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Healthy Living Real Food

Do You Eat Butter or Margarine for Health?


It’s one of nature’s most perfect foods, and people have eaten it for thousands and thousands of years. But for the last century and some it’s received a terrible reputation.

Go on, ask almost anyone you know if he or she likes butter. They’ll likely agree: it tastes great, but then you will hear he or she sheepishly admit, “it’s bad for you.” These individuals actually have guilt associated with eating a real food like butter. It’s proposterous!

Most of my life I’ve eaten full fat foods. I’ve always been a thin, petite person. The only times in my life where I gained weight was when I had been on a low-fat and/or vegetarian diets (which I tried several times in my twenties with no success).

In, fact in the last five years I’ve increased my fat intake significantly over what it used to be. I eat quite a lot of butter everyday. I also drink raw milk, eat cream (when I have some on hand), red meat, lamb, fish, game meats, bacon, pork, , coconut oil and olive oil, home-made yogurt, and many other high-fat foods. Guess what? My weight has been stable and I’ve been anywhere between a size 0 and a size 2 (depending on the clothing I am wearing). This is truly my natural weight. And yet included in my list are many things common health rhetoric has been telling us not to eat for the last five or more decades. Why is this?

The belief that low-fat diets will save us

As one example, according to this article from the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Martha Grogan M.D., margarine should be always eaten over butter because it has less saturated fat. But what’s more interesting is that she recommends buying “tub” margarine over “stick” margarine due to its trans-fat content being lower. I find it amusing that anyone would recommend one fake fat over another as being “healthier”.

So apparently a little trans fat is okay, but more is not. But wait, how do we know just how much is too much? And haven’t there been a rash of news articles, many of them “scientifically-based”  in the last couple of years telling us to avoid ALL trans-fats? These ideas all seem to be competing with each other.  How can you trust all of these sources that are so contradictory?

Dr. Grogan goes on to say that if you don’t like the taste of margarine (does ANYONE actually like the taste???) to look for whipped or reduced-calorie butter, or even a butter product with vegetable oil added in. Doesn’t that sound tasty! Her final comment is that you only need to add a small amount for flavor in your food – completely disregarding the fact that butter actually conveys health benefits to the consumer.

Here’s what should be regarded as strange: an artificial product that is marketed to taste and look like butter, but is really just a by-product of industrial waste that is bleached, processed, and deodorized to match the unmistakably smooth, rich, delectable texture of butter. Doesn’t that just seem wrong?

Here’s something else that should be regarded as even more strange: obesity, diabetes, insulin-resistance, heart disease, cancer, and many other degenerative diseases are becoming more and more common. The World Health Organization cites 1 billion adults as being overweight, with at least 300 million of those being “clinically” obese. Childhood obesity rates are particularly concerning, with 22 million children under 5 being considered obese worldwide.

Although I don’t agree with the assessments by conventional health and medical professionals about how to combat this problem (low-fat diets, calorie-counting, BMI measuring, and encouraging the consumption of more and more processed foods with no emphasis on traditional and nutrient-dense foods), it’s clear that there’s a public health issue occurring and that real fats aren’t to blame for it. How do I know this? Because as time has gone on, less and less real fats are eaten, and more and more fake, processed fats are being manufactured, marketed, bought, sold, and advocated.

Margarine it essentially a factory-made fat that’s been around for just over a hundred years, yet people have no trouble at all consuming it because the food industry and health professionals say it’s healthy. These industries have duped consumers for a long enough period of time and have successfully convinced a lot of uninformed people that butter’s the enemy.

But I know what it is. They can’t fool me.

A history of margarine

Margarine was invented by a Frenchman from Provence, France – Hippolyte Mège-Mouriez. He created as a response to the Emperor Louis Napoleon III who made a request for a suitable butter “substitute”.  Mège-Mouriez used margaric acid which is a fatty acid component identified by Michael Chevreul in 1813. The original ingredients were beef suet and milk he referred to as “oleomargarine”, and it was named due to its pearly drops, reminding him of the word margarites (the Greek word for pearl). From this word, Mège-Mouriez coined the name “margarine” which subsequently won the prize awarded by the the Emperor.

Into the 1870s when new margarine makers came on the scene, replacements of cottonseed oil and later soybean oil were made to lower the cost. The dairy industry became alarmed at this and used their weight to counteract the effects this new product on the market had on butter. But by the early twentieth century, a sharp decline in butter consumption had begun and consumers were eating more artificially-produced fats like margarine in a noticeable upward trend (see page 13 of this document, Major Trends in U.S. Food Supply, 1909-1999) .

