It turns out that butter can actually be healthy, but only if you choose the right kind. Scientists have found that “good” butter is high in a compound called CLA that helps prevent the growth of cancers and tumors. It also has Omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy for the heart, as well as vitamins and minerals.
However, varieties of butter containing vegetable oils are actually pretty bad, especially because they trigger inflammation in the body. Butters made with vegetable oils are about as bad as margarine.
The vegetable oils are frequently derived from GMOs, which are controversially used in many food products. One exception is olive oil; there are quite a few brands that use olive oil in their butters. Researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, among many others, have found that olive oil helps balance out fatty acids in the body, and that it can help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering inflammation throughout the body.
Aside from GMO ingredients, another major characteristic of unhealthy butter is if the cows are given conventional grain feed. Cows that are grass fed produce much healthier milk.
Why Is Vegetable Oil Bad?
The term vegetable oil includes canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil, among others. These are very high in unhealthy polyunsaturated fatty acids and in trans fats, both of which increase the risk of heart disease. The types of fat in vegetable oils also directly trigger inflammation throughout the body, and chronic inflammation is extremely unhealthy.
Researchers at the National Institute of Public Health found that countries where polyunsaturated fatty acid consumption is larger have some of the highest rates of mortality due to cardiovascular disease.
Why Is Margarine Bad?
Margarine is mostly vegetable oil, and just that fact alone makes it bad for us. It is a butter substitute that has been around for centuries. The process used to make margarine involves harsh chemicals like hexane. The oil is then hot steamed, which happens to remove any existing vitamins, minerals, or other healthy components from the oil. Then, it undergoes partial hydrogenation, which increases the amount of trans fats and makes it even worse for us. After this, emulsifiers and food colorings are added.
An article in the Journal of Epidemiology found that margarine intake leads to a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
Why Are GMOs Bad?
Genetically Modified Organisms are extremely common in the standard American diet. A growing number of people are working to avoid them at all costs, but it’s difficult to do so because the government wrongly believes that they are safe to consume. They are not all created equal, but most of these products are detrimental to both our health and the environment. The Permaculture Research Institute stated that GMOs cannot be safe for the environment, and also that consequences as bad as birth defects and tumors have resulted from frequent GMO food consumption.
Why Is Conventional Cow Feed Bad?
The main reason that conventional grain feed is bad is that it is ridden with GMOs. This feed also very commonly contains antibiotics and hormones, which are quite bad for both the cows and the people who drink their milk. Many companies make or support GMOs, but Monsanto and Du Pont are two really big ones in this industry. As a side note, these companies also mass-produce things like aspartame, rBGH (a hormone given to cows that has been linked to cancer), and pesticides, all of which are unhealthy for the people exposed to them. It is always good to refuse to support companies like these who do not have the best interests of animals and people in mind. If you wish to avoid these products, make sure you check the parent company on your store-bought products; these two own many smaller companies.
A Bad Butter Example
Let’s look at a specific brand of butter. Land O Lakes is extremely popular, and many people grew up with it always in the fridge – myself included. Land O Lakes is a very pro-GMO brand in general, and it’s good to not support brands like that whenever possible due to the potential health risks of genetically modified food products.
The brand has donated large amounts of money to stop political bills that would require GMO foods to be labeled as such, which directly interferes with the consumer’s right to know what they’re truly eating. This brand contains just about every hallmark of an unhealthy butter:
- Not organic
- Fed grains
- Fed GMOs
- Fed antibiotics
- Fed growth hormones
- Pesticides present
So What Should You Look For?
The best type of butter is organic and made from grass fed cows. Grass fed cows yield better butter, so non-organic butter from grass fed cows is the next best. Organic butter from grain fed cows is the next best, followed by conventional butter from grain fed cows. Plants are better for the cows than grain is, and grain feed often contains unnecessary additives. Butter that comes from grass fed cows is higher in vitamins A and E, as well as in the heart-healthy compound CLA. In a nutshell, healthier cows produce healthier butter. When you choose organic, it means that there will be no GMOS, hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides in the product. Some healthy butter brands include:
- Organic Valley
- Kalona Super Natural
What Is Ghee?
Ghee is essentially purified butter. It should not contain lactose and most lactose intolerant people can consume it safely, but is derived from normal butter, so for those with severe allergies or intolerances may still want to steer clear. Ghee is high in CLA, vitamins, and minerals. The fatty acids in it can actually help with weight loss and appetite control. It is anti-inflammatory and encourages healthy digestion. Ghee is easy to find in organic grass fed varieties, and it is likely even healthier than regular butter. Some groups of people even consider ghee a super-food because of its potential health benefits.
For people who are vegan, lactose intolerant, or otherwise cannot consume dairy products, there are countless substitutes out there. Avoid vegetable oil ridden brands like Smart Balance and instead opt for healthier varieties like ghee.
For recipes, there are quite a few household items that can be used in place of butter. For example:
- Mashed avocado
- Pureed pumpkin
- Olive oil
- Coconut butter
If you’re looking for something to spread on toast, there are countless alternatives much healthier than butter substitutes, like:
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Olive oil and spices
- Avocado slices
The trick to finding a good, healthy butter is to read the ingredients label. Unfortunately, the information on the front of the package seem be pretty untrue, and even some brand names indicate that they are healthy when they really aren’t. Don’t assume the butter you picked up is healthy just because it says, “made with olive oil.”
Read the ingredients to make sure that it doesn’t also contain canola oil or other unhealthy ingredients. Try to get organic butter only in order to eliminate the chance that you’ll consume traces of hormones and antibiotics that were originally fed to the cows. Whenever possible, look for brands that use grass fed cows in order to increase the amount of nutrients in the butter. And lastly, don’t forget to read the ingredients label to check for hidden additives!
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About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.
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