Before the health benefits of butter / saturated fats were fully understood, butter received a lot of bad publicity. It was feared and replaced by the likes of margarine. Many studies now encourage the consumption of this ancient yellow spread in moderation, and emphasize the good effects it has on the body. After many years of perceiving butter as the enemy, it’s now finally clear that it is actually the healthy option, and is definitely superior to the previously promoted margarine. Here’s why:
- It’s a good source of saturated fats, which increase the levels of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke. Butter’s cholesterol is also essential for brain development and function of the nervous system. It’s true that saturated fats mildly increase the levels of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL choleserol), but only the large particles which are not associated with cardiovascular conditions.
- It’s rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been associated with reducing body fat mass in animals and humans. CLA is a fatty acid that is found in meat and dairy products of mammals that eat a plant-based diet, and use a specialized stomach to ferment food prior to digestion (ruminants). A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggested that CLA can reduce body fat mass in overweight and obese humans. Another study, published in 2004 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigated its potential for treating type 2 diabetes. According to the authors, CLA could be beneficial for the management of insulin resistance.
- It’s an excellent source of vitamin A, which is needed for good vision, smooth functioning of the endocrine system, and other bodily functions. Vitamin A is a known anti-oxidant that protects you against free radicals damage. One ounce (28 grams) of butter gives you 14% of the recommended daily intake. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you limit your intake of saturated fat to less than 10% of calories. On a 2,000-calorie diet, that means no more than 22 grams a day.
- It contains butyrate (AKA butanoate), which is a fatty acid that is important for the functioning of the digestive system and protects from chronic inflammatory conditions. A study published in 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at how butyrate balances the immune system, which is largely located in the gut.
- It supplies you with stigmasterol (AKA Wulzen anti-stiffness factor), which protects against calcification of the joints. Research has also indicated that stigmasterol may be useful in prevention of certain cancers, includingovarian, prostate, breast, and colon cancers.
- Butter is also rich in vitamin K and vitamin D, and is a good source of the essential mineral selenium,which plays a key role in metabolism. Many people are selenium deficient, so eating butter can be a step in the right direction.
So while many diets don’t promote eating butter, you can consume it in moderation. And use raw, organic butter sourced from grass-fed, sustainably raised cows. If you can, visit your local farmer. Or buy it at a farmers market.