form of butter is made from cows' milk, but it can also be made from the milk of other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, and yaks. Salt, flavorings, or preservatives are sometimes added to butter. Rendering butter produces clarified butter or ghee, which is almost entirely butterfat. When refrigerated, butter remains a solid, but softens to a spreadable consistency at room temperature, and melts to a thin liquid consistency at 32–35°C (90–95°F).

The term "butter" is used in the names of products made from puréed nuts or peanuts, such as peanut butter. It is also used in the names of fruit products, such as apple butter. Other fats solid at room temperature are also known as "butters"; examples include cocoa butter and shea butter. In general use, the term \"butter," when unqualified by other descriptors, almost always refers to the dairy product.

According to USDA figures, one tablespoon of butter (14 grams/0.5 ounces) contains 100 kcal (420 kJ), all from fat, 11 grams (0.4 oz) of fat, of which 7 grams (0.25 oz) are saturated fat, and 30 milligrams (0.46 gr) of cholesterol. In other words, butter consists mostly of saturated fat and is a significant source of dietary cholesterol. For these reasons, butter has been generally considered to be a contributor to health problems, especially heart disease. For many years, vegetable margarine was recommended as a substitute, since it is an unsaturated fat and contains little or no cholesterol. In recent decades, though, it has become accepted that the trans fats contained in partially hydrogenated oils used in typical margarines significantly raise undesirable LDL cholesterol levels as well. Trans-fat free margarines have since been developed.

Butter contains only traces of lactose, so moderate consumption of butter is not a problem for the lactose intolerant. People with milk allergies need to avoid butter, which contains enough of the allergy-causing proteins to cause reactions. Butter can form a useful role in dieting by providing satiety. A small amount added to low fat foods such as vegetables may stave off feelings of hunger.

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