As a whole North Americans have become woefully deficient in fat soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Our modern day diet is clearly the #1 reason.
We aren’t designed to thrive on low-fat, fat-free, white meat, lean meat only diets! We NEED fat! That’s where these critical fat soluble vitamins naturally come from.
Fat soluble vitamins play critical roles in our health, including cell membrane integrity, cognitive function, hormonal balance, reproductive health, and so much more.
Butterfat is likely America’s best source of the critical fat-soluble vitamins since we don’t consume large amounts of other foods that have abundant fat-soluble vitamins, like organ meats, blubber of sea animals, fish eggs, and shellfish. (Eggs and fish are also great sources of fat-soluble vitamins.)
In fact, vitamin A is more easily absorbed and utilized from butter than from other sources.
Real butter added to vegetables and spread on traditionally prepared bread, and real cream added to sauces and soups, ensures the proper assimilation of the minerals and water-soluble vitamins in vegetables, grains and meat.
When you consume the “right” type of butter, it’s more than “acceptable” in the diet… it’s recommended.
Hold onto your happy pants a minute…
Not just ANY butter will do. Not ALL butter is highly “recommended”.
Butter is essentially pure animal fat with only a smidgen of dairy proteins and sugars. As with all other animal-based foods, the nutritional quality of the food in question directly depends on the quality of the animal’s diet.
So, what’s the superior choice for butter? Grass-Fed, hands down.
What makes grass-fed butter so great?
1. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Content
CLA is a actually a trans-fat… but, it’s a good, naturally occurring one, not the synthetic, toxic sort we’re more familiar with. CLA isn’t found in man-made butter knock-offs, like margarine – it’s produced in the unique digestive systems of cows (and other ruminants) that munch grass.
CLA has been linked to reduced belly fat and greater fat burning, improved metabolism, suppression of tumors, improved blood pressure and cholesterol, improved insulin resistance, superior heart health, reduced inflammation, decreased risk of cancer, and more.
This is true of meat and other dairy products from grass-fed sources, too. As far as the friendly dairy cow is concerned, natural pasture feeding leads to CLA levels that are 3-5 times higher than that of grain-fed cows.
2. Fatty Acid Content
Even though butter is predominantly comprised of saturated fats, we still need to consider the polyunsaturated fat content, since this is where we can get into trouble with all fats and oils.
Butter is approximately 2/3 saturated fat, just under 1/3 monounsaturated fat, and the rest is polyunsaturated. So, we’re not talking about a huge amount… but it adds up… especially if you’re going out of your way to ADD butter to your diet for health reasons now!
Cows raised on pasture greens produce milk with a balanced omega 6 to omega 3 ratio – typically, 1:1. Grain-fed cows produce milk that is heavy on the omega 6 content. You may recall how important it is to strive for a balanced ratio of omega 6:omega 3 essential fatty acids. When omega 6 consumption climbs too high (out of balance with omega 3), a myriad of health problems follows. We need these fats, but we need them in balance. Grass-fed butter provides this critical healthy, balanced ratio.
3. Vitamin Content
If you’ve ever seen real, grass-fed butter, you know that its color is different than “regular” grain-fed butter which is a bland white-ish color. Grass-fed butter is a deep yellow, sometimes even a bit on the orange side. This is because it contains more carotene (from the cows eating fresh vegetation) and vitamin A.
Another biggie in grass-fed butter is the vitamin K2. It’s another one with a long list of benefits – it helps the body utilize calcium correctly and efficiently, as well as reduce (and prevent) arterial plaque, to name a couple.
Only cows eating green grasses produce butter rich in vitamin K2. Those unique digestive systems of cows make a very important conversion. Fermentation in the cow’s stomach turns vitamin K1 (from leafy greens like grasses, spinach, kale, etc.) into K2 which ends up in the dairy fat.
(There’s not much vitamin K1 in the corn that’s so commonly fed to cattle, by the way.)
Grass-fed butter also has higher content of vitamin D, vitamin E, and antioxidants.
4. The Flavor Factor
Oh. My. Goodness.
If you’re not familiar with the flavor of grass-fed butter… you’re in for a delicious treat! Try a side-by-side taste test with grain-fed butter. There’s just no comparison.
Grass-fed butter is creamy, smooth and rich. Did I mention that this is actually GOOD for you?!
Butter vs. Vegetable Oils
So, while grass-fed butter is clearly superior to grain-fed butter, grain-fed is still a better option than conventional cooking oils and fats, like vegetable oils and margarine. Even though it doesn’t have nearly the same benefits as grass-fed, at least the saturated fats in grain-fed butter are stable and, therefore, safer for cooking. This is not true of the unstable fats in most vegetable oils that turn rancid and toxic when heated.
If the label doesn’t say it’s from grass-fed or pastured cows, it’s not.
If you have the choice between “organic” and “grass-fed”, choose grass-fed butter. Organic from grain-fed sources falls short of the many benefits of grass-fed.
Grass-fed butter is actually pretty easy to find, even in mainstream grocery stores now. It costs a bit more than the nutritionally-deficient options, but you’re paying for quality.
Also, if you don’t have the resources to regularly purchase grass-fed meats, paying a bit more for grass-fed butter is a good way to make up some of this ground.
The most common brand of grass-fed butter that I tend to see in various stores is Kerrygold. You can get it salted or unsalted (the type we use in our “Bulletproof Coffee” each morning), although the salted is most commonly found on store shelves… even at Costco. Salted comes in gold foil and unsalted comes in silver foil.
If you buy it in bulk, you can freeze the extra until you’re ready to use it.
There are a few other brands I’ve seen out there, too. Kalona Super Natural, Organic Valley (not their regular organic, but the seasonal one they produce that comes in a green foil package), and Anchor (you can order online). You can also check your farmers’ market and chat it up with the actual farmer to see what the cows’ diets are really like.
Grass-fed butter is a healthy staple in our family’s diet. I cook with it, add it to vegetables, add it to coffee, … and lick it off the spoon! I know folks that actually “snack on” grass-fed butter. I’m not quite there… yet!
Do NOT forget to feed this stuff to your kids! The healthy fats in butter are critical for optimal brain function. What a great way to start their day, too!
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is an expert in Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 18 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan.
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