Butter Nutrition 101: Is Butter Bad for You or Is Butter Good for You?
Everything is better with butter! How many times have you heard that before? People’s perceptions of butter haven’t always been positive, though. Falling under the “saturated fats” umbrella, butter has gotten a lot of flak for apparently skyrocketing cholesterol levels, clogging arteries, and increasing risk for heart disease.
Between government recommendations and cardiologists’ advice and mainstream media influence and personal opinions, the overall stance on butter seems split. However, some doctors and scientists believe that you shouldn’t be demonizing saturated fats. New research even says we got cholesterol all wrong and debunks the myths of saturated fat.
If saturated fat is not as bad for our health as we’ve been led to believe, then where does that leave beloved butter on the good-or-bad spectrum? Based on the evidence, the pros of butter seem to be outweighing the cons.
Is Butter Bad for You or Is Butter Good for You?
What is butter? The rich and flavorful dairy product used for spreading, cooking, or baking is milk fat that has been churned and separated from the milk’s other components such as protein and carbs. Despite the negative light that governments and corporations have shone on butter over the last few decades, its 10,000-year history is not unlike its flavor – rich.
“Thirsty from a long, hot journey, the weary herdsman reached for the sheepskin bag of milk knotted to the back of his pack animal,” wrote Nicole Jankowsky covering an NPR story about the history of butter. “But as he tilted his head to pour the warm liquid into his mouth, he was astonished to find that the sheep’s milk had curdled. The rough terrain and constant joggling of the milk had transformed it into butter — and bewilderingly, it tasted heavenly.”
On top of tasting divine, the Weston A. Price Foundation has come into the public eye for its stance of why butter is better. The foundation believes that butter actually has, is, and continues to protect those who consume it against many illnesses and diseases. Published on January 1, 2000, their in-depth and evidence-based defense of butter proves that they saw something the average consumer could not. In it, they claim that butter can benefit:
– Heart disease
– The immune system
– The thyroid gland
– Gastrointestinal health
– Weight gain
– Children’s growth and development
Healthy Butter Nutrition Facts: Spread the Word
Although that article was written almost two decades ago and butter has served a social, cultural, economic, and traditional purpose in various cultures, why someone would question whether butter is still an essential staple of the Western diet is understandable. We would like to argue that it is…
Not only is butter rich in nutrients and full of healthy fats, but research has also proven that it can help fight against heart disease and obesity. If you’re still on the fence, then keep on reading to find out the answer to this question: Is butter good for you?
1) Butter Is Rich in Vitamins
– Butter’s highest vitamin content is vitamin A. Studies have shown that vitamin A can help preserve your ability to see at night (i.e., night blindness) and help protect your vision, especially as you age. This powerful vitamin also helps boost your immune system which helps fight against infections.
– Vitamin D, which is also found in butter, has been shown to boost weight loss due to its appetite-suppressing effect and lower overweight people’s risk of developing heart disease. Researchers have also found that vitamin D can help improve symptoms of depression. (It starting to seem like everything really isbetter with butter.)
– Another powerhouse in butter is vitamin B12, a nutrient that studies have shown to slow down mental decline in early-stage dementia patients as well as improve bone health and preventing osteoporosis. More importantly, this nutrient may even help improve heart health thanks to its ability to decrease homocysteine levels (i.e., an amino acid in the bloodstream) which can rise when you have a vitamin B12 deficiency. (We should also note that butter should not be your only source of B12. Relying on butter alone will not give you sufficient amounts of this important vitamin.)
– Interestingly, butter can be rich in vitamin K, a nutrient that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in modern Western diets. It’s even better if you consume butter that comes from grass-fed cows because it has an even higher vitamin K content. Plus, this nutrient can help fight against coronary heart disease, prostate cancer, and an increased risk of bone fractures.
2) Butter Contains Short-Chain Fats Ruminant Trans Fats
“Milk fat contains approximately 400 difference fatty acid, which make it the most complex of all natural fats” said study author Helena Lindmark Månsson in a 2008 study published in Food & Nutrition Research. “Almost 70% of the [milk] fat… is saturated of which around 11% comprises short-chain fatty acids, almost half of which is butyric acid.”
One form of butyric acid known as “butyrate,” which is found in butter, can help reduce digestive inflammation – even in individuals who have Crohn’s disease.
Also known as “dairy trans fats,” ruminant trans fats are actually healthy, at least compared to processed food trans fats. One of the more popular ruminant trans fats is CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid.
Scientists have conducted laboratory studies showing that CLA may help protect animal and human cells against melanoma, colorectal, breast, and lung cancer. Another study suggests that CLA may even be a powerful healthy fat for fat loss.
Major Health Benefits of Butter
Filled with all of those vitamins and healthy fats, it’s challenging to see why some people want to shut butter down.
Of course, it’s always important to consume foods like this one in moderation. But to steer entire populations away from a historically healthy food seems a little over the top. Especially seeing as it’s been proven to help fight against two of North America’s greatest public health crises.
Butter and Heart Disease
It is true, butter contains significant levels of saturated fat. However, contrary to many cholesterol-rising and heart-disease-inducing claims, researchers are finding more health positives than negatives.
A meta-analysis study of 60 controlled trials published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that saturated fats actually increased participants’ levels of HDL, otherwise known as good cholesterol, which lowers the risk of heart disease.
Another study published in the same journal found that saturated fats increased LDL or “bad” cholesterol. However, to the researchers’ surprise, the saturated fats continued to convert those LDL particles into large ones, which scientists have yet to prove are associated with heart disease.
Butter and Obesity
Another one of the anti-butter narratives is that it’s not good for your health due to its high calorie count and fat content. On the contrary, a 2012 review published in the European Journal of Nutrition might make you question that belief. Obviously, if someone is having a main order of butter with a side of toast instead of a main order of toast with a side of butter, they’re going to run into problems.
However, researchers found that when individuals ate normal amounts of butter in combination with a healthy diet, believe it or not, “high-fat dairy products (like butter) were linked to a reduced risk of obesity.”
New Butter Beliefs?
Whether you are pro-butter, anti-butter or still on the fence, we hope you have found this resource helpful.
Consuming excessive amounts of butter – no matter how deliciously rich it is – is not a wise lifestyle choice. But, as you have seen, adding a healthy amount of butter to a balanced diet can have immense benefits for your body and mind. What would be a healthy amount?
“The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fat you eat to less than 7% of your total daily calories,” wrote Dina Spector for Business Insider. “So, if you eat around 2,000 calories a day, that’s 16 grams of saturated fat. There are around 7 grams of saturated fat in one tablespoon of butter.”
When it comes to the best type of butter to eat, organic and grass-fed is best. However, as it can sometimes be significantly more costly, consuming organic butter is just fine. Oh, and for anyone who has lactose or dairy protein sensitivities, ghee is a great healthy alternative.
Is everything better with butter? Who knows… Only you can decide that for yourself. We humans are stubborn after all. After seeing all of those health benefits listed along with the scientific studies to back them up, there is one thing we know for sure: butter is not your enemy.