Even Your Butter Is Water-Based Now, Thanks to Food Scientists at Cornell

A healthy butter option created from a unique emulsifying technique drops the calories but keeps the flavor.

Even Your Butter Is Water-Based Now, Thanks to Food Scientists at Cornell
Water-based butter offers a new way to save taste and calories. lutavia/iStock

What's all this "HIPE" about a new butter alternative that is nearly 80% water? That would be the magic of high-internal phase emulsions, known to the science community by its jaunty, aforementioned acronym. Food scientists at Cornell have recently utilized this process to emulsify tiny droplets of milk fat and vegetable oil with large quantities of water and, in so doing, have given our morning toast a much less caloric, but no less tasty, alternative.

What's so cool about this? 

A tablespoon of your garden variety cow butter is going to cost your diet about 11 grams of fat and 100 calories, with a composition of roughly 84% fat and 16% water. At a skinny 2.8 grams of fat and 25.2 calories per tablespoon, this latest alternative, under active development by Alireza Abbaspourrad, a distinguished Professor of Food Chemistry and Ingredient Technology at Cornell, represents a fabulous reduction in the bad stuff while compromising none of the good stuff (ie: taste and texture). 

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What is HIPE technology anyway?

As emulsification of any kind is hardly new, HIPE's contribution has been to show that a water-to-oil ration of 4 to 1 produces inhibits the spherical nature of emulsions done at, say, a 3 to 1 ratio. This means that what was spherical at the lower ration begins to stop sliding and begin packing, producing high friction, and thus a substance that is firmer, and with a consistency very like your favorite addition to baked potatoes. The fact that you've completed this process using 80% water and 20% oil means you've also created something that is low in fat and high in protein. Read: very 'of the moment' as dietary trends the world over skew toward a greater awareness of carb intake and overall health consciousness. 

Learn more about the basic emulsification process by watching the video below.

So what does this mean for my morning toast? 

You can now have your butter and eat it too. Food chemists can now toy with this new water-based butter product and tweak it to preferential tastes, consistencies, and other demands. It can be adjusted for vitamin content, flavor, or virtually any other dietary concern that could be carried by the water content. The prospect of guiltlessly filling every square on the face of your morning waffle like you used to when you were a kid could make any heart churn with joy!

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