BUTTER IS GOOD FOR YOU.
For a long time butter has been pushed aside in favour of artificially manufactured margarines. This happened because of the unfounded fear that saturated fats are bad for you.
SATURATED FATS ARE NOT BAD FOR YOU. We need saturated fat for brain health, nerve health and our immune system, as well as many other functions in the body. It doesn’t mean it would be a good thing to eat great lumps of lard and red meat at every single meal. But a good amount balanced with other fats, such as fish oils and monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocado and nuts, are crucial to good health and preventing chronic disease.
MARGARINE IS THE EVIL IMPOSTER
Margarine not only tastes disgusting, it is bad for you. Here’s why: It has to be heavily processed so that oils that would be normally liquid at room temperature become unnaturally solid. Some of the harder margarines, sometimes used for cooking, contain significant amounts of trans fats which have been implicated in cancers and heart disease.
As margarine is generally made from vegetable oils, it is high in omega-6 fatty acids. While we need these fats, most people are getting too much of them through the use of vegetable oils and consumption of processed foods. Too much leads to inflammation which in turn leads to chronic disease.
Do you really want to eat something that was invented by chemists in the 1800s? I certainly don’t. Check out the Wikipedia story of margarine – it’s really quite fascinating and explains that margarine used to be sold along with a packet of yellow dye so that consumers could mix it together to make it look more like butter!
AN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT THAT YOU NEED FROM BUTTER
As well as tasting delicious, butter contains one very important nutrient – vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and is needed for eye health, cell growth and differentiation, and immunity, among other things. Vitamin A is only obtainable from animal products, like dairy and meat. So, if you are vegan or vegetarian, you’re likely to be short of this vitamin.
By the way, margarine does contain vitamin A, but this is added by the manufacturers and is not a natural source.
WHAT ABOUT BETA CAROTENE?
Beta carotene is part of the carotenoid family of nutrients and is mainly obtained from fruits and vegetables (carrots, green leafy veg, mangoes etc). Beta carotene is converted in the body into vitamin A.
So what’s the problem? I hear you ask. Beta carotene is not that easily converted in the body and only a small amount of it is absorbed and then metabolised. As a rough estimate you need around 12 units of beta carotene to make 1 unit of vitamin A. You need very good digestion (and a good healthy balance of gut flora) and fats in your diet to be able to absorb and then convert beta carotene. Some people also have genetic mutations that inhibit this process.
So if you are vegan, consider a vitamin A supplement. If you’re vegetarian make sure you have plenty of butter in your diet.
WHAT ELSE DOES BUTTER CONTAIN?
As well as significant amounts of vitamin A, butter contains the other important fat soluble vitamins, vitamin D, E and K, and also contains small amounts of iodine.
NOT ALL BUTTERS ARE EQUAL
While your average pack of butter is still good, it will not be as packed in nutrients as the 100% grass-fed kind, where the cows have been allowed to graze naturally and eat lots of lush green grass.
It’s important to look for 100% grass-fed as some cows are fed on grains during winter and dry seasons.
GOOD NEWS. While researching this blog, I have discovered that Woolworths Homebrand butter is 100% grass-fed. So refreshing to be able to buy something of top-notch quality and not go bankrupt in the process.
WHAT ABOUT GHEE?
Ghee is a form of clarified butter where most of the milk proteins have been filtered out. It’s a useful food for those who are avoiding casein, although there will still be some traces of this milk protein present. It also has a higher smoke point than butter so is a useful oil for cooking – a high smoke point means that fewer damaging free radicals are produced when cooking.
Ghee can be obtained from good health food stores and from Asian supermarkets.