by Kristin Wartman
Ahh butter — so creamy and good — really, what can beat it? Sadly, butter has fallen out of favor in American homes as the medical establishment has presented it as an artery-clogging saturated fat that should be replaced by vegetable oils and fake butter spreads. Vegetable oils are abundant in the Standard American Diet (SAD – conveniently enough!). Pick up any packaged or processed food and you will almost always see one, some, or all of the following: sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil and corn oil.
The first problem with these oils is that they are extremely unstable and susceptible to heat, air, time, moisture and processing — this means they are usually rancid by the time we take them off the grocery shelf and eat them. You’d never know this however, because these foods are so full of other additives that you can’t taste the fact that they’ve spoiled. Besides the obvious gross factor, rancid oils are oxidized and produce free-radicals in the body which cause tissue and cell damage and are linked to a host of chronic diseases, among them cancer.
The second major problem with these oils is that rancid or not, they contain very high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids. In moderation, these are good but they need to be balanced with Omega-3 fatty acids. Surely, you’ve heard about the benefits of the Omega-3’s, found in cold-water fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and — wait for it… butter! It’s true, butter and other dairy products made from the milk of pasture-raised cows, as well as eggs from pasture-raised chickens all contain Omega-3’s. Think green stuff. Omega-3’s come from plant sources. The reason it’s found in certain fish has to do with the algae and other green plants they eat from the ocean or rivers where they live. (This is also why farm-raised fish is inferior nutritionally, as these fish are fed pellets made from vegetable grain – more Omega-6’s).
A person consuming SAD typically eats 20 times more Omega-6s than Omega-3s, when in fact, according to the most recent research, we should be consuming these fatty acids in a ratio closer to 1:1.
The reasons are many. For one, Omega-6’s are inflammatory. The reason they exist in the plant structure is to promote rigidity in the cell walls, clotting and an inflammation response. They are also involved with fat storage. Hmmm. Omega-3’s on the other hand, are involved with cell permeability, metabolizing glucose (sugar) and calming inflammation.
Not only is obtaining enough Omega-3’s important, but it is equally important to not over consume Omega-6s. The two fatty acids compete with each other for absorption in our cells, so the balance is a delicate one.
Now that you’ve been primed on Omega fatty acids, we can look at the importance of consuming butter (whole, organic and pastured, if possible) and its vital role in our diets.
For starters, the more butter you use, the less vegetable oils you'll use. In addition, butter and animal fats have been used by humans for millennia and have helped us thrive and be healthy. Processed vegetable oils, on the other hand, are a relatively new addition to our diet. A nutrition expert I know calls these new-fangled oils "an experiment" — an experiment that has resulted in an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, cancer and other chronic ailments. There are several notable exceptions to the all-butter rule: olive oil, which has been around for thousands of years as well and is considerably more stable than other vegetable oils, and tropical oils, which I will address in another post.
Butter, as a saturated fat, is extremely stable — hence it’s solidity. Fats that are solid at room temperature have stable bonds, whereas fats that are liquids do not. This means that unlike vegetable oils, cooking and sautéing in butter is safe, as is baking with butter. The other extremely stable and healthful fat for cooking and baking is coconut oil — but we’ll get to that in a later article.
Butter also contains lauric acid, this is know as a conditionally essential acid since it is only found in milk products and is not produced in the liver like other saturated fats. It must be obtained from one of two sources, butterfat or coconut oil. Lauric acid is crucial to our bodies because it is antimicrobial, antitumor and immune-system supporting. In addition, butyric acid is found in butter (and only butter) and has antifungal and antitumor effects.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA is also found in butter from pasture-fed cows and it has strong anticancer properties. It helps with the promotion of muscle growth and prevents weight gain.
The short-chain fatty acids in butter are also more easily and readily absorbed by the body than long-chain fatty acids (found in vegetable oils) this means they are less likely to cause weight gain or result in fat storage since they are utilized directly for quick energy.
So now that your mind’s blown (I know mine was when I was first learning about this) what should you do? Well, eat butter! This is just another example of how eating whole, real, unprocessed food, besides being delicious, is actually much better for you. Use it instead of all those processed vegetable oils. And start looking at the ingredients in the packaged foods you’re eating and try to eliminate as many that contain vegetable oils as possible.
This might be harder than you think. In fact, you might not think you eat many vegetable oils at all. But in fact, if you eat anything like crackers, chips, pretzels, popcorn or bread out of a bag (even if it’s labeled organic, whole grain, natural, etc.) you are eating a whole lot of these oils. In addition, if you eat commercial eggs, meat, poultry or farmed fish your eating a whole lot more of these oils since all of these products come from creatures that are grain-fed — grains that are based on soybeans and corn primarily and contain lots of Omega-6s.
So like I said, enjoy some butter. Here is a basic butter and vegetable recipe — like four ingredients basic. I think butter is the best condiment for vegetables; a little bit goes a long way in making vegetables more delicious. It also helps in making them more palatable to kids.
Even if you think you don’t like cabbage, just sautéing it in some butter might change your mind. It becomes creamy and sweet and delicious. Cabbage contains potent anti-cancer phytochemicals and is very nutrient dense. Pairing it with butter helps your body absorb all the nutrients more effectively.
Cabbage sautéed in Butter
1 small head red or green cabbage 2 tbl butter salt & pepper to taste
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. Chop the cabbage into fine bite-sized strips. Rinse in water and pat dry or use a salad spinner. Melt butter on medium heat and add cabbage, sauté for about 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Add salt and pepper.