The Diet Dictocrats told us to drop butter decades ago and switch to a so-called healthier substitute called margarine made with what they claimed would be less harmful polyunsaturated fats. Their promise was it would prevent disease. People around the globe questioned this advice, especially those who have valued butter for its life-sustaining properties for millennia. Today we know that butter is light years healthier than margarine ever could be. It’s a lesson to never go against the wisdom of our ancestors and always distrust corporate and malicious propaganda designed to generate profits not health.
Heart disease was rare in developed nations at the turn of the century. Between 1920 and 1960, the incidence of heart disease rose precipitously to become the 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 was and is still is recognized by many as the 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. A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine. It’s not surprising when you see how margarine is actually manufactured.
People who eat mostly processed polyunsaturated oils have a greater risk of heart attack and cancer, the exact opposite advice by nutritionists just a few decades ago.
Despite its best efforts, the margarine lobby has failed to convince us that its synthetic concoctions taste anywhere near as good as butter. People eat spreads on sufferance, having been browbeaten into believing butter is bad for us. But forgoing this versatile, natural fat that graces every food it touches is a misguided penance.
These days there are other con artists such as Earth’s Balance deceiving consumers and convincing perhaps millions of unsuspecting vegetarians and vegans into thinking they have the next best spread to replace butter when all they contain is genetically modified ingredients and more toxic oils like Canola.
Why You Should Avoid Margarine, Shortening and Spreads
There are a myriad of unhealthy components to margarine and other butter imposters, including:
- Trans fats: These unnatural fats in margarine, shortenings and spreads are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat
Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy and problems with lactation; and low birth weight, growth problems and learning disabilities in children.
A U.S. government panel of scientists determined that man-made trans fats are unsafe at any level. (Small amounts of natural trans fats occur in butter and other animal fats, but these are not harmful.)
- Free radicals: Free radicals and other toxic breakdown products are the result of high temperature industrial processing of vegetable oils. They contribute to numerous health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
- Synthetic vitamins: Synthetic vitamin A and other vitamins are added to margarine and spreads. These often have an opposite (and detrimental) effect compared to the natural vitamins in butter.
- Emulsifiers and preservatives: Numerous additives of questionable safety are added to margarines and spreads. Most vegetable shortening is stabilized with preservatives like BHT.
- Hexane and other solvents: Used in the extraction process, these industrial chemicals can have toxic effects.
- Bleach: The natural color of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is grey so manufacturers bleach it to make it white. Yellow coloring is then added to margarine and spreads.
- Artificial flavors: These help mask the terrible taste and odor of partially hydrogenated oils, and provide a fake butter taste.
- Mono- and di-glycerides: These contain trans fats that manufacturers do not have to list on the label. They are used in high amounts in so-called “low-trans” spreads.
- Soy protein isolate: This highly processed powder is added to “low-trans” spreads to give them body. It can contribute to thyroid dysfunction, digestive disorders and many other health problems.
- Sterols: Often added to spreads to give them cholesterol-lowering qualities, these estrogen compounds can cause endocrine problems; in animals these sterols contribute to sexual inversion.
There Is NO Substitute For Butter
Actually one of the healthiest butters is ghee. Clarified butter is butter that has been melted over low heat and allowed to bubble and simmer until most of the water has been evaporated. Ghee is essentially clarified butter, although traditional ghee-making processes (originating in India, where ghee is very commonly used in cooking) place a focus on exact steps and specific qualities of the clarified butter. The cooking process is usually extended for a longer period of time with ghee, eliminating more of the moisture and also causing the milk solids to caramelize for eventual removal from the ghee through strainers. The highest-quality ghee is obtained when the long-simmered butter is allowed to cool and only the top-most layer is skimmed off.
When comparing ghee to butter in terms of health, one reason for the more favorable past research record of ghee versus butter might be the increased amount of medium- and short-chain fatty acids in ghee. Butter contains about 12-15% of these medium-chain and short-chain fats, whereas ghee contains about 25%.
At levels under 10% of total calories, ghee appears to help lower cardiovascular risks, especially when other fats consumed during the day are exclusively from plants or plant oils. The benefits of butter at moderate levels do not yet have the same level of research backing as ghee. However, there is increasing research interest in butter as having some unique potential benefits of its own, particularly in relationship to its vitamin K and vitamin D content. This content may vary, however, depending on the diet and living circumstances of the dairy cow.
Do You Need Organic Butter?
Yes, absolutely. The quality of your butter is highly dependent on the source. Cows fed GMO grains, drugged, vaccinated and kept in small quarters their whole lives will only result in toxic milk and consequently, toxic butter. If people were willing to pay a good price for high quality butter and cream, from cows raised on natural pasturage and through reputable organic practices, the health benefits are endless.
Since conventional butters often contain dangerous pesticides, antibiotics and added growth hormones, you must pursue organic sources for optimal nutrition.
Indeed, the Pesticide Action Network North America ranked non-organic butter as one of the top 10 foods most contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POPs), toxic chemicals linked with breast cancer, immune system suppression, nervous system disorders, reproductive damage, hormone disruption and more!
Besides containing toxins, non-organic butter also is less nutritious than organic butter… less creamy… and less tasty. Is there any reason to buy any butter that’s not organic? Well, organic butter is more expensive than conventional butter — but the difference in a household’s overall budget is truly small, especially now that national grocery chains, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, are offering their own organic store brands.
Butter’s Amazing Compounds
Butter consists of butterfat and trace amounts of milk proteins and water. You may be surprised to hear that butterfat is butyric acid, which is basically the same substance that mothers produce to nourish their babies.
Butter’s beneficial components include…
- Antioxidants. Beta-carotene, selenium and other antioxidants shield the body from free-radical damage.
- Butyric acid. This short-chain fatty acid supports colon health.
- Conjugated linoleic acids. CLAs fight cancer, build muscle and boost immunity.
- Iodine. Butter is rich in iodine, which is essential to thyroid health.
- Lauric acid. A medium-chain fatty acid, lauric acid encourages the body’s immune system to fend off yeast and other infections.
- Lecithin. This phospholipid protects cells from oxidation and may contribute to cholesterol metabolism.
- Vitamin A. Butter contains the readily absorbable form of vitamin A, which is a must for eye and endocrine health.
- Vitamin D. This vitamin helps your body absorb calcium to maintain strong bones and plays a role in reducing your risk for chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and colon and other cancers.
- Vitamin E. Anti-inflammatory vitamin E speeds wound healing, promotes skin health, enhances immunity and may protect against a host of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
- Vitamin K. Proper blood clotting and bone health are among the benefits offered by fat-soluble vitamin K.
Saturated fat and cholesterol have been falsely demonized by manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Since butter is typically used in small amounts, this can be a good place to get the fat your body needs, not only for optimal health but for life itself. Every cell in your body contains saturated fat and cholesterol, which contribute to proper digestive function, growth and other essential processes.
Butter & Cancer
In the 1940’s research indicated that increased fat intake caused cancer. 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. Butter also contains conjugated linoleic acid which gives excellent protection against cancer.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. Cholesterol in butterfat promotes health of the intestinal wall and protects against cancer of the colon. Short and medium chain fatty acids protect against pathogens and have strong anti-fungal effects. 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. 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. Extreme vitamin A deprivation results in blindness, skeletal problems and other birth defects. 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.
The nutritional gospel that saturated fat is unhealthy and fattening is melting away. A recent review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded: “There is no convincing evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease.”
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.
If your faith in the official health agencies that shape our nation’s health policies is not melting away faster than…well, butter off a hot knife, get your head out of the sand and look at their track record.
Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.