Butter is one of those foods that can turn soft foods into masterpieces.
But in recent decades, everything has been blamed, from obesity to heart disease.
Recently, the butter has returned as a "healthy food". Here are 7 reasons why butter can be good for your health in moderate amounts.
1. Butter is rich in fat-soluble vitamins
There are many fat-soluble vitamins in butter. This includes vitamins A, E and K2.
I'm not going to make a big problem with A and E. If you're eating a healthy diet that includes animals and plants, you're probably already consuming enough.
But I do want to talk a little about vitamin K2, which is quite rare in the modern diet and many people do not know it.
Vitamin K2 can have powerful effects on health. It is intimately involved in the metabolism of calcium and low intake has been associated with many serious diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis (1, 2, 3).
The dairy of grass-fed cows is particularly rich in vitamin K2 (4).
Bottom line: Butter contains a large amount of fat-soluble vitamins. Grass-fed butter is particularly rich in vitamin K2, which can have powerful health benefits.
2. Butter contains many healthy saturated fats
The "war" against saturated fats was based on bad science.
It was never really proven that it caused any harm.
In fact, recent studies suggest that there is no association between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease (5, 6).
Saturated fats raise HDL (good) cholesterol and change LDL from small, dense (very bad) to large LDL … which is benign (7, 8).
In addition, butter contains a decent amount of short and medium chain fats … which are metabolized differently than other fats. They lead to a better feeling of fullness and to a greater fat burning (9, 10).
Bottom line: New studies show that there is no association between saturated fats and heart disease. The butter contains short and medium chain fats.
3. Butter reduces the risk of heart attack compared to margarine
General nutrition guidelines tend to be counterproductive and have the opposite effect of what they were intended to do.
A good example of this is the recommendation to replace butter with margarine … which is something our dear authorities have been asking us to do for a long time.
Well, what happened is that we replace butter, a healthy food, with something that contains highly processed and harmful trans fats.
In the study of Framingham's heart, they examined the effects of butter and margarine on cardiovascular disease (11).
Source of the photo: Stephan Guyenet.
Margarine significantly increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, while butter had no effect.
Another study revealed that the consumption of high-fat dairy products reduced the risk of heart disease by a huge 69%, most likely due to the increase in vitamin K2 intake (12).
Bottom line: Margarine increases the risk of heart attack, while natural butter does not. Grass-fed butter can even reduce the risk of heart attack due to the high vitamin K2 content.
4. Butter is a good source of fatty acid butyrate
The 4-carbon fatty acid butyrate is created by bacteria in the colon when exposed to dietary fiber.
This may be the main reason why fiber has health benefits for humans.
But there is another good dietary source of butyrate … butter, which is about 3-4% butyrate.
In rats, butyrate supplementation prevents weight gain in an unhealthy diet by increasing energy expenditure and reducing food intake. It also improves the function of mitochondria and reduces fasting triglycerides and insulin (13).
In humans, butyrate is anti-inflammatory and has powerful protective effects in the digestive system (14, 15, 16, 17).
Bottom line: Butter is an excellent source of 4-carbon fatty acid butyrate, which can have several health benefits.
5. The butter is rich in conjugated linoleic acid
Butter, especially grass-fed, is a great source of a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid.
This fatty acid has powerful effects on the metabolism and is actually sold commercially as a supplement to lose weight.
It has been shown that CLA has anticancer properties and that it reduces the percentage of body fat in humans (18, 19, 20).
However, some studies on CLA show no effect on body composition (21).
Bottom line: Grass-fed butter contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to improve body composition in several studies.
6. Butter is associated with a lower risk of obesity
Nutrition authorities often recommend that we choose low-fat dairy products.
That way, we can get the calcium we need without all those "bad" fats and calories.
But despite the high caloric content, the consumption of high-fat dairy products is NOT associated with obesity.
In fact, a new review article was published in 2012 that examined the effects of high-fat dairy consumption on obesity, cardiovascular disease and other metabolic disorders.
They found that high-fat dairy products did NOT increase the risk of metabolic disease and were associated with a significantly reduced risk of obesity (22).
7. The butter is delicious
Butter … delicious! Nuff said.
Bring the message home
Despite having been demonized in the past, butter (especially from grass-fed cows) is quite healthy.
That said, there's no reason to go out of your way to eat more.
Butter in small quantities is fine, but it can cause problems if you eat too much (for example, adding a few spoonfuls to the morning coffee).
Also, it is not as healthy as extra virgin olive oil, which is the healthiest fat in the world.