Get better with butter: The skinny on butter’s health benefits
08/12/2020 / By Leslie Locklear / Comments
Get better with butter: The skinny on butter’s health benefits

Not to exaggerate things, but when it comes to culinary customs, the act of spreading a rich, thick smear of butter on freshly baked bread is one that has withstood the test of time.

According to experts, such as food historian and author Elaine Khosrova, butter’s origins go back about 10,000 years to the time when our ancestors first began domesticating animals such as sheep, goats and buffalo.

Obtained by steadily churning fresh or fermented cream or milk to separate the butterfat from the buttermilk, butter usually consists of just butterfat, milk proteins and water. Ingredients such as salt and herbs and spices are sometimes added during the manufacturing process to give the product a much wider variety of flavor.

Due to the butter-making process being a confluence of several chemical processes – the mechanisms of which were unknown to the ancients during that time – butter, as noted by Khosrova in her book Butter: A Rich History, took on a sacred and supernatural reputation in many cultures.

For example, Khosrova said, the Ancient Sumerians would offer up gifts of butter at the temple in honor of the powerful fertility goddess Inanna. In the same way, ancient Indians would offer ghee or clarified butter to the gods in their ceremonies. In contrast, ancient Celts would leave tubs of butter in the Irish marshes as offerings to the faeries and other pagan deities.

For the past few decades, however, butter has suffered from an undeserved bad reputation, especially with regards to its effects on one’s health.

This can be attributed to the fact that butter has a high fat content, which most have linked to several health issues. The good news is that several studies have since come out about butter being a healthy addition to one’s diet – or at least when used in moderation.

“The ‘butter is bad’ era is over, and butter can fit in a nutritious and healthy diet of anyone who enjoys it,” Wendy Bazilian, a dietitian and the author of the Eat Clean, Stay Lean series, said.

“That doesn’t mean [to] eat as much as you want,” Bazilian said, noting that butter derives virtually all of its calories from fat.

But, what’s in butter, really?

Butter consists of one to two percent milk, 16 to 17 percent water, up to 82 percent milk fat, and – in the case of salted butter – perhaps one to two percent salt. It also has calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A, D, and E, and proteins.

Butter, according to experts, is also packed with lactones, diacetyl, methyl ketones, dimethyl sulfide, and fatty acids, all of which are responsible for giving it its distinct flavor.

Butter is a high-calorie food, with one tablespoon or 14 grams of butter packing about a hundred calories or so, which is comparable to the calories one might get from a medium-sized banana.

According to nutritionists, one tablespoon of butter would yield the following:

  • Protein: 0.12 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0.01 grams
  • Sugar: 0.01 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Saturated fat: 7.29 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2.99 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.43 grams
  • Trans Fat: 0.47 grams

Despite being high in calories and fat, however, butter also contains a variety of important nutrients, such as vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin needed for skin health, immune function, and healthy vision; and vitamin E, which supports heart health and acts as an antioxidant to protect your cells against oxidative damage caused by free radicals from the environment.

Butter also contains other nutrients, including riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and phosphorus.

Multiple studies have also found that butter may be linked to several health benefits, such as the following:

Butter helps support optimal bone health

Butter, according to nutritionists, contains Vitamin K2.

Formerly known as “Activator X,” this vitamin – which is also known as menaquinone in medical circles – is found in dark green leafy vegetables and has been identified as an important factor when it comes to preventing tooth decay and maintaining bone structure and strength.

This is because vitamin K2 activates the calcium-binding actions of two proteins – matrix GLA protein and osteocalcin – both of which help in the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.

Butter promotes healthy hormone production

Despite the bad press surrounding cholesterol and saturated fat – both of which are present in butter – they are actually essential nutrients needed by the body to produce important hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and adrenaline.

This means that consuming butter – in moderate amounts, of course – can help optimize your body’s hormone production.

Butter may help promote optimal cardiovascular health

It may seem like a contradiction of everything we’ve been told, but butter may actually help prevent one from developing heart disease. This is because butter contains vitamin K, which is believed to facilitate the removal of excess calcium from the blood, thus preventing its accumulation and build-up in the arteries.

This is important because, according to medical experts, calcium build-up in the arteries around your heart is a huge risk factor for heart disease. In one study spanning a decade, it was revealed that people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 were 52 percent less likely to develop artery calcification and had a 57 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Another study, meanwhile, found that among 16,057 women, the participants who consumed high amounts of vitamin K2 had a much lower risk of heart disease, with the researchers noting that for every 10 mcg of K2 the women consumed per day, their heart disease risk was reduced by up to nine percent.

This means that getting buttered toast for breakfast (but only in appropriate amounts!) may actually do wonders for your heart health.

Butter facilitates better vitamin absorption

Cooking vegetables with butter may help render them more nutritious, according to experts.

While it may sound puzzling, this is actually because some of the most important nutrients in vegetables are fat-soluble, meaning you need to consume them alongside some fat for your body to absorb them properly. These nutrients include vitamins A, D, E and K as well as disease-fighting compounds like lycopene and lutein.

In fact, a Swedish study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health even found that eating fruits and vegetables with full-fat dairy products can better help lower the risk of coronary heart disease.

Butter may help support your metabolism

Despite its predominantly negative reputation, butter can help one maintain a healthy metabolism, thanks to butyrate, a short-chain, fatty acid found in butter. Butyrate, according to experts, is used immediately by our cells as a source of energy, which means that it is almost never stored as fat. According to research, eating a diet rich in short-chain fatty acids can increase the body’s fat-burning ability and boost one’s metabolism, as well as help improve muscle function.

Butter is also a good source of iodine, an essential nutrient that supports the health of the thyroid gland, which, in turn, regulates the body’s metabolic rate.

How much butter should I consume?

Although butter has many health benefits, one must keep in mind that it is composed mainly of fats, which, when consumed in excessive amounts, can cause many undesirable problems such as obesity, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.

According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended that individuals limit their saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of their daily calories.

This means that while butter – which packs about 102 calories into each tablespoon – can be enjoyed in moderation, it should be paired with other healthy fats from foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and wild-caught fatty fish.

The type of butter you add to your food matters as well, with several experts counting butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows as being among the best.

While it is the furthest thing from being an actual superfood or health food, butter is still an important health-supporting food item that possesses substantial health benefits – if one uses it in the proper amounts, that is.

Want to learn more about health-supporting foods and their health benefits? Visit FoodScience.News for stories just like this one.

Sources: 1 2

100% Fresh Food News, Right at Your Fingertips!
Find out everything you need to know about clean and healthy eating when you sign up for our FREE email newsletter. Receive the latest news on all the top superfoods, recipes, natural remedies, diets, food tips, and more!
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.

Related Articles
comments powered by Disqus

100% Fresh Food News, Right at Your Fingertips!
Find out everything you need to know about clean and healthy eating when you sign up for our FREE email newsletter. Receive the latest news on all the top superfoods, recipes, natural remedies, diets, food tips, and more!
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.

Popular articles