Despite the saying “smooth as butter,” butter’s journey in the public eye has been anything but smooth. Butter has gotten an unnecessarily bad reputation, and some people still think it’s bad. Here’s why it’s not.
Butter Ain’t Bad
Anti-Saturated Fats & Ancel Keys
For over half a century, people ranging from consumers to clinicians have criticized butter for its high saturated fat content and its debatable link to obesity and heart disease. Despite modern research, some people still believe those claims and it is arguably all thanks to one man – Ancel Keys.
People’s opinions about butter are rooted in Keys’ seven-country research project in which he compared thirteen-thousand middle-aged men’s health and diets. Based on his forced findings, he concluded that populations that consumed large amounts of saturated fats had high levels of heart disease.
However, investigative journalist Nina Teicholz noted that later analysis of Keys’ studies revealed that “what best correlated with heart disease was not saturated fat intake but sugar.”
More importantly, we clearly see the danger in poor research and false claims. It has resulted in a multi-generational belief that you shouldn’t eat saturated fats (e.g., butter) when these foods actually provide amazing health benefits.
Saturated Fat’s Critical Role
Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have undergone some positive changes, many myths about saturated fat intake are still present.
Thanks to continued research and published studies, the public is likely more aware of how we can all benefit from a healthy increase of saturated fats.
Benefits of Eating Saturated Fats
Improved cardiovascular risk factors
Improved liver health
Proper nerve signaling
Strong immune system
Saturated fats are not just good for us; in fact, we need them for just some of the reasons listed above. And if we get them from sources like animals and vegetables, the saturated fats act as a foundation on which cell membranes and various hormones can build upon.
8 Health Benefits of Butter
This meta-analysis systematically reviewed studies from nine publications, including fifteen country-specific cohorts, which totaled 636,351 unique participants for a total of six and a half million person-years of follow-up.
Researchers found butter to have a relatively small or neutral overall association with mortality, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Therefore, such minor and (sometimes) relative effects suggest that there is no need to either decrease nor increase butter consumption.
If you do choose to keep or make butter a staple in your diet, this is how it can help you:
Vitamin A (which helps with vision) and D, E, and K (which are fat-soluble)
Contains manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, and selenium (which is a powerful antioxidant)
Contains healthy short and medium-chain fatty acids (which support your immune system) as well as anti-microbial properties (which boost metabolism)
Perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats (which contain arachidonic acid that helps with brain function and skin health)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA (which is a compound that helps protect against various cancers and helps to store muscle instead of fat)
Contains glycospingolipids (which are fatty acids that protect your body against gastrointestinal infections)
Good cholesterol (which aids in healthy cellular function)
Contains the Wulzen Factor (which is a hormone-like substance that helps with things such as joint stiffness and ensures that calcium gets deposited in bones rather than joints)
Ideally, pure butter requires just milk and fat. And while it all may seem to taste the same, the more important thing is its nutritional value, which depends largely on the cow’s diet.
Due to its cost-effectiveness, many farmers choose to feed their cows grains. Research has shown, however, that grass-fed cows produce milk that contains the most nutrients. Therefore, when farmers use this milk to produce pure butter, it is likely to be more beneficial for your health.
What You Need to Know About Margarine
Margarine’s Creation Story
Although butter has a bad reputation, it is made from only two natural ingredients, whereas margarine is anything but natural. In fact, French scientist Michel Chevreul first created margarine (i.e., margaric acid) in his lab in 1813.
Butter was one of the more expensive products at the time so, in that same year, Emperor Napoleon III offered a prize to whoever could create a substitute. This was so his lesser subjects and navy could have a butter substitute that was also inexpensive.
Eventually, scientist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès won the prize with his patented process of churning milk with rendered beef fat. Mège-Mouriès also went on to collaborate with a Dutch company to market margarine internationally.
As a result, “perks” like profits, simple production, convenience, and long shelf life have all contributed to margarine’s unfortunate popularity to this day.
So why is margarine so bad?
Since its inception in 1813, manufacturers have produced margarine through a hydrogenation process, which results in the creation of trans fats.
Researchers have conducted many studies and have proved that trans fats have an alarming number of negative health effects. One mass review looked at many studies to find that trans fats impacted or increased the risk of cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, pregnancies, interference with essential fatty acids, colon cancer, diabetes, and child allergies.
One study in the British Medical Journal found that trans fats are associated with all-cause mortality, total coronary heart disease, and coronary heart disease mortality. These effects are likely due to hydrogenated trans fats as opposed to ruminant trans fats (i.e., fats from cattle, sheep, etc.).
Margarine’s Effect on our Bodies
In addition to the effects listed above, some things that trans fats in margarine do to your body are:[13,14]
Raise your bad cholesterol levels
Lower your good cholesterol levels
Increase your risk of developing heart disease and/or stroke
Put you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes
Raise the risk of death by thirty-four percent
Do yourself a favor and get rid of the trans fat filled margarine and opt for the organic, grass-fed butter. At the end of the day, the stakes are too high for you to let a chemical spread negatively affect your health. Life can be better with butter.