For years we’ve been told butter causes heart disease and makes you fat. But did you know that butter has health benefits?
In Defense of Butter
First off, yes, butter is high in saturated fat. Secondly, THAT’S OK. You know what? SATURATED FAT DOESN’T CAUSE HEART DISEASE. That’s another topic for another time, but take a look at The Lipid Hypothesis and The Framingham Heart Study for more info about this. Also, fat doesn’t make you fat. If you consume more calories than you burn off –of anything, be it fat, protein, or carbs– you’ll get fat.
Secondly, butter has some good, solid healing properties. Fake butter products are filled with chemicals and engineered fats that we now know are a culprit for heart disease. Butter is high in antioxidants, beneficial fatty acids, and has immune-boosting properties. It contains butyric acid, which is a short chain fatty acid that is a powerful immune booster, and it reduces inflammation, and may decrease colon cancer. Butter and other saturated fats like coconut oil hold up very well to high heat cooking, meaning it’s a very stable fat and its healthy components remain intact. Other fats, such as monounsaturated (olive oil) have weaker bonds that break down at high temperatures and become damaged, which creates arterial damage in your body over time. This is why you should never expose the delicate polyunsaturated (flax oil) fats to heat and save olive oil for medium temp cooking. Use saturated fats (solid at room temp) for high temperature cooking.
Butter’s Health Benefits
- amazing source of butyrate that feeds your gut cells
- good source of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin needed for skin health, immune function
- Grass-fed butter is higher in many nutrients than butter from cows fed processed, grain-based feeds
How to Choose the Best Butter
As with everything, use butter in moderation, and rotate its use with other good fats in your diet, such as coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and animal fats. Choose organic butter from grass fed cows, because it has a much better and more natural fatty acid ratio–one that has not been tinkered with via grain-fed cows, victims of factory farming. Grain is not the cow’s natural diet. I like Kerrygold.
Choose raw butter if possible. It has an even better nutritional profile because it hasn’t been homogenized or pasteurized, so retains its healing properties. Pasteurization kills the beneficial enzymes and immunoglobulins. Raw milk and raw milk products are very good for immunity and for the cells in your gut.
The Problem with Fake Butter
I just saw a commercial for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, so I went to their website just to see what sort of ingredients they’re trying to mystify me with. Aside from the tub, it comes in sticks, too! Convenient for baking and can be subbed for butter in your baked goods. Are y’all using this stuff? Wow. Let’s review.
Here are I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’s ingredients:
Vegetable oil blend (including Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Canola Oil, Liquid Soybean Oil), Water, Lecithin, Diglycerides, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, Retinol Palmitate, Beta-Carotene
They vary according to which product you choose; there are light varieties, Mediterranean blends, sprays, tubs, squeeze, fat free, etc etc. Hold the phone here, folks. If you get nothing else from reading my website, please take one thing away with you: EAT FOOD. FOOD COMES FROM NATURE. This product IS NOT FOOD. It comes from a lab. Partially hydrogenated oils may cut down on saturated fat content in a food, but they are a laboratory-engineered product that has been altered to yield results on a label in congruence with what we’ve been led to believe: that fat is the enemy.
Better yet, on the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter website, they have a link you can click to learn “The Big Fat Truth” about butter. This link takes you to another website, sponsored by Unilever, which is a huge multi-national food corporation that manufactures none other than margarine and other fake butter products. The Big Fat Truth website contains many half-truths about why butter is bad and Unilever’s fake butter products are good. Lesson one here: generally best to think critically, do objective research, and not trust the food industry to give you nutrition facts. Their job is to sell you products and make a profit, so guess what? They don’t really give a shit about your health. What they care about is marketing, and if they have to scare you with claims about saturated fats so that you’ll buy their fake butter products, they’ll do it. Profit over people.
Long story short, here folks: avoid these highly processed fake foods. Your body needs saturated fats. Over half of your brain is saturated fat, and your cells are encased in a fatty membrane that needs saturated fat to remain malleable so that they are able to communicate with other cells. Trans fats found in hydrogenated oils are the real evil culprits (cause cell walls to become rigid) and are implicated in heart disease and high blood pressure and obesity. Remember when the food industry told us that saturated fat was bad, thus beginning the fat free fad of the 80s? Well, guess what? We didn’t get thinner, did we? We got fatter. And we got more heart disease, more diabetes, and more high blood pressure. Hmmmm, guess that wasn’t the problem. Whoops, it was the fake hydrogenated fat we engineered to replace saturated fat in the diet. Are we really going to wait for the food industry or the American Heart Association or whatever to tell us eggs are bad no good no butter is bad whoops hydrogenated oils are bad? You can’t go wrong by choosing foods from nature. Just don’t eat too much food, and move around more. That’s the secret.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.