“Life isn’t life without real butter.”
I have a confession: I love butter. I know I’m not alone, as a common phrase when cooking is, “butter makes everything better”. I, however, used butter as my sole topping when I was younger, on everything from hotdogs and sandwiches to pasta. It has remained a staple in my diet and cooking, and for the past two months I’ve been putting butter in my coffee (keep reading to find out why!), and never felt better.
Throughout most my life, the prevailing wisdom was that butter was bad for you and wheat, particularly whole-wheat, was good for you. Fast forward to today and it turns out that butter isn’t all that bad and actually wheat (particularly gluten) is extremely detrimental to health. To alleviate some confusion, this week I’m taking a look at the changing perceptions of butter.
So to start off, I did a google search for butter, and here are the results:
This search makes it seem like butter is: “Not as bad as you thought” and “Better than sugar”. It suggests that “Butter is good now” and that “We Need to Stop Hating on Butter”.
I also looked at the recently-published Time Magazine article with the headline: “Should I Eat Butter?”. According to its author, Dr. Dariush Mozzaffarian, dean of the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, the conclusion seems to be that butter is “Thumb neutral,” meaning that there is “No evidence it’s good for you, little evidence for major harm.”
CNN also recently posted an article titled “Butter not as bad as you thought, study suggests” . According to the article, an intake of 1tbs of butter per day raises your risk of death by 1%, but decreases type II diabetes by 4%. “We were slightly surprised by the diabetes result: Butter intake appeared to have a very moderate protective effect,” said Laura Pimpin (Co-Author of the paper that led to these results). “However, it is important to remember that this is based on very few studies, so it may not be a reliable result, and it shows that more studies are needed on the topic.” In the article, Pimpin is quoted again, highlighting, as Dr. Mozaffarian did, the neutrality of butter: “In other words, it’s neither terribly bad nor incredibly good for us.”
If you’re interested in the research paper that inspired these articles, click here. The conclusion of the paper is as follows: “This systematic review and meta-analysis suggests relatively small or neutral overall associations of butter with mortality, CVD, and diabetes. These findings do not support a need for major emphasis in dietary guidelines on either increasing or decreasing butter consumption, in comparison to other better established dietary priorities; while also highlighting the need for additional investigation of health and metabolic effects of butter and dairy fat.”
So butter isn’t unhealthy… But is it good for you?
So… back to why I put butter in my coffee. A few years ago the butter coffee phenomenon sprang up. This movement is led by Dave Asprey, who was enlightened to the potential health benefits of butter when he was trekking at over 18,000 ft in Tibet. In his own words, “I staggered into a guest house from the 10-degree weather and was literally rejuvenated by a creamy cup of yak butter tea.” After his experience, Asprey came back to the states and began his process of developing Bullet Proof Coffee. He explains how he came to develop the drink, and lays out the health benefits to be derived from butter, stating that: “Butter is nutrient-dense. A single tablespoon of butter contains: 500 IU vitamin A, More carotenes than carrots, and high amounts of vitamin K2, vitamin D, and vitamin E.” He even goes as far as calling butter a superfood. To clarify, when he is discussing butter, he makes a clear distinction between grain-fed butter and grass-fed butter – the health benefits he describes are from grass-fed.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been adding butter to my coffee the last two months. But, this isn’t my first attempt at mixing butter and coffee. A few years ago, I’d heard about butter coffee, and thought to myself, what could be better than adding two of my favorite things? This would be a great combo: butter + coffee = delicious right? Wrong! I naively thought you just add butter to coffee (like creamer) and was left with a disgusting cup of coffee with melted butter (I would later learn, you have to blend it!). It was terrible. I tried a few cups and abandoned my dreams of butter and coffee harmony.
Fast forward to this year, I was at Paleo F(x) (the world’s largest Paleo Conference) and got to try some Bullet Proof Coffee and it was delicious. So I then set out to learn the recipe and 2 months in, I am a firm believer that my delicious and frothy butter coffee brew in the morning gives me more energy throughout my day, than a traditional cup of “Joe”.
To sum it up, it seems that we can’t go as far as to say that butter is a “health food”, but no longer can we outright dismiss it as something to be avoided at all costs. My recommendation, if you are going to use butter, is to make sure it’s grass-fed and as always, use it in moderation (remember the study only accounted for 1tbs/day!). So now, perhaps, we can enjoy a little butter on our bread again. On wheat-free bread, of course. Or in your coffee!
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