A well-researched article provided by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD (2000) makes a strong case for the superiority of butter in terms of nutritional value and health-promoting effects:
Butter is a dietary staple among many healthy peoples around the world.
Butter contains vitamin A, which supports adrenal and thyroid health.
Butter contains vitamin D, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, and other health problems.
Antioxidants in butter protect against free radical damage that can cause cancer and heart disease.
Butter fat contains glycospingolipids, which offer some protection against nasty gastrointestinal infections.
Many people choose margarine over butter because they believe that it is better for their health. However, according to a Harvard Medical School (2006) report: “…there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease.” Fallon and Enig argue that the so-called health benefits of butter substitutes are promoted by large agribusinesses which benefit from sales of other spreads.
The most serious problem associated with margarine and other butter substitutes is that they often contain hydrogenated (trans) fats, which significantly increase the risk of developing cancer and heart disease, as well as artificial additives and other unhealthy ingredients. However, there are butter substitutes available that are free of trans fats and artificial ingredients.
Overall, the research suggests that butter, consumed in small amounts, can be a health food.
However, it is high in fat and although people need to consume some fat to maintain their health, most of those in affluent nations get far more than they need.
The Cleveland Clinic (2012) recommends limiting consumption of cholesterol to 200 mg or less per day and saturated fat to 10-15 mg per day at most. To put that into perspective, a tablespoon of butter contains approximately 33 mg of cholesterol and 7 mg of saturated fat, so use it sparingly.
If you want a lower fat option, choose a butter substitute that is free of hydrogenated fats.
Cleveland Clinic, “Butter vs. Margarine,” 2012. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/askdietician/margarine.aspx
Fallon, S., & Enig, M.G., “Why Butter Is Better,” Weston A. Price Foundation, 2000. http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/why-butter-is-better
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