The Great Butter Debate

When I think about well-known Southern chef Paula Deen, one word comes to my mind – butter.  I’m convinced she throws at least a stick of the stuff in every one of her recipes.  By the time she adds cream, sugar, white flour and Crisco and deep fries the heck out of whatever she’s preparing, you could gain five pounds just by looking at it!  (by the way, have you see this SNL skit?)

Paula Deen is a cook, restaurateur, author, actress and Emmy Award-winning television personality. She also has her own line of cookware and furniture.

While I don’t agree with many of her country cookin’ methods, I must say I don’t see anything wrong with a little bit of butter.  Although many Americans have become extremely fat phobic and view butter as one of the major food villains, people around the globe have valued butter for its life-sustaining properties for millennia.   In fact, when nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price studied the diets of cultures all around the world in the 1930s, he found that butter was a staple in the diets of many of the healthiest groups.

Here are just a few of the benefits of butter:

  • Butter contains many nutrients that protect against heart disease.  Vitamin A is needed for the health of the thyroid and adrenal glands, both of which play a role in maintaining the proper function of the heart and cardiovascular system.  Butter is our best and most easily absorbed source of vitamin A.
  • Butter contains lecithin, a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol.
  • Butter contains a number of antioxidants, such as Vitamin A and E and Selenium, that protect against weakened arteries and cancer cells.

A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.

  • Butter is a good dietary source of cholesterol, a strong antioxidant (Yep, you read that right!)  Cholesterol floods into the blood when we consume too many harmful free radicals (usually from poor-quality fats from margarine and unstable vegetable oils).
  • Many of the saturated fats in butter have strong anti-cancer properties.  It’s  rich in short and medium chain fatty acid chains that have strong anti-tumor effects.  It also contains conjugated linoleic acid which gives excellent protection against cancer.
  • Vitamin A found in butter is essential to a healthy immune system; short and medium chain fatty acids also have immune system strengthening properties.
  • Vitamins A and D in butter are essential to the proper absorption of calcium and therefore necessary for strong teeth and bones.
  • Butter does not cause weight gain!  The short and medium chain fatty acids in butter are not stored in the adipose tissue, but are used for quick energy.  Fat tissue in humans is composed mainly of longer chain fatty acids from poor-quality oils and refined carbohydrates.

Ok, I think you get the point.  Butter has gotten a bad reputation, and it just isn’t justified!  Now let’s look at just a few of the harmful effects of margarine and other butter substitutes:

  • The hydrogenated fats and excess of long chain fatty acids found in butter substitutes are damaging to the immune system.  The varieties that don’t contain hydrogenated oils  (such as Pam spray) contain highly processed rancid vegetable oils, soy, and a host of additives.
  • Consumption of margarine and other butter substitutes results in cravings and bingeing because these highly fabricated products don’t give the body nutrients that it needs.
  • Margarine contains trans fats, which are linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and other degenerative diseases.  Trans fats have also been linked with lower birth weight of babies as well as declined fertility.
  • When unstable, low-quality oils and fats are processed, they become rancid or oxidized, releasing free radicals, which wreak havoc on the body.  They attack and damage DNA and RNA, cell membranes, vascular walls, and red blood cells, all of which leads to greater damage such as  tumor formation, accelerated aging, arterial plaque accumulation and autoimmune imbalances.

Moral of the story – butter is not a dirty word!  While I don’t advocate for throwing sticks of it in every dish like Paula Deen, I think it’s very beneficial in moderation, and I’ll take it over margarine, PAM or canola oil any day.  Toss out those tubs and cans and get back to the real thing, people!  If any diet program or nutritionist recommends margarine, you need to walk away!

If you’re looking for a few more resources on this topic, check out these articles:

Safer Fats for Cooking, Part 1

Safer Fats for Cooking, Part 2

Why Butter is Better

Know Your Fats

Have  a great weekend, and go get your butter on!

2 Comments

Filed under Rants and Cravings

2 responses to “The Great Butter Debate

  1. Thanks for clearing up butter’s bad reputation! Margarine is pretty awful and my thought has always been to have a little butter when you like and all with be right in the world. 🙂

  2. Mel

    Love butter – and even better, grass fed butter! I learned a long time ago that fat doesn’t equal fat. It’s amazing how many people think they’re doing something good by eating margarine! Yuck! But yeah, Paula Dean…phew… she’s a butterholic!

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