So here we have a “butter replacement” that originally was made with beef suet and milk, and which later on became largely comprised of highly processed oils from industrial sources, were hydrogenated, and which even later came from genetically-modified sources, to top it all off.  And this is a product health communities have rallied around for many decades as being the miracle, heart-healthy, weight-maintaining “food”.

Knowing this, it’s really quite unbelievable that this industrial waste made the successful journey to the spotlight as a “health” food while butter was falsely accused of being unhealthy to consume – except, of course, when you understand the impetus behind the low-fat mentality was fueled by basically one thing and one thing only – just follow the money.

Big business has profited tremendously by creating an entire belief system and rhetoric that tells us fats are the enemy.  Billions and billions of dollars have been invested into the creation and marketing of reduced fat foods and food products. Since the inception of grocery stores, more than 20,000  processed, low-fat products have made an appearance on the shelves.

We’ve also seen the fabrication of an entire industry built upon the manufacturing and sales of synthetically-engineered products marketed to consumers as healthier choices. The food industry’s activities are fully supported by government documentation, edicts, and guidelines – including the Food Pyramid and USDA’s official “booklet” regarding dietary guidelines. In perfect unison we find physicians, nutritionists, other health professionals, book authors, special interest groups (such as consumer advocacy), and educators ridiculing fat and warning of its many dangers to human health.

Butter, a sacred and ancient food

Even before the domestication of cattle, the milk of sheep and goats was used to create butter. Its use can likely be sourced all the way back to the Mesopotamian civilization – perhaps as long ago as 8,000 – 9,000 years. The earliest known record of its occurrence was found in writing on a limestone tablet which described the method of making it. People of India have eaten ghee (clarified butter) as a staple food for many, many years. It has long been regarded as a symbol of health and purity, and is considered worthy as an offering to the gods during sacred ceremonies for over 3000 years.

People of ancient Greece valued butter for its amazing cosmetic properties for both the skin and hair. Biblical references to butter include when Abraham placed butter and milk before three angels who appeared to him on the plains of Mamre. In Elizabethan times, sailors were allowed 1/4 pound daily for food rations to sustain themselves while at sea. For thousands of years, civilizations all over Planet Earth have eaten butter for its known health benefits as well as its exquisite taste.

Why butter is better for you

It contains butyric acid which is very useful for cells in the large intestines. It is a stable fat made from cream containing  a wide range of short to medium and odd chain fatty acids as well as saturated, monounsaturated, and a small amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Butter contains roughly 15% short/medium saturated, 50% other saturated, and 30% monounsaturated fatty acids.

Aids in reduction of harmful bacteria and viruses

This powerhouse of nutrients is a great source for antimicrobial fats. It contains short chain fatty acids such as lauric acid (support thyroid function), capable of detroying many pathogenic viruses and other organisms, contains glycolipids that have anti-infective properties.

Butter from healthy cows on grass contains Vitamin A, D, K, E (all fat soluble vitamins), and is a healthy fat necessary for life. Butter is the best source for a bio-available (absorbed easier) form of Vitamin A. Both thyroid and adrenal health depend on Vitamin A, as well as cardiovascular development and maintenance – especially in babies. Butter contains lecithin which enables the body to metabolize and absorb fat and cholesterol components.

Destroys free-radicals and many diseases

This amazing food is also rich in anti-oxidants which protect the body against damage from free-radicals. Anti-oxidants present in butter also reduce damage to coronary arteries which causes heart disease. Two of these important anti-oxidants include Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Butter is also a good source of Selenium, another anti-oxidant and Vitamin K which is crucial for blood clotting. Butter from cows on pasture contains high levels of Vitamin D – another anti-cancer agent.

We need cholesterol for health. One of the best places to obtain dietary cholesterol is from butter, which just so happens to be another powerful anti-oxidant. When our bodies are overrun with free-radicals, cholesterol stored in the blood can come to the rescue. Yes indeed, cholesterol is a potent anti-oxidant that is flooded into the blood when we take in too many harmful free-radicals – usually from damaged and rancid fats in margarine and highly processed vegetable oils.

Butter is rich in short and medium chain fatty acids – which are effective against the development of malignant tumors. Conjugated linoleic acid is also present – yet another significant factor in building muscle, maintaining immune system function, and cancer prevention.

