I got lost in Google-land yesterday while researching for today’s post.
Getting lost in the internet is fun sometimes. I’ve stumbled across some really great stuff! But it’s not as much fun when you realize you’ve spent half of your writing time on research and have nothing actually written to show for it.
I had two goals in mind:
- find why butter is good
- find why butter is bad
I’ve already read the chapter on fat in Nourishing Traditions. So I know what Sally Fallon and the Weston A. Price foundation had to say on the topic. But I wanted to know what other researchers and nutritionists have said too.
On the first question, Google returned a full page of sources. A couple hits were bloggers referencing sources on that same first page of results, but even those bloggers are reputable sources in and of themselves.
Tally up the reasons listed on all those pages as to why butter is good for our health and you’ll come up with no less than twenty distinct and legitimate reasons, fully backed up by independent research and studies.
On the second topic, Google returned a full page again, except that nearly half of those results we really about how butter wasn’t bad for you. While this certainly works in my favor (since we’re talking about why butter IS good for you), staking my claim on Google’s bad return of search results doesn’t exactly scream credible. So I kept clicking those “relevant” links, got lost a bit more and read what the skeptics had to say.
As it turns out, they all cling to one statement that isn’t even true: butter is saturated fat and saturated fats clog the heart’s arteries. But we know the truth – that not only is it good for our bodies, but saturated fat is a necessity.
Believe me – I tried to find other reasons to give a solid counter-argument why we shouldn’t eat butter. But all the answers out there are weak.
- Besides the saturated fat statement, some say it’s also high in calories and eating lots of high-calorie foods make you fat. They recommend olive oil instead…
… yet olive oil has more calories per serving than butter.
- Others tack on the fact that butter contains dietary cholesterol and suggest margarine instead.
But dietary cholesterol is required in order to prevent intestinal disorders such as leaky gut, and most margarines contain trans fat, a substance that more closely resembles plastic than food and is toxic to our bodies.
- And to those who hold tightly to the incorrect saturated fat statement – that it clogs arteries?
I wonder if they knew that British researchers published a study in 1994 finding no association between saturated fatty acids and plaque. In fact, they found a direct correlation between arterial plaque and polyunsaturated fats and even suggest “current trends favoring increased intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids should be reconsidered!”
The research under the “con” column for eating butter is slim. I encourage you to get lost in your own search engine and see what others have to say about it. Come back and let us know in the comments. We’ll sift through the information together and try to make sense of it all.
Meanwhile, I’m moving on. Those umpteen reasons of why butter is good for our bodies are screaming at me to be written.
And there’s a loaf of freshly baked rosemary bread downstairs, waiting for its own generous smear of butter.
13 Reasons to Eat Butter
A Source of Fat Soluble Vitamins
I’ve discussed how certain vitamins are fat-soluble – meaning they can only be absorbed through fat. Since our bodies needs these vitamins to function properly, we must eat fat in order to absorb them. Butter is not only a natural source of Vitamins A, D, K and E, but it’s the best source! These vitamins are fat-soluble, so consuming them through butter is the easiest way for our bodies to absorb them.
Dr. Weston A. Price, founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, extensively studied the effects of butter on various societies. He concluded that without fat-soluble vitamins, our bodies are not able to use the minerals we ingest, regardless of how abundant we may be consuming them. In fact, he went as far as to state that fat-soluble vitamins are required for the absorption of water-soluble vitamins! (source)
Helps Prevent Tooth Decay
When Dr. Price was conducting his research back in the 1940’s, he found a compound in butter that played a vital role in preventing tooth decay and maintaining bone structure and strength (which makes sense since our teeth are essentially bones). He called it “activator X” back then, but Russian scientists discovered over 60 years later that this compound was really Vitamin K2.
Our body makes Vitamin K2 from K1 (found in green veggies like kale, spinach and Swiss chard), but it makes it in a really small proportion – roughly a 10 to 1 conversion. A better way to get K2 would be to just eat butter!
In addition to tooth decay and bone loss, K2 is also being researched for its potential at reversing arterial calcification, as a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, preventing prostate cancer and in treating leukemia and lung cancer. More studies need to be done I’m sure, but three-cheers for butter!
P.S. – Vitamin K2 is also found in goose liver paste and goose legs, but let’s face it – eating butter just sounds yummier.
