I knew I always loved you. Though, there was a time in my life when I was told to replace you with an oily, yellow-colored spread, which tried but could never match your palatable perfection. There was a time when to spread your sweet creaminess over a piece of toast was a decadent treat, indulged upon sparingly to limit consumption of your delicious fats. There was a time when doctors told me if I ate too much of you, I would need cholesterol-lowering drugs to prevent you from damaging my heart and arteries.
But now, the time has come that I have learned to embrace you, in all your golden glory! My ancestors not only consumed you in copious amounts, but revered you as sacred! They were free of nearly all the degenerative diseases that plague our current nation. So, why are we so afraid to walk in their footsteps? When did eating real foods in their natural form become substandard to modern, industrialized creations merely masquerading as the foods they emulate?
Butter, you are not the enemy!
I am here to stand up for you.
And I am here to tell the world what I have learned — that when it comes to optimizing your health, butter is better. Not only is it better than cheap substitutes made from (rancid and toxic) polyunsaturated vegetable oils, there are few foods that are as nourishing to your body and as beneficial to your health as is butter!
If you are no stranger to the real food movement (you know, those crazy people who drink milk from cows instead of from factories, grow their own grub in the backyard, and house glass jars of various fermenting concoctions in their cupboards, among other oddities to the general population), you ought to be relatively familiar with the holy grail of foods that is butter, and likely already include generous portions of it into your diet.
If, however, this all sounds like the worst nutritional advice you have ever heard, I feel you. We’ve all been there, us real-fooders included. With everything we are taught in American society about eating “right” directly contradicting the notion that something like butter could actually be good for you, you might have some arguments like these, perhaps, to such a claim:
But! Butter is full of artery-clogging saturated fat, won’t that give me heart disease?!
I’m quite sorry to inform you that like any good American citizen, you have likely been successfully brainwashed by the FDA and other agencies of fat-hating propaganda into believing what many experts consider to be the most well-executed scam in the history of American public health! Really, though — this erroneous claim is what is referred to within the industry as the lipid hypothesis. It all started with a guy by the name of Ancel Keys, a biochemist in the 1950’s, and well, this clip from the documentary, Fat Heads, does a nice job of telling the story:
Comforting, isn’t it? Wonder how many other lies you’ve been told by the (albeit well-meaning) doctors and nutrition “experts” of our time influenced by this fallacy?
More on how butter can actually help prevent heart disease in a minute…
But! Those saturated fats in butter are detrimental to your overall health — they are the worst kind, aren’t they?
You know that poor aforementioned, thoroughly washed-and-waxed-by-the-FDA brain of yours? Any guesses as to what naturally composes over 60% of it? …give up?
Yes, your brain is largely made up of the very substance that most nutrition “experts” of our day are advising you to avoid. I don’t know, maybe their fat-starved noggins have been deprived of the stuff for long enough to fail to comprehend this blatant flaw in their dietary doctrine!
Brain power isn’t the only benefit of healthy saturated fats. Yes, that’s right — I said “healthy.” Butter not only contains a hefty helping of crucial vitamins A, D, and K, but it also provides the saturated fats necessary for absorption of these important nutrients. In other words, these are fat-soluble vitamins. Processing plants sprinkling synthesized versions of them into your breakfast cereal, which is then dunked in a bowl of skim milk, ain’t gonna cut it. There are a myriad of health benefits associated with vitamins A, D, and K, but that is perhaps for another post entirely! Suffice it to say these are crucial for proper development in youth and essential for sustained health and longevity.
Saturated fats are also what half of every cell membrane in your body is composed of. Sound important, yet? Saturated fats are vital to bone, intestinal, and heart health, and are necessary for the utilization of essential fatty acids. The somewhat recent nutritional trend of incorporating EFA’s such as Omega-3 into the diet, fails to recognize this key component to making use of of these very important nutrients. The inclusion of saturated fats in the diet is in fact vital to our health, and butter is an ideal source for them!
But! Butter is chock full of cholesterol, and everyone knows you need to avoid that!
Sorry, this one’s a myth too.
I know that’s a tough one to swallow. But hear me out!
Cholesterol is actually…(get this)… an antioxidant that protects your body from free radical damage that can cause cancer and heart disease — seriously! It also is a large component in the molecular structure of myelin, the support system for every cell and nerve fiber in your nervous system. It is also crucial to intercellular communication. It is also responsible for providing strength to your cell walls, and basically preventing them from falling flat on their faces. It’s a big deal, that cholesterol stuff!
Think of it this way– mother’s milk is extremely high in cholesterol (as well as saturated fat). And shouldn’t that tell us something? Cholesterol is essential for brain development and function (remember what those are made of?) as well as crucial for the developing nervous system, for reasons mentioned earlier. It’s in there for a reason!
Keep in mind, however, that not all cholesterol is created equal. Well, actually I take that back. Not all cholesterol by the time it is consumed will serve these same important functions for your body. Cholesterol can become quite damaged by exposure to extreme heat and oxygen. This damaged, or oxidized, cholesterol is what we do want to ditch from our plates because it can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries and damage arterial cells.
Fear not, however — the bad stuff is easily avoided! Damaged cholesterol is largely found in processed, FAKE foods, such as powdered eggs and milk. Don’t think you consume those too regularly? Powdered milk is added to reduced-fat and skim milk to add more body and substance to the product. But you don’t see that on the label, now do you? Never trust fake food!
“But! Butter is basically nothing but FAT, which makes you fat, right??”
Seems logical, but it’s far from the truth. The short and medium-chain fatty acids in butter are not stored as adipose (fat) tissue, but are instead utilized for energy.
Fat tissue is composed of long-chain fatty acids, found in polyunsaturated oils (think canola, corn, soy… in virtually each and every processed food product — including those “healthy” butter substitutes!) and is also made from, of equal abundance in the Standard American Diet (“SAD!”), refined carbohydrates of course! And we wonder why 2/3rds of Americans are overweight or obese…
Are you as shocked to find out the truth about this stuff as I was? Are you as determined as I am to buck the butter-bashing dogma of dietary “gurus” and get REAL with your relationship to food?
I hope like me, you’ll become a Believer, once again!
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D