Is Butter Healthy?

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Butter is a food that has been around for centuries, enjoyed by millions of people from across the globe.  However, in the early to mid 20th century, it was announced that saturated fat and cholesterol were the two main causes behind a growing rate of heart disease, particularly in the United States.  Many nutritionists, medical professionals and health officials therefore did not recommend the regular consumption of butter, as it has moderate amounts of both of these substances.  As a result, butter consumption in the U.S. dramatically dropped -some estimates say as much as 75%- and margarine consumption increased.  However, there is new research that has been made public in recent months that says butter is not to blame.  One may be confused by this conflicting information and ask themselves-is butter healthy?

Butter is a Good Fat

The most recent available research states that it is trans fat, not saturated fats and cholesterol, that is to blame for the heart disease epidemic.  Trans fat is found in many fried foods and processed items.  It may even be found in some products that are labeled "trans fat free", as the listed serving sizes may have a negligible amount of trans fat.  However, these serving sizes are not often realistic.  While it has been well known for a few years now that trans fats are not necessarily part of a healthy diet, their role in cardiovascular diseases was not well known until recently.  Time Magazine and the Today Show both recently did pieces on this new bit of information, bringing it to the forefront of media coverage. While the American studies are relatively new, there is supporting information out of Europe that has been published for a few years now.  A study published in 2012 in The British Journal of Nutrition showed that countries that had a higher intake per capita of saturated fats had fewer deaths from heart disease, supporting the long held theory that saturated fats are not the culprit for the increase in heart disease. This is also evident in what is known as the "French Paradox."

Is Butter just Butter?

While choosing butter seems to be a the best choice when it comes to picking a spread, there are some variations.  One may think, "butter is butter".  However, some types of butter are actually healthier than others.  Butter that comes from grass fed cows  is an excellent choice, particularly if it is certified organic.  When cows subsist on mainly grass, the butter is higher in fatty acids, which have been shown to have positive effects on brain health as well as the cardiovascular system. Examples are Omega-3's, nutrients that are proven to boost brain and heart health and are recommended by many physicians for people of all ages.  Grass fed cows produce milk and butter that is higher in essential vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E.  Many individuals even take a supplement to get these nutrients.  Choosing butter from grass fed cows allows one to get a dietary source instead.

Choose Butter from Grass Fed Cows

Butter from conventionally fed cows is still nutritious, but nutrient levels will not be as high.  if the butter is unpasteurized, it contains more nutrition than pasteurized butter.  If one is not consuming grass fed butter, they may want to check and be sure that the brand they are eating does not come from cows that are fed genetically modified feeds such as corn and soy-another hot-button issue.  Land O' Lakes and Alta Dena brands are both well known to use milk from cows that eat GMO's.  A listing of brands that do not can be found online, or one can simply choose an organic brand to ensure that their food has not been genetically manipulated. Butter has other health benefits in addition to omega-3's.  It has been demonstrated that butter has short term and long term benefits on human health.  A Swedish study from Science Daily in February 2010 showed that the fat levels in the blood of people who ate a meal containing butter was lower than those who ate meals with other types of fat, such as flax seed or canola oil.  The explanation behind this discovery is that the fat found in butter is partially made from short and medium chain fatty acids.  These short and medium chain fatty acids comprise about 20 percent of butter fats and are used almost immediately after consumption to produce energy.  In comparison, most cooking oils contain only long chain fatty acids that remain in the bloodstream for a longer period of time after consumption. After examining a few simple facts, it is easy to see that butter is in fact a health food and simple to understand why.  In addition to NOT being a heart disease contributor, this epic food is actually a great choice to help improve one's health, no matter their age.  Butter is a no-brainer for families across the United States and world.  Is butter healthy? In a word-yes! [hr]

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