A brief history of my experience with Butter and Fat.
In third grade, I learned the food pyramid. My class was taught that when it comes to fats: USE SPARINGLY. If you are going to eat fats, go for lean meats, skim milk, or lowfat dairy.
In sixth grade, I went on my first diet. I indulged in Special K cereal, Rice Cakes, Yoplait Light, Slim Fast Bars, Diet Coke, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” and – if I was really feeling indulgent – Snack Well cookies.
In high school, I found cooking. Pam cooking spray was my “fat” of choice for every dish – even when it called for real oil. This served for some very dried out, stick-to-the-pan, hard to swallow dishes – as you can imagine.
By college, I was becoming a Whole Food Head (I just made this word up). This led me down my path to Veganism. Although it had its benefits, I still harbored low-fat tendencies. After all, it had been ingrained in me since 3rd grade. Why would I question something so absolute?
Today, at 28 years old, I am excited to declare that I HAVE LET FAT BACK INTO MY LIFE. It’s been a long road, but it feels good to be here.
Now, let me explain why.
About 30 years ago, a war was declared on saturated fats. A very publicized study tried to prove that saturated fats (like those found in butter) were causing cardiovascular disease. “The Seven Countries Study” looked at 12,763 men from seven different countries and showed that there was correlation between fat and heart disease. What resulted was an explosion of marketing, telling us that fat is bad for us. Most of us came to accept the following guidelines as universal truths:
- Butter is bad and fattening and low fat is good and slimming.
- Never order whole milk with your Starbucks.
- Buy the non-fat yogurt at the grocery store – or 2% at the very least.
- Choose egg whites over the whole eggs (you can even get them in a carton!)
- If you continue to eat butter, you will die of heart disease, or at the very least, get fat.
And what happened to Americans when they accepted these truths?
Their amount of calories from consumed fat fell from 40 percent to 30 percent. (Congratulations!)
But oddly enough, obesity and heart disease remained the country’s number one killer. (Doh!)
It wasn’t until 2010, that the first study surfaced that questioned the saturated fat dogma. In an evaluation of 21 studies and 350,000 subjects, researchers found that saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. And slowly but surely, other studies surfaced that found similar results.
By the way, it was also discovered that The Seven Countries Study was flawed. It left out a lot of data – including the fact that the study followed 22 countries – not just 7, many of which had a low correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. Whoops!
Note that there is still research to be done and questions to be answered. But what we’re finally seeing is that fat is not bad for you, is not directly correlated to heart disease, and is not what is making us all fat.
What I find most exciting is that butter can actually be GOOD for you. Say what?! Hold on to your hats. Now for the best part…
The Top 10 Reasons Why Butter & Fat Is Good
1. It has awesome vitamins. Butter contains fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, E and K2. Fat soluble, meaning that the only way you can absorb these vitamins is with a sufficient amount of fat. The benefits?
- Vitamin A – vision, immune system and reproduction.
- Vitamin E – Antioxidant to protect cells from the damage of free radicals.
- Vitamin K2 – Helps with blood clotting, protection from heart disease, promotes healthy skin, strong bones and brain function.
2. It is not fake. The highly processed trans fats in margarine, soy butters and butter mixes have actually been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Butter – specifically butter from grass fed cows – is 100% nutrient-filled whole food. If you’d like to know the best butters for your health, I highly suggest you read this post from the Food Babe.
3. It promotes bile release. It sounds icky, but believe me, you want this to happen. Bile stores toxins and hormones that need to leave the body. If you don’t eat enough fat, the bile just sits in the gallbladder, getting thicker and thicker. After years or even just months on a low fat diet, serious congestion builds up. The result? Gallstones.
4. It has the cholesterol that you need. You may have heard by now that there is good cholesterol (HDL) and there is bad cholesterol (LDL). But what you often aren’t told is that not all LDL cholesterol is bad. Here’s why you actually want the cholesterol from butter:
- The large fluffy LDL particles found in butter are benign and actually help to raise the HDL (which is good for you.)
- The other type of LDL – the smaller, denser kind, is correlated to heart disease.
- While butter, animal fats and coconut oil can change the dense LDL to fluffy LDL (good), processed foods like cereal and vegetable oil change the fluffy LDL to dense LDL (bad).
5. It controls blood sugar. To keep our blood sugar levels from falling and skyrocketing, we need to balance it with fat. Fat slows down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream, controlling sugar levels from going all over the place. This is a big reason why low-fat recipes are a big problem. They overcompensate for flavor by adding sugar. High sugar + low fat = no control over sugar levels. 3pm cookie craving anyone?
6. It digests protein. Protein and fat are naturally born together for a reason (eggs, milk, fish, meats). In an egg, the vitamins and fatty acids are in the yolk; not the white. You need the fat (the yolk) to digest the protein (the white). Which means you can stop ordering those egg white omelets at breakfast. Yay!
7. It balances hormones. Women need a sufficient amount of saturated fat to get their progesterone. And men need a sufficient amount for their testosterone. Without it, excess estrogen builds up in the body. The estrogen is supposed to be packaged into the bile so it can be excreted with food waste. But if the bile is not released, it just sits in the liver and gallbladder. The result of a low fat diet on our sex lives? PMS for women and erectile dysfunction for men. Hmm.
8. It keeps the liver working. The liver’s job is to collect the body’s toxins, package them into bile, and then release them when we digest our food. Without the adequate fat to signal bile release, the bile builds up (see #3), and the body ends up reabsorbing the toxic substances.
9. It helps you lose weight (seriously!). Every time you have a low-fat snack (often made with fake sugars), your body is left unsatisfied. While butter digests slowly – into the bloodstream and into the gallbladder – low fat foods do not. That means you will get hungry much faster and will crave more low fat foods to satisfy your body. A vicious cycle of processed foods, toxic buildup and dissatisfaction.
10. It makes food taste good. This reason needs no explanation. I missed the beautiful, buttery, satisfying taste of fat. In the last few months, I feel like I’m experiencing it for the first time. Not only has my cooking benefited immensely, the peace of mind that comes with knowing I can – and should -enjoy this food makes it tastes better than I ever remember. You know – from back in 2nd grade.
So now that I’ve given you the lowdown on butter, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? Curious to learn more? Suddenly have a craving for buttered toast with cinnamon? Or is that just me?