For many years health experts advised that we stay away from butter because of its high fat content. Recently, however, many of them have begun retracting that advice. Research is now telling us that butter, particularly grass-fed butter, may actually be a healthy addition to our diets.
While butter is still high in fat, we now know that when we consume it in moderation, butter can provide us with a number of health benefits.
Nutrition Facts of Butter
According to the FDA, one tablespoon (fourteen grams) of butter provides the following nutritional content :
Calories (kcal): 100
Saturated fatty acids: 7g
Vitamin A: 400 IU
Although butter is high in fat, it also is a good source of vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy skin, vision, and immune function. The fat content of butter also helps your body absorb that vitamin A much more readily .
Aside from its nutrient profile, however, butter has a surprising number of health benefits. These benefits are even more significant when you consume grass-fed butter. Most of the dairy products we have in the United States, however, come from grain-fed animals.
Grass-fed butter is higher in many nutrients than grain-fed butter, and also contains more healthy fats like omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) .
The Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter
Over the years many people have swapped butter on their toast either for lower saturated fat substitutes like margarine. These products, however, do not have the same nutritional profile as butter. Although they are lower in saturated fat, butter substitutes do not provide the following health benefits:
Potential Anticancer Benefits
Butter may have anti-cancer benefits because along with its preformed vitamin A it also contains beta-carotene and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Grass-fed butter is a good source of beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in your body. This helps you meet your daily needs for vitamin A. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your body from cancer-causing free radicals .
While most of these studies have focused on beta carotene from fruits and vegetable sources, grass-fed butter can help boost your intake of this important nutrient.
Additionally, butter is an excellent source of CLA. Test tube studies have shown that CLA may have anticancer properties. Specifically, it may help reduce your risk for breast, colon, colorectal, stomach, prostate, and liver cancer .
Promotes Digestive Health
Butter is also rich in butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid produced by the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Butyrate reduces intestinal inflammation and supports the uptake of fluids and electrolytes. This promotes regularity, electrolyte balance, and digestive health .
It is important to note that most of these studies used concentrated doses of butyrate. This means that more research needs to be done to understand how the butyric acid in butter can improve the health of humans.
Contains Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is present mostly in fermented foods and animal products, which includes grass-fed butter .
It is an important nutrient for your bones and your heart. It supports your bone health by signaling your bones to absorb more calcium. This puts you at a lower risk for bone fractures .
Vitamin K2 also helps remove excess calcium from your bloodstream. This protects your heart by preventing the buildup of calcium deposits and plaque in your blood vessels. In fact, a study of nearly five thousand people found that those who consumed 32 micrograms of vitamin K2 per day had a fifty percent lower risk of death from heart disease .
Saturated Fats: Friend or Foe?
Approximately 63 percent of the fat in butter (and grass-fed butter) is saturated . For many years, experts have told us to stay away from saturated fat because they thought it was dangerous for our heart health.
Research from 2014, however, did not find a link between saturated fat consumption and a higher risk of heart disease, or a higher risk of dying from heart disease .
That being said, this is not a license to eat all the saturated fat you want. You should combine it with other fats in order to have a well-rounded, healthy diet. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you limit your daily saturated fat intake to no more than ten percent of your total daily calories .
Current evidence suggests that when it comes to saturated fat, it’s about balance. If you are consuming excessive amounts in your diet try replacing some of those saturated fats with healthy polyunsaturated fats from sources like nuts, seeds, cold-water fish can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30% [15,16,17].
Grass fed butter is naturally higher in polyunsaturated fats when compared to regular butter. However, due to its relatively high saturated fat content versus other foods in general, it still needs to be consumed in moderation.
The Bottom Line
It is safe to say that butter is officially no longer black-listed as an unhealthy food. Research now shows that it can provide a significant number of health benefits.
That being said, butter is still high in fat, and therefore you should consume it in moderation. Additionally, while grass-fed butter is higher in many nutrients than conventionally-raised butter, it is more expensive. If your budget doesn’t allow you to purchase grass-fed butter, you can still get many benefits from the regular stuff.
Finally, it is important to remember that fat is a part of a healthy diet. For this reason, we shouldn’t be afraid of it. We do, however, want to make sure we are eating a variety of healthy fats, including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats.
So if you’ve banned butter from your counter, but are missing it on your morning toast, perhaps it’s time that you think about using it again- in moderation, of course. In fact, if you’re feeling adventurous, why don’t you try making your own?
Keep Reading: 9 Reasons to Start Eating Peanut Butter
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