Humans have been consuming butter for about 10,000 years. Yet, when it comes to heart disease and obesity, it’s still widely misunderstood. Recently, new research has shed new light on the cardiometabolic benefits of dairy products and dairy fat. Consuming real butter may be beneficial, not detrimental, for your health.
1. Real butter is the real deal.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that margarine is actually better for you than real butter, which is made by churning the fatty portion of cow’s milk until it turns into butter. Margarine, on the other hand is highly processed, and was invented to replace butter.
The main ingredient in margarine is vegetable oil. Emulsifiers, colorants and various artificial ingredients are used to create the look and taste of butter. Several studies link polyunsaturated vegetable oils, often found in margarine, with cancer, violence and the very thing margarine is supposed to prevent, heart disease.
2. It lowers your risk of diabetes.
Recent research published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that eating real butter, preferably raw and grass-fed, has more of a neutral association with mortality rather than causing mortality. In fact, there is no significant association between butter consumption and heart health, according to the paper. While one tablespoon of butter daily was associated with a one percent higher risk of death, interestingly, it lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by four percent.
3. Trans fats in butter are healthy.
Unlike the trans fats found in processed foods, dairy trans fats are considered to be healthy. In fact, butter is the richest dietary source of dairy trans fats, also called ruminant trans fats. The most common ruminant trans fats are vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
CLA has been associated with health benefits such as protecting against certain cancers thanks to its anticarcinogenic component, suggests research from the Human Nutrition Program.
4. It contains rich source of vitamins and minerals.
Since butter is normally consumed in smaller portions, the vitamins found in butter only contribute to the total daily requirement. The following vitamins are found in high amounts in butter:
- Vitamin A is the most plentiful vitamin found in butter, with one tablespoon providing about 11 percent of the daily-recommended allowance.
- Butter is also a good source of vitamin D, E, B12 and K2 (a form of vitamin K, also called menaquinone that is thought to protect against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.)
5. It reduces the risk of obesity and promotes weight loss.
A study published in the European Journal of Health suggests that butter, when eaten in normal amounts as a part of a healthy diet, may actually reduce the risk of obesity. In fact, 11 out of 16 studies suggested that high-fat dairy intake was inversely associated or showed no association with obesity and metabolic health.
Additionally, clinical research from Norway suggests that the CLA found in butter also promotes weight loss.
6. Grass-fed and raw is better butter.
Grass-fed butter, it turns out, contains five times more CLA than butter from grain-fed cows, which means greater health benefits. Unfortunately, raw dairy is not available in all states, but you can ask your local farmer’s market if they know of any good sources in your area.
Pasteurization destroys the chemical structure of butter’s proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride for Eco Watch says, “it kills the beneficial bacteria and destroys enzymes and vitamins,” which makes pasteurized milk harder to digest.
The bottom line: Not only does butter taste better than margarine, it’s a natural product that humans have been cooking with and eating for thousands of years. Why use a synthetic and somewhat unpleasant-tasting spread, often laced with additives and cheap, low-grade oils, when we now know that butter eaten in moderation, is the healthier alternative?