Helps Boost the Immune System
A portion of the fatty acids in butter are short- and medium-chained. These types of saturated fat contain antimicrobial (kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms), antitumor (inhibits the growth of tumors) and immune-system strengthening properties. Lauric acid is a fatty acid not found in any other animal fat and is successfully used to treat a variety of viruses, bacterial infections and fungal infections. In fact, researchers in the Philippines have begun studying the effect of lauric acid against HIV/AIDS because of its strong antiviral properties. (source)
Breast milk, butter and coconut oil are the only natural dietary sources of lauric acid. This may explain why research consistently finds fewer infections of all types in breast-fed babies…
Helps Maintain Gastrointestinal Health
Butter contains glycosphingolipids, a type of fat that protects against gastro-intestinal infections that typically affect children and the elderly. Nourishing Traditions reports children who drink skim milk have diarrhea at rates three to five times greater than children who drink whole milk.
Remember the dietary cholesterol that butter-haters say is bad? Our bodies actually need dietary cholesterol to help maintain the cells in our intestinal wall, essentially keeping them strong so the digestive system can properly do its job.
Helps Manage Weight
Contrary to popular belief, butter does not make you fat. The fatty acids in butter don’t even need to be broken down by our gut. They’re absorbed directly from the small intestine into the liver and converted into quick energy. It’s the long-chain fatty acids that are typically found in polyunsaturated oils and refined carbohydrates that are stored in our bodies as fat.
Butter contains the mineral iodine in a way that is very easy for our body to absorb. Our body requires iodine in order for the thyroid gland to function properly. The thyroid gland is what produces the hormones that regular our metabolism. Since the body doesn’t make iodine, it must be consumed through our diet. Our body is satiated when we feed it the nutrients contained in butter. This reduces our cravings for other non-nutrient-dense foods because we’ve actually given our body what it needs! What better way to manage our weight than to eat butter!
Aids in Optimal Growth and Development
Once again, breast milk is touted as best for babies and not only is it high in cholesterol, but over 50% of its calories are butterfat.
The vitamins in butter are absolutely essential for children to grow properly with the most important being Vitamin A. Which plays an important role in developing sex characteristics, healthy bones, and in developing the brain and nervous systems. My daughter asks me nearly every morning for “buttered bread” for breakfast. Hearing her ask makes me smile, and I’m always happy to oblige!
Still not ready to eat butter? Here are a few more fun tidbits thanks to Body Ecology.
- Lauric acid treats fungal and yeast infections.
- A very rich source of the vital mineral selenium.
- Contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster.
- The only source of an anti-stiffness factor, which protects against calcification of the joints.
- Anti-stiffness factor in butter also prevents hardening of the arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland.
- May promote fertility in women.
- Contains Arachidonic Acid (AA) which plays a role in brain function and is a vital component of cell membranes.
Where to Find Quality Butter
In order to get the maximum amount of nutrients from your butter, you need to source good butter. Good butter comes from grass-fed, pastured cows. If it’s also organic and cultured you’re doing even better. If it’s also fresh from local farm you’ve scored the best butter around!
Quality butter brands that I’ve seen in my local stores like Costco and Kroger include Kerrygold and Organic Valley. (I even saw Kerrygold at Aldi once for an incredible price!)
Tropical Traditions carries a few varieties of quality butter. It’s worth ordering from them when they have free shipping and discounts on coconut oil too. US Wellness Meats carries grass-fed butter that compares to Kerrygold.
If you like to order in bulk, Azure Standard has a variety of organic butters. Another brand that’s been recommended to me is Kalona. I haven’t found it locally and my favorite online stores like Vitacost and Thrive Market don’t carry cold goods.
To really get the best butter possible, you can make your own butter from raw cream. This process is a little more involved and can still be expensive. You can decide for yourself if it’s worth the time to make your own butter.
How to Store Butter
Most of us in the US were trained to store our butter and eggs in the refrigerator. And yes, that is the best place for eggs (unless you get farm fresh eggs that have not been washed). Butter however, can be stored on the counter for a decent amount of time without any problems.
I’m sure you can agree with me that soft butter is so much better for toast and baking! Butter on the counter can be stored in one of these nifty butter crocks. Some use water to help seal out any potential issues. But if you go through butter quickly, a simple covered butter dish works too.
If you bulk purchase butter you will want to refrigerate or freeze it. If I find a great deal on one of my favorite brands of butter, I don’t mind stocking up and filling the freezer!