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Is Butter Bad For You?

Are you one of those people who still believe in the myth that butter is bad for you? Butter may have a negative rep as one of the foods you should avoid but it has not always been this way. In the past, people perceived butter as a type of essential health food. However, butter has been demonized because it’s associated with increased rates of cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases.

Everyone seems to have different opinions about butter these days. The government, doctors, and even the media constantly contradict each other on this issue. So, you might be wondering if butter is good for your health or not? While you were told to avoid butter, new research is challenging this myth. Even though butter is high in saturated fat which can lead to the buildup of cholesterol, it is not as dangerous as we’ve been made to believe. In fact, current studies say that cholesterol might improve your health. The researchers explain that cholesterol is not the bad guy here; it's actually one of the compounds that help repair damaged tissues in the body (1).

Another research says that scientists who previously studied the health effects of butter made a mistake by grouping butter with margarine - which is an unhealthy artificial source of fat (2). This means that the health benefits of butter could outweigh any negative side effects.

Origins of Butter

Butter is a dairy product that is produced by churning milk from animals like cows or goats. It forms when the protein in the milk is separated from other components. We use it for cooking, baking, and of course spreading on toast (3). No one knows exactly how butter was discovered but there are rumors that the first batch was made by accident. Nicole Jankowsky a historian says that one nomad invented butter when he found that the milk on the back of his animal had become solid (4). She writes that this probably happened because the movement of the animal through rough landscapes caused the milk to churn.

While many argued that butter was harmful, one foundation called Weston A. Price had a different view. The foundation believed that taste is not the only reason we should be eating butter, but because of its many health benefits. They made their stance clear by publishing a well-researched report on the 1st of January 2000 (5). This report claims that butter can help to prevent cancer, arthritis, weight gain, cardiovascular diseases like stroke, and boost childhood development. Even though the report was written only a few years ago, many ancient traditions have always used butter for social, cultural and health purposes.

What Kind of Healthy Nutrients Does Butter Have?

Aside from butter’s delicious taste and rich flavor, research shows that eating
butter can help you fight heart-related conditions. Don’t believe it? Then read on to know the facts that prove butter is a superfood.

1) Butter Is Rich in Vitamins

· Butter is loaded with many vitamins especially vitamin A. Just one tablespoon of butter contains 7% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Many studies have shown that vitamin A helps to improve vision; especially night blindness and aging-related eye problems. Vitamin A can also help you fight off infectious diseases by strengthening your immune system (6,7,8,9).

· Another powerful vitamin present in butter is vitamin D. This nutrient has been linked with weight loss and reduced risk of heart attack. What’s more, vitamin D is beneficial for your mental health (10,11,12). According to one study, vitamin D can help people with depression relief their symptoms (13).

· Butter contains vitamin B12; a nutrient that studies show can slow down early symptoms of dementia, prevent osteoporosis, and strengthen your bones (14,15). Vitamin B12 also increases amino acid in the blood which can help to reduce the risk of a cardiovascular disease event (16,17,18).

· Vitamin K is also found in butter. You’d be lacking this nutrient if you eat the standard western diet. Studies show that vitamin K help prevents cancer, coronary heart disease, and speeds up recovery from a bone fracture (19,20,21,22).

· Lastly, butter contains vitamin F. According to one 2018 study published by the British Medical Journal, vitamin F can stabilize your blood pressure and heart rate while reducing inflammation (23).

2) Butter Contains Healthy Short-Chain Fatty Acids

Ruminant trans-fat in butter which is commonly called dairy fat can actually be very beneficial for our health. While there are many varieties of trans fat, the most common type found in butter is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). According to one lab study, CLA can help protect human cells from numerous kinds of tumors including, melanoma, breast, colorectal, and lung cancer (24,25).

Butter also contains butyrate which is a type of short-chain fatty acid that is normally produced by microbes in your gut. Studies have found that eating foods rich in butyrate can help to reduce inflammation in the digestive system (26,27). Butyrate has also been associated with improved weight loss, brain function, and gut health. Of all foods, butter has the highest level of butyrate (28).

Health Benefits of Butter

With all you’ve read so far, it’s hard to see why anyone ever taught butter was dangerous. Butter is an important food product in our diet and we should not be avoiding it. In fact, we should be promoting it as the evidence shows that butter can help fight cardiovascular disease and obesity; two major health crises in America.

Butter Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Butter may be high in saturated fat but it is the good kind of fat. One meta-analysis study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed over 60 different control trials on the health effects of butter. Their findings show that eating saturated fats can improve a person's HDL commonly referred to as the good cholesterol that reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases (29). Other papers published by the same journal says there is no solid evidence that eating butter causes heart-related disorders. This is because the fat it contains is converted into energy in the body (30, 31).

Butter Fights Obesity

One major reason many people avoid eating butter is it’s high-calorie content. For example, a tablespoon of butter contains over 100 calories. However, a 2012 paper published by the European Journal of Nutrition says that this belief is wrong as butter is not stored as fat in the body. They explain further that people who eat more butter along with a healthy diet actually lost weight (32). This means that if you eat butter in moderation, it can help you regulate your weight.

What Does A Healthy Amount Of Butter Mean?

According to the American Heart Association, you should limit your consumption of saturated fats to 6% of your total daily calories (33). For example, if your recommended amount of calories is 2000, you should be eating 13 grams of saturated fat per day. That translates to only two spoons of butter daily.

Butter Wins the Health Debate

Irrespective of your beliefs about butter, the evidence has shown that it is good for your health. Even though some people might choose to ignore all these benefits and still avoid it, one thing is certain; everything is still better with butter.

Organic grass-fed butter is the best, but if you can’t afford it; go for regular butter. People who are lactose intolerant or dairy sensitive should buy clarified butter (ghee) instead.

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