Butter: Keeping it Real

Wow, guest blogger Jessica's post on bees and raw honey yesterday was a hit! Thanks again Jessica! And based on the response, we all hope you come back soon! If you missed it, be sure to read it here.

And now on to butter...

Before you begin your two-day campout in the kitchen to prepare the Thanksgiving feast, you may want to hear what I have to say about butter. And believe me, you will like what you hear.

Butter is a health food! Yes, you heard me correctly. A health food. Butter contains large amounts of vitamin A (more than carrots!) as well as vitamins E, K and D. It is also rich in trace minerals such as selenium (a powerful antioxidant) and iodine. And as we all know, butter has fats. Some of these fats are short- and medium-chain fatty acids that remain fairly stable when heated, so are safe to use when cooking or baking. Fats in butter are used as energy for our heart, brain and digestive tract; act as anti-carcinogens (reduce occurrence of severity of cancer cells in our bodies); to stimulate immune systems and act as antimicrobials; and protect against gastrointestinal infections (especially in children and the elderly, which is one reason kids should drink whole milk).

Some people buy margarine thinking they are doing themselves a favor by reducing fat and calories. Margarine was originally used in the mid-1800s as an affordable way to feed the lower class. Margarine, the supposedly “heart-healthy” choice, is made from vegetable oils (mainly soy and cottonseed) using high heat and high pressure. Heating leads to destruction of basic nutrients in foods. Nickel, a toxic heavy metal, is added to solidify the margarine. Colorings and deodorants are added to change the final product from gray to yellow and to eliminate the rancid smell that comes with heating vegetable oils. Margarine is hydrogenated, which produces harmful trans-fatty acids. The polyunsaturated fats in margarine are more susceptible to oxidation and high levels of free radicals, and due to their chemical composition are more likely than the fats in real butter to be stored as body fat.

Many people forget that butter is a natural, whole food. We are repeatedly encouraged to stay away from processed foods, and this includes margarine. Some of you may use other buttery spreads, like Smart Balance. These tend to be a mix of different processed oils, and while they may contain fewer fats than butter, they are definitely not a natural, whole food. The hardened state of buttery spreads is indicative of the amount of processing needed to make a mixture of oils turn into a tub of spread. Many of them claim to use flaxseed oil, but fail to mention that the processing of the oil kills off its omega-3s. Many of us are deficient in omega-3s because of these processing methods. The high levels of omega-6s in buttery spreads (without omega-3s to complement them) can cause inflammation in our bodies.

When buying butter, try to choose raw butter from grass-fed cows as it is closest to its original form and contains the enzymes and healthy bacteria that would otherwise be killed off during pasteurization. Raw butter from grass-fed cows will be bright yellow or orangey in color, due to the beta-carotene from the grass. Note that not all butters labeled “organic” are raw or from grass-fed cows. If raw butter is unavailable to you, some good grass-fed cow brands to try are KerryGold (sold at Trader Joe’s!) or Organic Valley Limited Edition Pasture Butter. And if you cannot find butter that is raw and/or from grass-fed cows, organic butter is a good third choice.

So go ahead, throw some real butter into those pumpkin apple pies! They’ll taste better and you’ll be doing everyone at your dinner table a favor!

Tomorrow I will talk about milk. Like butter, milk contains the most nutrients when consumed raw. I’ll explain why, and also provide some alternatives if raw milk is not readily available to you.


  1. Ann, it's a pleasure to read your articles. They are well written and easy for everybody to understand. If you keep going in this pace I think you'll have to write a book, and it will be a big hit! Do we have a Trader Joe's in Denver??? I wish. We've seen Kerry Gold at Whole Foods. Since my husband is Irish, he could not help but noticing it! :) So are all Kerry Gold products grass fed? We noticed that it's more expensive than the organic brands.

  2. Thanks, Miriam!

    I wish we had a Trader Joe's in Denver... I don't know what's taking so long! It would be a great addition.

    As far as I know all Kerrygold products are from grass-fed cows. I am hoping to try their cheeses soon! It's a bit more expensive but tastes better and is healthier for us. Go Irish!