Monday, July 12, 2010

Ode to Butter

In my opinion, butter is one of the most slandered foods in the West. It has a horrible reputation, which has been ill-earned. Everything "tastes like butter," but nothing is made with butter anymore. "For a heart-healthy recipe," your cookbook says, "use margarine instead of butter."
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is a staple item in most US homes. But, has butter gotten a bad rap? Let's take a brief look at the history of this ancient food and learn why butter is better.

Butter has been around for a very long time. As long as humans have been keeping domestic animals, we have used butter, along with milk and cheese and plenty of other dairy foods. The Bible often refers to butter in reference to wealth. In fact, for millennia, pretty much every culture has viewed butter as a symbol of health, wealth, and prosperity.

It wasn't until the mid-1900s that butter began to get a bad reputation. Heart disease sky rocketed in the early 1900s, even though butter consumption plummeted. Food marketers began pushing margarine as a better alternative to butter, because it was less expensive to produce (a huge selling point during The Great Depression), and they could patent it as a product. A food product once only used by the impoverished now became in vogue. Food manufacturers labeled butter as the cause of heart disease (after research that fed butter to herbivorous animals who would, of course, get sick when eating an animal product). All this was occurring at the same point in history where food manufacturers marketed cigarettes as non-addictive and advertised to children, a time when baby formula virtually replaced breastfeeding, because it was "psychologically dangerous" to infants.

Butter never recovered. Though it is widely accepted that the transfat found in margarine was one of the major causes of heart disease, butter is still viewed as a dangerous food. This lie has so saturated our culture that it is absurd to think otherwise. Read some information below from The Weston A. Price Foundation on butter's nutritional value.

Butter & Heart Disease

Heart disease was rare in America at the turn of the century. Between 1920 and 1960, the incidence of heart disease rose precipitously to become America's number one killer. During the same period butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in statistics to conclude that butter is not a cause. Actually butter contains many nutrients that protect us from heart disease. First among these is vitamin A which is needed for the health of the thyroid and adrenal glands, both of which play a role in maintaining the proper functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system. Abnormalities of the heart and larger blood vessels occur in babies born to vitamin A deficient mothers. Butter is America's best and most easily absorbed source of vitamin A.

Butter contains lecithin, a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents.

Butter also contains a number of anti-oxidants that protect against the kind of free radical damage that weakens the arteries. Vitamin A and vitamin E found in butter both play a strong anti-oxidant role. Butter is a very rich source of selenium, a vital anti-oxidant--containing more per gram than herring or wheat germ.

Butter is also a good dietary source cholesterol. What?? Cholesterol an anti-oxidant?? Yes indeed, cholesterol is a potent anti-oxidant that is flooded into the blood when we take in too many harmful free-radicals--usually from damaged and rancid fats in margarine and highly processed vegetable oils.3 A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.4

Butter & Cancer

In the 1940's research indicated that increased fat intake caused cancer.5 The abandonment of butter accelerated; margarine--formerly a poor man's food-- was accepted by the well-to-do. But there was a small problem with the way this research was presented to the public. The popular press neglected to stress that fact that the "saturated" fats used in these experiments were not naturally saturated fats but partially hydrogenated or hardened fats--the kind found mostly in margarine but not in butter. Researchers stated--they may have even believed it--that there was no difference between naturally saturated fats in butter and artificially hardened fats in margarine and shortening. So butter was tarred with the black brush of the fabricated fats, and in such a way that the villains got passed off as heroes.

Actually many of the saturated fats in butter have strong anti-cancer properties. Butter is rich in short and medium chain fatty acid chains that have strong anti-tumor effects.6 Butter also contains conjugated linoleic acid which gives excellent protection against cancer.7

Vitamin A and the anti-oxidants in butter--vitamin E, selenium and cholesterol--protect against cancer as well as heart disease.

Butter & the Immune System

Vitamin A found in butter is essential to a healthy immune system; short and medium chain fatty acids also have immune system strengthening properties. But hydrogenated fats and an excess of long chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated oils and many butter substitutes both have a deleterious effect on the immune system.8

Butter & Arthritis

The Wulzen or "anti-stiffness" factor is a nutrient unique to butter. Dutch researcher Wulzen found that it protects against calcification of the joints--degenerative arthritis--as well as hardening of the arteries, cataracts and calcification of the pineal gland.9 Unfortunately this vital substance is destroyed during pasteurization. Calves fed pasteurized milk or skim milk develop joint stiffness and do not thrive. Their symptoms are reversed when raw butterfat is added to the diet.

Butter & Osteoporosis

Vitamins A and D in butter are essential to the proper absorption of calcium and hence necessary for strong bones and teeth. The plague of osteoporosis in milk-drinking western nations may be due to the fact that most people choose skim milk over whole, thinking it is good for them. Butter also has anti-cariogenic effects, that is, it protects against tooth decay.10

Butter & the Thyroid Gland

Butter is a good source of iodine, in highly absorbable form. Butter consumption prevents goiter in mountainous areas where seafood is not available. In addition, vitamin A in butter is essential for proper functioning of the thyroid gland.11

Butter & Gastrointestinal Health

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.12 Cholesterol in butterfat promotes health of the intestinal wall and protects against cancer of the colon.13Short and medium chain fatty acids protect against pathogens and have strong anti-fungal effects.14 Butter thus has an important role to play in the treatment of candida overgrowth.

