The myths about butter being bad for us have misled people long enough. Stop eating dry toast! Avoiding butter is unnecessary and can actually be hazardous to your health.
We learn that butter is bad because it is a saturated fat, and that saturated fats have a negative impact on our blood lipoprotein levels. But what most don’t realize is that not all saturated fats are the same. Butter is rich in short, medium and long-chain saturated fatty acids. Short and medium chain fatty acids metabolise quickly, their first and only digestive destination is the liver. They cannot aggregate in the blood or cause any harm. 26% of butter’s profile are these harmless short and medium chain fatty acids. Another 12% of butter is made up of stearic acid, a saturated fat that has the unique property of converting into unsaturated fat in the body and thus having a neutral affect on blood lipids and cholesterol. 34% of butter is unsaturated fats.
In conclusion 71% of the fat in butter has a benign affect on blood lipid profiles. Butter does not contribute significantly to blood lipoprotein levels.
The health benefits of butter are numerous. One of the short-chain saturated fats in butter, butyric acid, is essential for maintaining healthy intestinal flora. Butyric acid and another short-chain saturated fat, caproic acid, work as anti-fungals in the intestinal tract. Butyric acid also has tumor-suppressing behaviours, especially evolved for the colon (think colon cancer prevention). Palmitic acid, one of the longer chain fatty acids which is associated with elevated lipoprotein levels, is not all bad being the preferred fuel for the heart muscle.
Butter is an excellent source of vitamin A, and a source of other antioxidants vitamin E and selenium. Butter is also a source of bone building vitamin D, and a nutrient important in the metabolizing of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Lecithin, an important emulsifier of fats, is found in butter and helps us to digest the fats in butter (nature is pretty smart).
Butter is also a dietary source of cholesterol. But don’t panic! Our bodies only absorb about half of the cholesterol it takes in, and cholesterol isn’t all bad. Dietary cholesterol is an antioxidant, neutralizing the negative affects of free radical activity on our cells.
For more information on how to stop the butter is bad myth please read The Last Tango with Butter.