Instinctively we know, butter makes everything taste better. This is a little-disputed fact, but after that everyone runs for the hills for fear of growing fat and dying of heart disease. You may recall I posted a few weeks ago extolling the wonders of bacon. Now it's time to learn why butter is good for you.
Allow me, once again, to dispel the common misconceptions about another of the most loved and feared foods on earth, and then you can decide for yourself to add a pat – or five.
BUTTER MYTH #1:
I eat Earth Balance because butter is loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol so it will clog my arteries and kill me.
FACT: The truth is, vegetable oils are more likely the cause of modern disease than traditional fats like butter, coconut oil, and lard. Think about it – these diseases have only come about since the invention of strange foods like corn oil, Crisco, and Earth Balance spread.
If you're a “show-me-the-studies” kind of person:
- Diets high in saturated fat actually have been shown to increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol and not affect LDL, the “bad” cholesterol (Journal of American College of Nutrition, 2004).
- Cholesterol does not clog arteries, and is essential for many functions in the body, including hormone production and regulation, proper digestion, and immune health.
- A fairly recent study actually shows that lowering cholesterol has no affect on plaque build-up in the arteries (American Journal of Cardiology, 2003).
The modern epidemic of heart disease should not be blamed on bacon, butter, and cream, but on unhealthy vegetable fats such as margarine, canola, corn, and soy oils as well as the groceries isles of other processed foods.
If you’re more of an experiential learner, start eating real butter regularly as part of a nutrient dense, junk free diet. Try to find butter made from cows that were raised outdoors on pasture. You’ll feel awesome and won’t die, I promise. At least not from the butter.
BUTTER MYTH #2:
Eating butter will make me fat.
FACT: I challenge you to sit down with a stick of butter and a spoon and see how much you can eat before your body says STOP! Chances are you won't get very far. If you make it through the whole stick, I doubt you could keep up this eating a stick-a-day going forward. But you might possibly eat a pint of ice cream or a chunk of cake daily if you gave yourself permission, right?
Eating anything in excess will make you fat, but the reality is, when you eat nutrient dense foods rich in saturated fat, your body will become satiated faster and for a longer period of time than when you eat a low-fat, nutrient deficient foods like non-fat frozen yogurt or plain, dry popcorn.
It tends to be the processed foods that make us fat because we can eat and eat and eat them and never feel satisfied for long, so we eat and eat some more.
Butter can actually be an important part of a healthy weight loss plan, as long as you limit the amount of junk food that you spread on and mix in with your scoop of butter.
BUTTER MYTH #3:
Yes, butter is delicious, but the USDA says saturated fats are “empty” calories. There's nothing nutritious in butter.
FACT: As a saturated fat, butter is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins that are crucial to good health, including vitamin A, D and K2.
Vitamin A benefits our immune systems and vision, while vitamin D helps build bones and aids in absorption of calcium. Vitamin K2 appears to reduce or even counteract plaque in the arteries. It also helps the body utilize calcium.
As the name suggests, fat-soluble vitamins are capable of being dissolved in fat. To reap the nutritional benefits of the vitamins, you need to eat animal fats – these nutrients (including vitamin A) are simply not available from vegetable sources.
The fat soluble vitamins in butter make veggies more digestible and make the vitamins they contain easier to absorb. It's actually important to add a dollop of saturated fat (such as butter) to your bowl of steamed broccoli!
The higher the quality of butter you consume, the more nutritional benefits you'll reap. Fat-soluble vitamins are more abundant in butter produced from animals that are grass-fed and exposed to regular fresh air and sunshine.
BUTTER MYTH #4:
I avoid butter because I'm allergic to dairy.
FACT: Most lactose intolerances result from drinking pasteurized milk. If it's a lactose intolerance that you suffer from, consuming small amounts of raw dairy can often reverse the allergy over time.
Many people who can't drink milk can eat cultured dairy products including cultured butters and yogurt. Cultured butter is produced when raw cream is inoculated with Flora Danica cultures, then left to culture before it is churned into butter. Even those who cannot tolerate raw butter may be fine consuming it once it is cultured.
For those with a casein allergy (to the milk protein), clarified butter or ghee is a great alternative and can be found online or in most well-stocked health food stores.
Humans have been thriving on and enjoying butter for thousands of years. Some cultures even revere the butter made from spring grazing cows as a sacred food. We instinctively know that we need butter (or some saturated fat) with our meals, though modern-day health-conscious folks do their best to stuff that wisdom. We have been hypnotized by commercials and government guidelines to believe that saturated fat is killing us, and instead we should starve our bodies of the evil – substituting the fancy-packaged by-products of modern agri-industry.
I don't know about you, but all this makes me scoop a bit more butter into my pan and onto my plate. Butter deserves an altar – go ahead, show some reverence for this sacred fat.