Spread the Word: The Benefits of Butter

Butter on Table

Who doesn’t love butter?

With its rich, distinctive flavor and texture, butter makes almost anything better. From sautéed vegetables to creamy sauces, butter is that special ingredient that adds so much enjoyment to our diets.

But the benefits of butter go far beyond the delicious flavor. One traditional cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, assures readers that “butter added to vegetables and spread on bread, and cream added to soups and sauces, ensure proper assimilation of the minerals and water-soluble vitamins in vegetables, grains and meat.”

Most traditional societies around the world have made and used butter in some form for millennia. Although we may first think of butter from cows, some cultures use the milk from other ruminants like buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels. The fat content of butter hovers between a typical 80 percent in the United States and 82 percent in Europe. The pure, 100 percent butterfat from clarified butter, called ghee or butter oil, is popular for cooking in Asia and Africa. Butterfat is remarkably stable - even with the heat from the cooking or the clarification process, the butter and butter oil maintain their vitamins.

Natural butter from grassfed animals is a nutrient-dense, real food that contains essential nutrients in combination, which, because of butterfat’s unique globular form, are easily assimilated by the body. Vitamins A, D and E, lecithin, short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids, antioxidants, friendly bacterial flora, and even iodine are all found in this life-promoting food.

Activator X starts hereDr. Weston A. Price, in his global study of traditional diets, found that a critical fat-soluble nutrient-found in the butterfat, organs, and fats of grassfed animals-was responsible for moving calcium into bones and teeth, and keeping it out of the soft tissues. At the time (the 1930-1940s) he named this nutrient “Activator X,” which is now thought, but not yet proven to be Vitamin K2.

Is it possible that the decline in dental health and the increase in osteoporosis of the last half century is tied to the vilification and replacement of natural saturated fats - especially butter - also occurring in the last half century?

Artificial butter substitutes (hydrogenated oils, trans fats and vegetable oil margarines) are advertised as healthful alternatives, but in reality they fall very short of the mark. Current research shows that, in contrast to healthful butter, most of these alternate fats are actually harmful to our health over the long term, as they contain dangerous, genetically-modified rapeseed oils.

Although we may not understand all the reasons behind butter’s health-giving properties, we do know that these properties are instrumental in growth and development; gastrointestinal, thyroid, and immune system health; and help alleviate arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

These beneficial properties are dependent upon the quality of the processes that precede the butter’s arrival in the consumer’s kitchen. Butter with the highest nutritional quality is churned from clean, raw (unpasteurized), fermented (soured) cream that is produced by pastured or grassfed ruminants. And the quality of that grass and forage is determined in large part by the quality of the soil in the pasture.

Natural fertilization of the pasture by animals grazing, exchanging bacteria and fertilizing the soil with their manure, is the beginning of this healthy cycle.  A small- to mid-sized family farm - treating the animals well, managing pastureland, rotating crops, using natural fertilizers, and allowing rejuvenation through fallowing - is the ideal way forward in this cycle.

Unlike today’s factory farm conglomerates, these modern pioneers combine ancient practices with modern understanding, and go to great lengths to produce healthful food - like traditional, grassfed cultured butter. Searching out, supporting, and getting to know such farmers is worth the extra effort and expense, both for our health and for the health of future generations.

For more information, see “The Case for Butter,” by Trauger Groh, in the Winter 1997 Price Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing. Selected references:

  1. Enig, Mary Know Your Fats
  2. Fallon, Sally Nourishing Traditions
  3. Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

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