Another nutrient in butter that is also a key element in the reduction of malignant cells in the body is iodine. In modern life, we are largely depleted of many essential trace nutrients and minerals. Iodine is one of the nutrients we are grossly lacking in, and it is due to deficiencies of this kind that we have observed a high increase in the incidence of degenerative disease.

Improved fertility

Eating full-fat dairy foods can also improve fertility rates. A study published in the journal of Human Reproduction reported that eating low-fat dairy foods has a significant impact on the ability of a woman to conceive. Eating low-fat foods actually has a negative affect on the process of ovulation. One of the main reasons is that fat soluble vitamins occurring in foods like butter – Vitamins A, D, E, and K are crucial to reproductive health. Those following vegan diets who plan to conceive may want to re-evaluate their dietary habits.

Which type of butter is best?

Real butter from cows on pasture is the most nutritious. When animals are eating grass and out in the sunshine, nutrient levels like Vitamin D are abundant in butter. Raw butter is superior because it’s enzymes and proteins have not been denatured by pasteurization.

Good brands include:

Pasture Butter from Organic Valley, grass-fed, pasteurized

Kerrygold Irish butter, grass-fed, pasteurized

PastureLand butter from Minnesota, grass-fed,pasteurized

Anchor – New Zealand butter, grass-fed, pasteurized

Baum Farm Dairy – Canaan, Vermont. This butter is amazing! We have ordered it in the past and love it!

What happens when industrial food and conventional medicine interferes with health?

My mother is a heart patient. She is going to be 77 in July, and smoked cigarettes for 55 years. The smoking she did had really nothing to do with diet, but it certainly debilitated her body and robbed it of critical nutrients for health. Although she stopped smoking almost five years ago, the damage has been done. She spent the first part of her life on her family’s farm – eating food they produced. They grew and raised everything. As she grew older, however, she started eating a great deal of things she probably shouldn’t have – processed foods, hydrogenated, rancid oils and industrial meat and dairy.

But unlike many people, she refused to eat fake butter. When I was growing up, I remember other people having margarine in their houses. But my mother knew butter was better, and that’s what she bought. Since I grew up in the same household, I also ate industrial meat and dairy. I know we were eating industrial meat because by the 70s, that’s what most people were consuming unless you were lucky enough to live on your own farm and had animals on pasture.

We bought our eggs from a local chicken farm down the road from our house, but I think the chickens were in coops inside of a building. I never saw any chickens running around outside in the open, and when we went to pick up our eggs, there was always a tell-tale smell of chicken excrement. We did have vegetable oil and shortening too. But I also remember eating real olive oil on our salads.

When my mother was in the hospital, they attempted to put her on the “heart diet”. Because my mother resists the heart diet every time she goes to the hospital or doctor, they have put her on two additional medications to counteract the effects of any “bad” foods she might eat like red meat, butter, cream, etc. I find this ironic, because although my mother doesn’t avoid meat, she doesn’t eat a lot of meat or dairy in general anymore.

She and my father really don’t cook much anymore. Mom has a few things she cooks at home that she eats regularly, and then eats other things like fruits, vegetables, and a few other odds and ends. Even though her diet consists of a lot of whole foods, the food she and my father eat is all conventional and they both eat a great deal of other industrial and processed foods.

My Dad is content to eat out at restaurants at least half of the time, or will eat something quick and convenient at home like a frozen meal from the store. Even with these dietary habits, he’s somehow managed to stay in better shape than many people his age. He’s going to be 73 this year and in sharp contrast to my mother, goes hiking, biking, and mountain climbing regularly.

He seems satisfied with his health, but he’s been taking Lipitor to lower his cholesterol for probably 25 years. He also had prostate cancer at age 55. According to blood tests from his doctors every six months, the cancer has not returned and his liver has not been damaged by the Lipitor. He describes the way he eats as being a “mixed diet”. But my mother reports to me that he eats a lot of candy and junk, so I know he eats a good amount of processed foods.

My parents and I definitely don’t see eye to eye on nutrition and health. You might say we’re miles apart, but I also know you cannot tell someone else how to live his or her life, so…I have to leave it at that.

So what’s the moral of the story? Eat your butter! And eat lots of it…use it in your eggs, on vegetables, popcorn, cook potatoes and  onions in it, and spread it on bread. And enjoy it, because it’s delicious and incredibly healthy!

Want to know more? Read The Importance of Dietary Fats

This article is part of Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays carnival. Please visit this site and read the other real food posts there. This article is also part of We Are That Family’s Works for Me Wednesdays carnival.