Fact or Myth
Butter is bad for you and you should eat margarine instead. At least, that’s what most of us were told for a very long time. But is it true?
In the 1950s, concerns began to arise around cardiovascular health spurred in large part by Ancel Keys’ research. In it he identified saturated fat as the culprit behind high cholesterol and heart disease and since butter is high in saturated fat, people were encouraged to replace it with margarine which starts out innocently enough as an unsaturated fat.
The issue is that, not only was Keys a crummy scientist who conveniently ignored contradictory data, margarine starts out in a liquid state and the very process of making it comparable to butter in texture turns it into a trans fat! As you know from reading our blog, trans fat (or the Lord Voldemort of the fats world) is the one fat you should avoid.
What about saturated fats? You still have to avoid those, right? The answer is actually no. While you should watch your intake, especially if you already struggle with things like high cholesterol, saturated fats, like those found in butter, have health benefits. Don’t believe us? Take a look:
- Butter contains vitamins such as A, D, E, B12 and K.
- Butter contains minerals such as manganese, chromium, selenium, zinc and copper.
- Butter contains arachidonic acid which is crucial (especially in infants) in the development of the brain and overall health of the immune system.
- Butter is high in butyric acid which helps fight inflammation.
If you want to take it up a notch, the health benefits of butter increase significantly when it’s made from dairy from grass-fed cows because:
- It contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which helps to fight diabetes.
- Some research shows that CLA even has cancer-fighting properties.
- Butter contains small, but balanced, amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fats and these numbers are noticeably higher in grass-fed butter.
What should you do if you are lactose intolerant? In many cases, you can simply substitute butter with something like olive oil or ghee (ghee is popular in Indian cooking and is clarified butter where the amounts of lactose are so low as to be manageable for people intolerant to it).
Vegans may want to skip the ghee but olive oil and other vegetable oils can usually be used in place of butter. Additionally, vegans may want to research vegan “butter” but need to do so carefully as these often include monoglycerides and diglycerides, both of which are sneaky ways of hiding trans fats.
Given the choice, you should always choose butter over margarine. To really rock the butter game, you should go a step further and opt for unsalted butter made from the dairy of grass-fed cows.