Butter is a nutritional powerhouse – a superfood. It is also indispensable in the kitchen – adding flavor and depth to your food. Butter’s components help your body better absorb minerals and water-soluble vitamins found in grains, vegetables, and other foods – good reasons to include more butter in your meals. I often make a quick Garlic and Herb Butter Sauce for dipping crusty bread or grilled artichokes in and smothering on fish (see recipe below).
Butter and all naturally saturated fats from animal sources are blamed for causing heart disease and cancer but have been part of our diets for generations – humans evolved on animal foods and our brains thrive on saturated fats.
What is Butter?
“Milkfat is indeed a portion of the sun’s energy, captured by the grasses of the field and repackaged by the cow in scattered, microscopic globules.” Harold McGee
Butter is made by churning cream – the fat of the milk which naturally separates and rises to the top.
It would take far more that one sentence to explain how margarine and vegetable oils are made – both are extremely highly processed and unnatural substances (I will not call them foods) and should not be part of any diet. Unfortunately, mainstream dietary guidelines continue to recommend them as a replacement for butter.
Butter is full of Nutrients
“Eat butter first, and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past.” -Old Dutch proverb
Butter has an impressive list of nutrients – nutrients that most of us are deficient in and that protect us from heart disease, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, thyroid and other hormone disorders, impaired digestion, infertility, and poor growth and development. These nutrients interact in sophisticated pathways in our bodies so it’s best to get them from foods. Isolating individual vitamins and minerals into supplements can create imbalances if not used properly.
You might as well eat more butter to get more;
- Vitamin A – needed for the health of the thyroid and adrenal glands and proper functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system, strenghtens the immune system, critical for the proper absorption of calcium- necessary for strong bones and teeth.
- Vitamin D – necessary for the proper absorption of calcium also vital for strong bones and teeth, strenghtens the immune system.
- Lecithin – aids in the metabolism and assimilation of cholesterol.
- Vitamin E – an anti-oxidant that protects against free radical damage that weakens the arteries.
- Vitamin K2 – for strong bones, healthy heart, enhanced memory function – only present in butterat from cows on green pasture.
- Selenium– an anti-oxidant. Butter is a better source than wheat germ.
- Iodine – prevents goiter, thyroid health.
- Glycospingolipids – a specific category of fatty acids that protect against gastro-intestinal infections.
- Cholesterol – an anti-oxidant. It gets flooded into the blood when eat too many harmful free radicals (found in margarine and vegetable oils). Promotes the health of the intestinal walls, protects against cancer of the colon, and is crucial in the development of the brain and nervous system, and hormones.
- Saturated fats -short and medium chain fatty acids that have strong anti-tumor effects, strenghtens the immune system, have anti-fungal effects, boost metabolism, and is critical to lung function.
- CLA – (conjugated linoleic acid) protects against cancer. Higher levels of CLA in butter from cows eating grass.
- “Wulzen” factor – unique to raw butter and cream. Anti-stiffness factor – prevents arthritis, joint stiffness and hardening of arteries, and cataracts.
- Trace minerals – manganese, chromium, zinc, and copper. Needed for the health of our bones and joints.
Avoid Replacements – and Processed Foods
“Heart Disease is the #1 cause of death in both men and women… What’s been dropping us like flies is not any upsurge in saturated fat consumption, but an upsurge in the consumption of two major categories of pro-inflammatory foods: vegetable oils (unnatural fats) and sugar. Cutting both from your diet will protect you from ALL chronic diseases.” Dr. Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition.
Margarine and polyunsaturated oils are harmful to the immune system. Margarine is made by turning liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat- creating trans fats. Trans fats promotes heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalances, skin disease, infertility, low bith weight, and learning disabilities. Margarine have other harmful ingredients like synthetic vitamins, emulsifiers and preservatives, artificial flavors, soy-protein isolates (contributes to thyroid disfunction and digestive disorders), sterols (estrogens that can cause hormonal issues) and are processed with toxic substances like hexane and bleach.
Vegetable oils like canola, corn, soy, sunflower, cottonseed, safflower, rice bran, and grapeseed, are heat-sensitive polyunsaturated fats. The industrial processing of these vegetable oils creates harmful fats. In addition to the heat damage, hexane (made from crude oil) is used to extract the oils. Organic expeller pressed oils are not processed with hexane but are still heat damaged.
Both margarine and vegetable oils are found in almost all of our processed foods – these foods increase inflammation in our bodies that lead to chronic diseases.
Include Healthy Fats in Your Diet
“Nature doesn’t make bad fats, factories do.” Dr. Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition.
Low or non-fat dairy products lack all the critical fat-soluble vitamins, Vitamins A and D, E, and K2. Though synthetic vitamins are added back to processed low-fat dairy, it’s still missing the fat that aids in absorption. And getting your nutrients from food is a much healthier and more natural way.
The best butter to buy is organic raw butter from cows eating grass. Pastured raw butter provides a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, have higher levels of cancer preventing CLA, and other health promoting nutrients – and is easier to digest for those that are sensitive to dairy. Pasteurized, pastured, and organic butter is a good second option. Even non-organic butter, is a much better option than margarine and vegetable oils.
So if you’re still not convinced that saturated fat is good for you remember that human breast milk is very high in cholesterol and saturated fats- mother nature knew what she was doing.
If you cannot tolerate dairy it’s important to seek other nutrient-dense foods like organ meats, fish eggs, and pastured animal products.
“I believe it’s a cook’s moral obligation to add more butter given the chance.”
Michael Ruhlman, author of Ratio.
Garlic and Herb Butter Sauce
Though fresh herbs are more flavorful, dried spices make for a quicker preparation. Double and triple as needed.
1/2 stick of pastured, organic butter
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried powdered garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and/or cilantro
flaked sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan on low heat until just melted and serve.
Note: I like to serve this in small ramekins and place around the table.
Sources and recommended reading:
www.realmilk.com to find a source for raw butter.
Why Butter is Better – westonaprice.org
This Vilified Food Slashes Heart Attack Risk in Half – mercola.com
Five Fats You Must Have in Your Kitchen – Healthy Home Economist
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food – Catherine Shanahan, MD
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen – Harold McGee
Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking – Michael Ruhlman
Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health– Gary Taubes
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats – Sally Fallon
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration – Weston Price
This post is linked to The Nourishing Gourmet | Pennywise Platter Thursday and Food Renegade | Fight Back Friday.