Are you one of those people who still believe that butter is bad for you? Butter may have had a bad rep over the last decade but it hasn’t always been this way. In the 1900s, butter was a food staple and was used in just about every recipe.
Everyone seems to have a different opinion about butter these days. The government, doctors, and even the media constantly contradict each other on this issue. So, you might be wondering if butter is good for your health or not? While you were told to avoid butter, new research is challenging this myth.
Many doctors and scientists now believe that you shouldn’t be demonizing saturated fats, which has been shown to increase cholesterol. In fact, current studies say that cholesterol is beneficial to your health. The researchers explain that cholesterol is not the bad guy here; it’s actually necessary to help repair damaged tissues in the body (1).
Another study found that scientists who previously studied the health effects of butter made a mistake by grouping butter with margarine, which is a highly processed source of fat (2).
Origins of Butter
Butter is a dairy product that is produced by churning milk from animals like cows or goats. It forms when the protein in the milk is separated from other components. We use it for cooking, baking, and of course spreading on toast (3). No one knows exactly how butter was discovered but there are rumors that the first batch was made by accident.
Nicole Jankowsky a historian says that one nomad invented butter when he found that the milk on the back of his animal had become solid (4). She writes that this probably happened because the movement of the animal through rough landscapes caused the milk to churn.
While many have argued that butter is harmful, one foundation called Weston A. Price had a different view. The foundation believed that taste is not the only reason we should be eating butter, but because of its many health benefits. They made their stance clear by publishing a well-researched report on January 1, 2000 (5). This report claimed that butter can benefit:
- Heart disease
- The immune system
- The thyroid gland
- Gastrointestinal health
- Weight gain
- Children’s growth and development
Butter Nutrition Facts
Aside from butter’s delicious taste and rich flavor, research shows that eating butter can help you fight against heart disease and obesity. Here’s what makes butter a superfood:
1. Butter Is Rich in Vitamins
- Butter is loaded with vitamin A. Just one tablespoon of butter contains 7% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Many studies have shown that vitamin A helps to improve vision; especially night blindness and aging-related eye problems. Vitamin A can also help you fight off infectious diseases by strengthening your immune system (6,7,8,9).
- Another powerful vitamin present in butter is vitamin D. This nutrient has been linked with weight loss and reduced risk of a heart attack. What’s more, vitamin D is beneficial for your mental health (10,11,12). According to one study, vitamin D can alleviate symptoms of depression. (13).
- Butter contains vitamin B12; a nutrient that can slow down early symptoms of dementia, prevent osteoporosis, and strengthen your bones (14,15). Vitamin B12 can also decrease homocysteine levels in the blood, which can help improve heart health (16,17,18).
- Vitamin K is also found in butter. Studies show that vitamin K can help prevent cancer, coronary heart disease, and speeds up recovery from a bone fracture (19,20,21,22).
2. Butter Contains Healthy Short-Chain Fatty Acids
Unlike processed trans fats found in junk food, ruminant trans-fats in butter which are commonly called dairy fats can actually be very beneficial for our health. While there are many varieties of trans fats, the most common type found in butter is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). According to one lab study, CLA can help protect human cells from numerous kinds of tumors including melanoma, breast, colorectal, and lung cancer (23,24).
“Milk fat contains approximately 400 difference fatty acids, which makes it the most complex of all-natural fats,” said study author Helena Lindmark Månsson in a 2008 study published in Food & Nutrition Research.  “Almost 70% of the [milk] fat… is saturated of which around 11% comprises short-chain fatty acids, almost half of which is butyric acid.”
Butyrate is a type of short-chain fatty acid that is normally produced by microbes in your gut. Studies have found that eating foods rich in butyrate can help to reduce inflammation in the digestive system (25,26). Butyrate has also been associated with improved weight loss, brain function, and gut health. Out of all the foods you can eat, butter has the highest concentration levels of butyrate (27).
Health Benefits of Butter
With all that you’ve read so far, it’s hard to see why anyone would think that butter is dangerous. Butter is an important food product in our diet and we should not be avoiding it. However, it’s important to remember not to overdo it either. Especially seeing as it’s been shown to help fight against cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Butter Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Butter may be high in saturated fat but so is avocado. One meta-analysis study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed over 60 different control trials on the health effects of butter. Their findings show that eating saturated fats can improve a person’s HDL commonly referred to as the good cholesterol that is responsible for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (28). Other papers published by the same journal says there is no solid evidence that eating butter causes heart-related disorders. This is because the fat it contains is converted into energy in the body (29, 30).
Butter Fights Obesity
One major reason many people avoid eating butter is its high-calorie content. For example, a tablespoon of butter contains over 100 calories. However, a 2012 paper published by the European Journal of Nutrition found that participants who ate more butter along with a healthy diet actually lost weight (31). In short, eating butter in moderation can help regulate your weight.
What does a healthy amount of butter mean?
According to the American Heart Association, you should limit your consumption of saturated fats to 7% of your total daily calories (32). For example, if your recommended daily calorie intake is 2000, you should be eating 16 grams of saturated fat per day or approximately 2.5 teaspoons.
Butter Wins the Health Debate
Irrespective of your beliefs about butter, the evidence shows that butter in moderation is good for your health. Even though some people might choose to ignore all these benefits and still avoid it, one thing is certain; food tastes better with it.
Organic grass-fed butter is the best, but if you can’t afford it; go for regular butter. People who are lactose intolerant or dairy sensitive should buy clarified butter (ghee) instead.