The theory that saturated fats are bad for you and contribute to heart disease has long been debunked. In fact it never had any standing. The many years of warnings from the food industry and doctors alike, was all based on a hypothesis that had never had any science behind it in the first place. Still, a deep seeded fear of fat remains.
There are definitely sources of saturated fats that are better than others. Grass fed butter being one of the better ones. Without further ado…here are some of the reasons to toss out the margarine!
Vitamin K2 – Butter is a great source of of this vitamin. Other sources include egg yolks (eat the whole egg folks), goose liver and natto (a fermented soy based food).
K, but why K? – Vitamin K modifies proteins so that they bind with calcium. Calcium tends to leach out of the bones and then enters our arteries. Because of this Osteoperosis is a big risk factor, as is heart disease. Studies consistently show that consistent intake of K2 can help prevent both of these diseases. In one such study (1) participants who had elevated levels of K2 in their diet had a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 26% lower risk of dying from all cause over a 10 year period. Their is a vegetable based source of Vitamin K (K1) but this type is not as bioavailable as K2.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) – Butter is also loaded with fatty acids. One such fatty acid is CLA. Several studies have found that high levels of CLA in humans is associated with a lower risk of heart attack. The studies that suggest a link towards heart health and CLA levels come from countries where the vast majority of cows are grass fed. Indeed Grass fed butter can have as much as 500% more CLA then butter from grain fed cows. Some studies have also suggested that CLA can help fight certain kinds of cancers though more research is needed to verify this (2) .
Cholesterol – For the last few decades the impression has been that cholesterol is the main culprit of heart disease but this is not the whole story. Having enough cholesterol is integral for good health. It plays various roles in regulating health including: cellular function, hormone building, brain and nervous system development and function and tissue repair. It actually plays a role in artery repair! Our intestines and liver produce about 80% of the cholesterol we need for healthy function. The rest we need from food.
Low density lipoprotein or LDL is often reffered to as the bad cholesterol while high density lipoprotein or HDL is known as the good kind. The thing is that even LDL cholesterol is something we need. It’s a complex process but what happens is that LDL is at risk of being damaged. When this happens it no longer functions properly and can build up in our arteries. SO the real questioin we need to ask is – how is this form of cholesterol becoming damaged? The quick answer is sugar The whole process is too much to cover for this post. Perhaps subject for another).
Another question to ponder is – what happens when our cholesterol is too low? Everything from premature birth (and low birth weight), to depression, anxiety, anger and violent tendencies and cancer! So maybe we need to think about not being afraid of foods that contain cholesterol but rather be diligent about which foods have the cleanest sources. Grass fed animal sources, including butter are quite healthy. If you want to make sure that the cholesterol you produce and eat works for you rather than against you, put down the donut!
Inflammation – New studies point to inflammation rather than cholesterol as one of the major causes of heart disease. Grains and other sugar based foods, when eaten to excess can cause hidden inflammation in the body that leads to all sorts of diseases including heart disease.
A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce inflammation. Grass fed butter happens to be full of such anti inflammatory compounds! Butyrate is a short chained fatty acid found in butter. It is used as the primary source of energy for bacteria in the lining of the gut and It also appears to have cancer fighting abilities. Oral Butyrate supplementation and butyrate enemas are being used to battle inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Some researchers suggest that some digestive diseases may even be caused or made worse by a deficiency in this nutrient. Good ol’ Butyrate continues its anti inflammtory quest even after leaving the gut and entering the circulatory system. Go Butyrate!
Vitamin A – Levels of Vitamin A are higher in grass fed butter than butter from grain fed ruminants. Vitamin A is important for the development and maintenance of your teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, skin and mucous membranes. It also play a vital role in eye function. See the butter, eat the butter!
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) – MCT found in butter and coconut oil are a very efficient source of energy for your muscles and organs. If you can use high quality MCT as a source of fuel, rather than carbohydrates you will see a boost in metabolism, appetite suppression and fat loss!
If you are lactose intolerant or unable to consume casein, you can experiment with grass fed Ghee. Ghee is clarified butter. It is prepared by simmering butter, removing any impurities from the surface and retaining the clear liquid fat.The process in making ghee removes any allergens but it maintains a heart healthy nutrition profile with many low-medium chain fatty acids. It is also more stable than butter when being cooked at high temperatures.
Grass fed, organic butter is a great source of nutrients. Significantly better for you than margarine or butter from grain fed cows. I wouldn’t go eating it by the stick or anything, as with any food, be mindful of how much you eat of it! If you are worried about environmental issues or animal treatment in the production of butter consider visiting a local farm to see if they produce high quality butter in a humane process. If you are vegan then you will have to get sources of these nutrients elsewhere, but be weary of the bio-availability of vitamins and minerals from foods such as grains or legumes.