As a child I can recall many of the joys of eating butter drizzled on cooked vegetables, especially baked potatoes. Back in the day, potatoes were actually cooked in a oven for at least forty-five minutes and had crispy skins that were part of the delight in eating the potato.
Some years down the road margarine came into the forefront as people became consumed with the idea of the risks of excess dietary fat and cholesterol. Vegetables never quite tasted the same with margarine, but we acquiesced believing in its health benefits.
Here we are many years later only to find margarine linked to a significantly greater risk for heart disease as compared to butter consumption. Sally Fallon, in her book, Nourishing Traditions, reports an interesting observation – between 1920 and 1960, the incidence of heart disease rose precipitously to become America’s number one cause of death. During the same time frame, butter consumption per person decreased from eighteen to four pounds per year.
More research into the possible health benefits of butter has led to some interesting findings that we rarely hear about. For one thing, butter is rich in vitamin A, which plays a role in thyroid, adrenal, and heart/cardiovascular system health. Butter, in fact, is the most easily absorbed form of vitamin A, and when used in cooking vegetables helps in their vitamin and mineral absorption.
Vitamin A also is an anti-oxidant and like all anti-oxidants helps to fight free radical damage, which can injure our arteries and body organs. Butter is rich in vitamin E and selenium, which also have an anti-oxidant role. Cholesterol itself is an anti-oxidant and serves to fight free-radical damage.
Butter also contains other substances to support our health. Lecithin is one that helps in assimilating and metabolizing fats, including cholesterol. Vitamins A and D in butter help in the absorption of calcium.
Cholesterol found in butterfat plays an important role in brain and nervous system development, which is especially important for children. Sally Fallon points out that that low fat diets have been linked to failure to thrive in children. Research also has found butter to have anti-tumor, anti-cancer, and immune system boosting effects.
Many people are afraid to add some butter to their diet, associating it with weight gain. But, butter, like coconut oil, contains short and medium chain fatty acids that are burned for quick energy rather than stored in our fat tissues. Butter, like coconut oil, also has can help the body to fend off pathogens and reduce the risk of infections.
Margarine does not possess the inherent benefits of butter, considering that it contains additives and oils that are highly processed. In emphasizing the health benefits of butter, it may be time to reconsider margarine as the healthy option over butter. And as always, organic varieties provide the highest quality in terms of nutrition. Any thoughts?