This post covers part of the Introduction of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Opinions are mine unless indicated otherwise.
Ah, butter. Don’t we all love it? And yet, so many of us stretch it thin, scraping a fraction of a teaspoon on a slice of toast, or drizzling such a tiny amount on our popcorn that we only get one yummy, buttery bite per handful (okay, thinking of my mom on that one). Some time ago, butter became a no-no food. Sadly, as butter consumption dropped from 18 pounds per person per year in 1910 to only four pounds per person in 1970 (and still remains relatively low today), many people replaced the wonderful golden goodness with the disgusting concoction that we call margarine (and other fake, butter-alternative ‘spreads’), falsely believing it to have health benefits.
My experience with butter is that I have always loved it. I never had any shame in using it. For a time, my mom bought margarine, and I remember telling her that she ought to buy butter…for purely taste-driven reasons, I am sure. I always used as much as I wanted, even though my mom told me to go easy on it. Not that I wasn’t afraid of getting fat like pretty much every other teenage girl, but I just viewed weight management as calories in versus calories out, and I think I instinctively knew that sweets were the thing to cut out.
I did used to buy margarine for recipes that called for it. I naively believed the recipe wouldn’t taste right if I used butter. In fact, I used margarine for all baking (except cookies, where I used shortening), and reserved the expensive butter for spreading on toast, veggies, and the like. That was before I knew margarine was a health hazard. Also, for a short time, I tried one of the ‘healthy’ spreads, supposedly high in omega-3’s with added flaxseed oil in a base of olive oil–what could be bad about that, right? But soon I abandoned that as well…I just didn’t…trust it…anymore.
This last winter, I ate butter every day on my chocolate chip waffles. I figured the butter was healthier than maple syrup, especially since my body can’t handle much sugar. I did ration it a bit…it seemed like I was just going through butter so fast. Then I noticed I was gaining weight. Thought it was the extra calories from the butter, so I switched from the dry waffles and started making moist pancakes, and stopped using butter. In retrospect, it was probably the waffles themselves, not the butter, making me gain weight (because it was so easy to eat lots of them, and then I’d be hungry again soon). Since reading the section about butter in Nourishing Traditions, I’ve begun slathering butter on our pancakes.
In the last year or so, I’ve gotten more gutsy with food, splurging on more expensive items to see if they really were better. I happened to try this Irish butter called Kerrygold…and true to its name, it had a nice golden color. Little did I know the darker color meant it had more nutrients, coming from pastured cows versus grain-fed cows (little did I know that even humanly-treated, ‘all-natural’ cows, don’t necessarily get to eat grass). I thought the butter was good, but wasn’t sure it was worth the extra cost, and having to drive to a separate grocery store. Now I know better. Oh, my, do I know better. It’s so good that I’ll lick the knife afterwards, and this morning I found my son digging into the block of butter with a fork and eating it straight.
If you need a reason to up your butter intake, read this:
- Butter from pasture-fed cows is the best source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K and E, as well as their cofactors (which are needed to make the vitamins effective). Butter is the best source of these vitamins for Americans. Vitamin A is more easily absorbed from butter than other sources. (And vitamin A helps with vitamin D absorption, which is important for strong bones and warding off illness and depression). Also, these fat-soluble vitamins are important for helping our body use the minerals in our diet–without these vitamins, we can become mineral difficient.
- Butterfat is important for reproduction:
…it’s absence results in “nutritional castration,” the failure to bring out male and female sexual characteristics. As butter consumption in America has declined, sterility rates and problems with sexual development have increased.
- Cultures that do not consume butter get their fat-soluble vitamins from fish, shellfish, fish eggs, organ meats, blubber, and insects. Since Americans in general don’t eat a whole lot of fish, and almost none of the rest, butter is our best bet for getting these vitamins. Traditional populations consume ten times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins that Americans did in 1930 (I’m sure we are getting even less today).
- According to Weston Price, these vitamins promote an attractive bone structure, wide palates and uncrowded teeth. (Could have saved me from 8 teeth extractions and 2.5 years of braces, perhaps?)
- Raw animal fat contains the Wulzen Factor, which prevents degenerative arthritis, hardening of arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland.
- Butter contains short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are converted into quick energy. These fatty acids also have antimicrobial, antitumor, and immune-system-supporting properties, especially 12-carbon lauric acid which is not found in other animal fats (it’s found in smaller quantities in coconut oil). Four-carbon butyric acid is ‘practically unique’ in butter, and has antifungal and antitumor properties.
- Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in nearly equal amounts (we should be consuming about a 1:1 ratio).
- Butter from pasture-fed cows contains conjugated linoleic acid, which has strong anti-cancer properties, and encourages muscle growth and prevents weight gain.
- It contains cholesterol. (Refer to my previous post on the importance of cholesterol in the diet.)
- Glycosphingolipids in butterfat protect against gastrointestinal infections. Children who drink skim milk have diarrhea three to five times more often than children who drink whole milk.
- Butterfat is rich in trace minerals, including iodine, and extremely rich in selenium (amongst other things, selenium is important for reproduction).