It turns out that the public’s beef with butter may be unwarranted. When the March 2014 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine published research explaining that avoiding saturated fats doesn’t actually lower a person’s risk for heart disease, the butter revolution began. Up until this official discovery, butter was a harbinger of fat – an unnecessary evil. The solution was easy: just avoid butter. But avoiding butter also deprived the masses of the numerous health benefits it possesses. In fact, its stigma caused these benefits to be overlooked completely by most. Until now.
Butter Contains Saturated Fat – Which isn’t Actually Bad for You
Hold up, say what now? The war waged against saturated fats for decades was all for nothing? Until this fairly new discovery,1 saturated fats were blamed for raising cholesterol and clogging arteries. It was blamed for increasing “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL cholesterol. However, the increase of “good” cholesterol wasn’t beneficial enough to warrant much credit. Currently the role of saturated fat in heart health is questionable and while that doesn’t mean you should go loading your diet with it, now you can justify cooking and baking with butter or adding a pat of it to your morning toast.
Butter is Better for Your Heart
Despite margarine brands pushing themselves as more beneficial than butter for decades, according to one study, that’s not the case. Not at all. Margarine can be a plentiful source of trans fats,2 increases that “bad” cholesterol we talked about, making it culpable for increased risk of heart disease. Research by the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition found that eliminating trans fats could reduce up to 1 in 5 heart attacks. After this discovery, plenty of margarine brands eliminated the trans fats, but it’s best to double check to ensure that if you do stick with margarine over butter, you aren’t buying one that’s harmful to your health.
Butter Contains the Essential Vitamin K2
Haven’t heard of it? Join the club. Vitamin K2 is a vital assistant3 in several bodily functions, including coagulation, more commonly known as blood clotting. If your body isn’t able to clot blood, like with something as simple as a paper cut, it means you won’t stop bleeding. Though that’s a mild example, a Vitamin K2 deficiency could result in hemorrhage (major blood loss) from a more substantial injury. Studies have also shown that Vitamin K2 may be essential in the prevention of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Butter Can Even Help You Lose Weight
Butter contains butyric acid, an acid normally found in the gut of mammals. One study suggests that butyrate can prevent obesity4 and the development of insulin resistance (the improper use of insulin that increases risk of diabetes). This study also suggests that butyrate can help with inflammation in the bowels. The catch? This study has only been done on mice. Accurate and efficient science is a slow, tedious process. Since these studies are still fairly new, it’s safe to assume that these findings will be put into practice soon.
It’s a Good Source of Antioxidants
Butter contains beta-carotene, that supplement you’ve probably heard of in carrots. Well it turns out that butter is also a good source of beta-carotene. Once in the body, it’s changed to Vitamin A5, which supports good eye healthy, a strong immune system, and healthy skin. This supplement is only converted to Vitamin A when the body needs the vitamin6; otherwise beta-carotene remains an antioxidant and helps the body fight free radicals (molecules that damage cells).
There are many other health benefits listed out there in the webisphere – but they’re shaky at best. For example, butter contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which has been shown to be effective in aiding the weight loss of animals. However, results regarding weight loss using CLA in humans have been inconsistent. That doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. Studies just don’t have enough information7 to suggest otherwise.
While butter has numerous health benefits, like so many other foods, it’s only good for you in moderation. These benefits don’t change the amount of fat that butter has (12 grams in a single tablespoon!), regardless of how good some of that fat is for your health. That being said, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that we no longer have to feel so guilty about unloading a stick of butter in that cookie dough or using it to grease a pan. If anyone objects, now you can just tell them hey, it’s good for you!
2. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/transfats/#big_changes http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-K