Recently, thanks in part to a recent Mad Men episode, I’ve had butter on the brain. As I watched Don and his team try to find something good to say about margarine – a substance all agreed looked and tasted awful – I was reminded of the era when butter got the boot, in favor of what we were told was the healthier, man-made, Space Age alternative: margarine.
Fast forward a few decades and, not all that surprisingly, the processed, man-made margarine and butter-substitute products of yesteryear have proved themselves to be anything but healthy. Worse still, they may also have contributed to our rising levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease – the very diseases they were created to avoid.
So much for the man-made “foods” of the Space Age, eh?
The good news is that the well-deserved decline of the fake stuff has put butter back on the table and better yet, it’s actually good for you. Wrongly demonized for its high saturated-fat content, research indicates that raw, organic, grass-fed butter offers numerous body benefits, so there’s little need to be scared of the stuff anymore! Bottom line: toss the margarine, banish the faux butter flakes, sink the substitutes and say hello again to the real thing.
Here’s the scoop on butter as part of a healthy diet:
1.) Read my lips: saturated fat is not dietary Public Enemy #1
If you want to fight the real enemy, it’s sugar and processed foods. What about the long-vilified saturated fat? Not so much. In fact, numerous, recent studies have found that reduced saturated fat intake doesn’t appear to reduce heart disease risk, and may have the opposite effect due in part to the processed fillers food manufacturers put in low-fat products to make up for the fat they removed. Now’s the time to show the saturated-fat-is-the-devil messages the door – and start putting some nutrient-dense, saturated fat back into your diet. Not with cookies, pies and baked goods, but with good saturated fats – like the kind you find in olive oil, nuts, avocados and yes, butter. For maximum health, buy raw, organic, butter made from the milk of grass-fed ruminants, such as cows, sheep and goats.
2.) Butter will enhance your health
When it comes to butters, not all are created equal. The best butter to buy is raw organic and grass-fed. Not surprisingly, butter produced from pasture or grass-fed animals – those animals who feast on leafy greens every day — will be higher in nutrients than butter from factory-farmed animals raised on cheap, nutrient-free GMO “feedstuffs,” grains and antibiotics. If your grocery store doesn’t carry raw, organic, grass-fed butter, try the farmer’s market for fresh, local, minimally-processed butter from well-treated, healthy animals raised on pasture. After that, the next best thing would be organic, grass-fed butter that’s pasteurized. Though pasteurization will cause a slight drop in some of butter’s benefits, the pasteurized version will still be infinitely better for your body than any man-made substitute, virtually all of which are loaded with artificial dyes, preservatives, industrial solvents, chemicals and harmful ingredients.
3.) Butter is a superfood – seriously!
After decades of butter-bashing, it’s high time we look at butter for what it is – the forgotten superfood! Butter, at its raw, organic, grass-fed best, really “brings it” nutritionally. So what’s in a stick? Health-supporting vitamins and minerals, such as:
- CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, which helps reduce belly fat, protects against cancer and encourages muscle growth
- Vitamin A to help maintain thyroid, adrenal and cardiovascular health
- Vitamin K2 to support bone density and possibly reverse arterial calcification
- Vitamin A, D and E, all key anti-oxidants that are essential to good health
- Key health supporting nutrients and minerals including lecithin, selenium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iodine and more
4.) Manage your dose
Butter is delicious, but resist the urge to go overboard. In other words use it, but don’t drown your food in it. Think of butter as a few-times-a-week treat, not a thrice-daily necessity. Like the occasional square of dark chocolate, the key to reaping butter’s benefits is to use it in moderation. Re-integrate it back into your diet and enjoy, but use a light hand. Pouring butter on with a soup ladle will add hundreds of extra calories to your meal, so consciously portion out reasonable quantities of butter to bring out the flavors of your favorite dishes – and enjoy butter’s triumphal return!
For more insights on butter, check out this discussion I had with Seamus Mullen, the amazing chef at Tertulia restaurant in NYC…A Chef and Doctor Talk about Butter on the cool new website www.Medium.com.