Butter & Weight Gain

The notion that butter causes weight gain is a sad misconception. The short and medium chain fatty acids in butter are not stored in the adipose tissue, but are used for quick energy. Fat tissue in humans is composed mainly of longer chain fatty acids.15 These come from olive oil and polyunsaturated oils as well as from refined carbohydrates. Because butter is rich in nutrients, it confers a feeling of satisfaction when consumed. Can it be that consumption of margarine and other butter substitutes results in cravings and bingeing because these highly fabricated products don't give the body what it needs?.

Butter for Growth & Development

Many factors in butter ensure optimal growth of children. Chief among them is vitamin A. Individuals who have been deprived of sufficient vitamin A during gestation tend to have narrow faces and skeletal structure, small palates and crowded teeth.16 Extreme vitamin A deprivation results in blindness, skeletal problems and other birth defects.17 Individuals receiving optimal vitamin A from the time of conception have broad handsome faces, strong straight teeth, and excellent bone structure. Vitamin A also plays an important role in the development of the sex characteristics. Calves fed butter substitutes sicken and die before reaching maturity.18

The X factor, discovered by Dr. Weston Price (and now believed to be vitamin K2), is also essential for optimum growth. It is only present in butterfat from cows on green pasture.19 Cholesterol found in butterfat plays an important role in the development of the brain and nervous system.20 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 children21--yet low-fat diets are often recommended for youngsters! Children need the many factors in butter and other animal fats for optimal development.

Beyond Margarine

It's no longer a secret that the margarine Americans have been spreading on their toast, and the hydrogenated fats they eat in commercial baked goods like cookies and crackers, is the chief culprit in our current plague of cancer and heart disease.22 But mainline nutrition writers continue to denigrate butter--recommending new fangled tub spreads instead.23 These may not contain hydrogenated fats but they are composed of highly processed rancid vegetable oils, soy protein isolate and a host of additives. A glitzy cookbook called Butter Busters promotes butter buds, made from maltodextrin, a carbohydrate derived from corn, along with dozens of other highly processed so-called low-fat commercial products.

Who benefits from the propaganda blitz against butter? The list is a long one and includes orthodox medicine, hospitals, the drug companies and food processors. But the chief beneficiary is the large corporate farm and the cartels that buy their products--chiefly cotton, corn and soy--America's three main crops, which are usually grown as monocultures on large farms, requiring extensive use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. All three--soy, cotton and corn--can be used to make both margarine and the new designer spreads. In order to make these products acceptable to the up-scale consumer, food processors and agribusiness see to it that they are promoted as health foods. We are fools to believe them.

Many of you will read this and not believe it. We've been lied to so many times and for so long that it is inconceivable that butter could not only be "not bad" for you, but also good for you. Did you know that if you cook your vegetables in butter, you dramatically increase the number of nutrients your body absorbs, compared to steamed veggies? Do note, however, that the best butter comes from raw milk from grass-fed, organic cows. It's richer in vitamins, healthier, and richer in omega-3s. It even tastes better!

So, smear that butter on your bread! Smother your sweet potatoes in it! Bake apple pies with real butter in the crust! It's good for you!

I'm going to post below several articles and websites that support this view of butter (just in case you are doubtful). You'll find plenty of articles on both sides of the debate, but ask yourself this single question: What do I trust more - a food product created from chemicals that has only been consumed for the past hundred years, or a food that has thousands of years backing it up and is an all-natural, sustainable food that God made easy to obtain from the cows He created? This is the question that sealed it for me.


  1. What do you think about vegetable based spreads such as Smart Balance® Organic Whipped Buttery Spread?

  2. My only comment would be this: Butter has 2 cholesterol-raising ingredients (dietary cholesterol + saturated fat). Some of us are more affected by cholesterol in the diet than others. Some people can consume a high-cholesterol diet without it affecting blood cholesterol levels, but others only eat a little and their cholesterol levels skyrocket. It is recommended that 200 mg of cholesterol be eaten/day and only one Tbsp of butter contains 33mg.
    So, those of us watching our cholesterol should also watch the amount of butter consumed.

  3. Vegetable-based oils become rancid very easily. Even though they are vegetable-based, they contain many other ingredients. In addition, I don't believe that soy is a healthy oil. It contains a lot of estrogen and "anti-nutrients." Traditionally, soy has been fermented in order to make it edible, which is not done in modern industrialized food. Canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant, which is toxic to humans. Though canola oil hasn't shown any negative effects, it also goes rancid easily. Both of these, the two most commonly used oils now, are usually GMOs, which many countries have banned. Since most vegetable-based spreads contain these two oils, I don't suggest using them.

    Olive oil is a traditional oil that is great for cooking, but still can become rancid at high temperatures.

    Also, if you look at the ingredients, they usually still contain some hydrogenated oil, which means it's transfat, even if its partially hydrogenated. Food companies have gotten really good at putting transfat in food, but not enough that they have to show it on the label. "0 grams of tranfat" does not mean "transfat free!"

    Hope this helps!

  4. Joanna, that is true, but there are different types of cholesterol. Butter actually raises HDL, the healthy type of cholesterol. I'm not saying take a bath in butter, but eating a healthy amount of HDL cholesterol actually lowers bad cholesterol. If you don't eat enough cholesterol from animals, your body goes into "survival mode" and your body super-produces cholesterol.

    Eggs are an excellent example. One egg contains 70% of your recommended cholesterol for the day, but people who eat at least 3 eggs a week have significantly lower risk of high cholesterol and heart attack.

  5. Okay, so this blog post on butter is way better than mine: