Butter is a health food. There, I said it. I don’t just love butter because it tastes better than margarine. I don’t just love it because I think it’s a healthier alternative than margarine. I actually believe, bones to britches, that butter is good for you.
The other day someone left this comment on a Facebook post of mine, “Only an idiot would believe butter is actually a health food. Yes, it’s better than margarine, but it is by no means good for you.” Only an idiot? Really?
Name-calling aside, let’s use our brains. Shall we? What makes butter a health food?
Butter is More “Heart-Healthy”
After years of being told that margarine was more “heart-healthy” than butter, we’re now discovering in long-term studies that the science simply just doesn’t back up the claim.
For more on that, read resource Butter vs. Margarine: The Showdown.
Butter Contains Cancer-Fighting Fats
Butter is rich in the short and medium-chain fatty acids that deter tumor growth.
We used to believe that high fat diets promoted tumor growth. Now we know that it’s not the high-fat diet per se, but the kind of fats in that diet. A diet high in the wrong kinds of fats promotes tumor growth. A diet high in the right kinds of fats deters cancer growth.
In this study, researchers showed that both Oleic acid and Myristic acid have cancer-fighting properties. Both of these fatty acids make up a large percentage of the fats found in butter.
Butter from grass-fed cows is also rich in Conjugated Linoleic Acid — a strong cancer-preventing fatty acid.
Butter Protects Against Diabetes
While doing a statistical meta-analysis of all the medical studies that had supposedly linked dietary intake of saturated fat to incidences of coronary heart disease, strokes, and diabetes (hint: there is no link between saturated fat and heart disease), researchers discovered something particularly awesome!
They found that while the industrially-produced trans-fats found in processed food is definitively linked to incidences of coronary heart disease (I’m not surprised, are you?), the naturally occurring trans-fats found in butter are inversely related to incidences of type-2 diabetes. In other words, people who eat more butter are less likely to get type-2 diabetes! (source)
Butter Protects Against Degenerative Arthritis
Butter from grass-fed cows is high in vitamin K-2, and recent research shows that K-2 isn’t just responsible for helping us prevent or reverse osteoporosis like we’d previously thought. It also reduces disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. (source)
Butter Promotes A Healthy Brain & Nervous System
Butter is high in cholesterol. This is a good thing!
That’s because our brains and nervous systems need cholesterol to develop properly. While the brain can make its own cholesterol, it also pulls cholesterol from the blood plasma (which comes from your diet) when it needs more (source).
It’s also essential for growing children.
Mother’s milk is high in cholesterol and contains over 50 percent of its calories as butterfat. Low fat diets have been linked to failure to thrive in children — yet low-fat diets are often recommended for youngsters! Children need the many factors in butter and other animal fats for optimal development.
Did you know your brain is more than 65% fat?
The protective coating on your neurons — called myelin — is also high in fat, measuring at 70%. One of the most common fatty acids in myelin is — you guessed it — oleic acid. And, as I mentioned above, butter is an excellent source of oleic acid.
Butter Protects The Gut
Butterfat contains glycospingolipids, a special category of fatty acids that protect against gastro-intestinal infection, especially in the very young and the elderly. For this reason, children who drink skim milk have diarrhea at rates three to five times greater than children who drink whole milk. Cholesterol in butterfat promotes health of the intestinal wall and protects against cancer of the colon. Short and medium chain fatty acids protect against pathogens and have strong anti-fungal effects. Butter thus has an important role to play in the treatment of candida overgrowth.
In Short, Butter Is Awesome
This list barely scratches the surface.
It doesn’t even address butter from grass-fed cows — which is high in vitamins A, D, & K-2. Those critical fat-soluble vitamins are absolutely essential for proper development of bone structure and play a critical role in traditional pre-conception and pregnancy diets for just that reason.
For more on that, pick up a copy of my book, Beautiful Babies: Nutrition for Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, & Baby’s First Foods. The book has a foreword by Joel Salatin, the pasture-based farmer of Food, Inc. fame, and it’s currently a national best-seller.
Do you love this image as much as I do? Thanks go to Craig Fear of Fearless Eating for the image.
Where To Buy Grass-Fed Butter
If you can’t snag raw butter from grass-fed cows from your local dairy, consider making homemade butter.
If that seems like too much work, you can find out where to find butter from grass-fed cows here.
(top photo credit: kalai manickam)